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They Want to Salute Tennessee Radio

Brett Moss is gear and technology editor.

This might surprise some readers, but Tennessee doesn’t have a hall of fame for radio broadcasters. Neighboring states do, but somehow Tennessee seems to have not gotten around to it.

Considering that one of the highlights of the NAB Show was induction of Nashville’s Gerry House into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame, and that WVVR(FM) of Clarksville snagged a Crystal Radio Award, the lack of an HOF is more noticeable. And those are just from this spring. Let’s not even mention country radio’s deep historical presence in Tennessee. (Oops, we mentioned it.)

Now a few Tennesseans have decided to do something about that.

Led by Lee Dorman, GM of WQKR(AM/FM) and author of the book, “Nashville Broadcasting,” the foundation for a Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame has been laid.

Dorman started this ball rolling after attending ceremonies at the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame last year and wondering, “Why can’t we in Tennessee have something like this?” He points at a number of nationally-known folks who have sat behind the mic in Tennessee: Dinah Shore, Phil Harris, Oprah Winfrey, Pat Sajak, Wink Martindale and Scott Shannon.

“There are many fine radio stations throughout this state which have informed and entertained audiences for decades with outstanding talent, and we feel it is time to pay homage to them.”

He added: “They made it possible for us to have the careers we have had, and they entertained and informed millions of Tennesseans, in small towns and big cities, over the years. We expect an initial ‘class’ of about 15 honorees at our First Annual Banquet and Induction Ceremony in May, 2012.” The site is to be determined.

Learning of the effort, Radio World nudged Dorman to include technical engineers and innovators in any planned salutes. A few state associations and local broadcast halls of fame include technical innovators, like chief engineers and early inventors; but others tend to forget, focusing mostly on air talent and owner/GMs.

Dorman replied, “We will not fail to recognize engineers and their many contributions to radio in Tennessee. I am quite certain that one of our first inductees will be John DeWitt, one of America’s greatest broadcast engineers and founder of WSM and several other early Nashville radio stations. We have made a concerted effort to include several engineers in our core group of founding members.”

As a new operation, many details are in flux. The TRHOF is looking for volunteer help and is building relationships with Tennessee broadcast entities and players. This is a chance for Tennessee radio fans to get in on the bottom floor. The hall of fame is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation so donations are tax-deductible. Dorman is eager to talk to anyone interested. Call him at (615) 517-1756 or visit the TRHOF website.

(Update: The website was not working when we tried it on May 6; Dorman said the site is changing hosts and should be back up shortly.)