“I grew up listening to WSM(AM) from Nashville, and it was always a dream of mine to someday work there.”
So said Danny Boyles, 61, host of “Sunday Down South.”
“I’ve worked at several radio stations through the years but could never visualize anything higher than the highest, and that is WSM.”
And now Boyles is living that dream. His country/gospel/bluegrass show is heard each week on WSM, which is also the home of the “Grand Ole Opry.” If you don’t happen to live in any of the six states blanketed by WSM’s 50,000-watt signal, one can listen at www.wsmonline.com/shows/sunday-down-south.
From left in the WSM fishbowl: Kevin Anderson of “The Opry Warmup Show,” Mike Terry of “Afternoons on WSM,” and Danny Boyles of “Sunday Down South.”PERSISTENCE PAYS
Boyles was raised in Arkansas and at an early age was captivated by the voices that came out of his radio. When he got a little older he had several small-market stints behind the mic in Arkansas and Louisiana before he moved to Nashville, Tenn., to work in the music field and to get closer to his goal of working at WSM.
“I applied to work at WSM several times through the years,” said Boyles. “Finally in July of 2007, WSM General Manager Chris Kulick hired me part time to do fill-in work.
“That was fine, but I always wanted to host a show that would feature traditional country artists singing gospel music because I knew the audience would love it. For two years I kept asking our then-Program Director Joe Limardi to give me a chance; and in the spring of 2009, he agreed to let me do an hour on Sunday mornings at 9. He just told me, ‘We’ll see what happens.’”
Back in 1940, WSM had originated a show that ran sporadically over the NBC radio network called “Sunday Down South.” That was the name Boyles appropriated for his dream program.
“I started off my first show with a tune by Hank Williams, the granddaddy of country music, singing ‘Can’t You Hear the Blessed Savior Calling You?’, which was recorded in 1946, right in WSM’s Studio D,” he told Radio World.
“That first week the response was overwhelming. The next day Joe called me in and said he couldn’t believe how it had taken off, and asked if I would I like to add a second hour. A couple weeks later he asked me to make it three hours, and so we have been on from 9 until noon (Central Time) ever since.”
Boyles plays gospel from the WSM music library and material from his own substantial vinyl and CD collections.
“I have talked to many country artists, and a lot of them grew up singing gospel in their churches,” he said. “It’s a good marriage, country and gospel. We have beautiful facilities here at WSM with room to have artists come in and sing live when their schedules allow. There are a lot of musicians in Nashville, in fact every time you shake a tree one falls out.”
WSM, branded “The Legend,” is in the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center and features a fishbowl-style studio that allows passersby to view the air talent.
Danny Boyles in studioTHE DREAM, PART TWO
“I have always looked up to a lot of the artists I play, and now some of these guys like Sonny Osborne of the Osborne Brothers have actually called me on the studio’s private line. He said, ‘Hey, we love your show and what you’re doing is great.’ Back when Charlie Louvin was alive, he called several times and was always encouraging. Buddy Miller has been an inspiration in Americana music and he called to thank me for playing his record.
“I was flabbergasted. These people I idolized actually listen to my show.”
Boyles is a part-time employee at WSM and has filled in his days working for FedEx, a position from which he will shortly be retiring.
“But I’ll keep working at WSM because ‘Sunday Down South’ is truly a blessing to be a part of.”
In addition to the large coverage area of WSM, “Sunday Down South” has worldwide distribution online, and Boyles said he has received response from all over the United States, Africa, Switzerland and many other countries. Indeed this article was suggested to Radio World by a listener who currently resides in Seattle.
The 90-year history of WSM is documented in a book called “The Air Castle of the South, the Making of WSM and Music City” by Craig Havighurst, a writer who also blogs about the Nashville music scene at http://chavighurst.tumblr.com.
At www.wsmonline.com the historic station sells a variety of country music-themed CDs, apparel, tote bags, bumper stickers and even an official WSM guitar pick.
Ken Deutsch says his biggest dream in radio was not to get fired — but that as anyone who has a few sets of call letters on his or her résumé can attest, it’s a hard dream to realize.