The 4th annual Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame Induction ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 2, at the Embassy Suites Hotel, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The evening begins with a reception at 5 pm, followed by the dinner and induction at 6:30 pm.
Local Hippie Radio, FM 94.5, personalities Spider Harrison and Keith Bilbrey are the only two DJs from an active station to be inducted. Bilbrey will co-host the event.
The slate of inductees consists of seven in the Career category, six in the Legacy Category, and the 2015 Legendary Station of the Year, WLAC/Nashville. 2015 Career Inductees are Keith Bilbrey, Johnny Dark A.K.A. Dude Walker, Spider Harrison, Stacey Mott, Jack Parnell, Al Voecks, and John Young. The 2015 Legacy Inductees (Posthumous) are Bill Barry, Lowell Blanchard, Bobby Denton, Jill Green, John McDonald, and Nat D. Williams.
WLAC’s first broadcast took place on November 24, 1926. In 1942, the station boosted its power to 50,000 watts in a directional pattern, becoming the second 50,000-watt station in Tennessee. Its nighttime signal regularly reaches parts of 28 states, three Canadian provinces, the Caribbean and South America. WLAC followed a fairly conventional news/features course in the daytime until the early 1970s, when the station was sold to Billboard Magazine and a Top 40 format was adopted.
The station recruited young Spider Harrison, a native New Yorker, from WTLC-FM/Indianapolis. Harrison steered the nighttime format into a blend of soul and rock in an attempt to target an entire new generation of young nighttime listeners throughout the country. Spider Harrision is also an inductee in this year’s ceremony. Today, WLAC features a format of local and syndicated conservative talk hosts, local and national news and sports.
Nathaniel Dowd Williams was known far and wide as, simply, ‘Nat. D.’ He was born right on Memphis’s famed Beale Street and after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Tennessee State University in Nashville he returned to Memphis and in 1930 took a teaching job at Booker T. Washington High School in South Memphis.
In 1948, when the new WDIA radio station was about to go under, there seemed no need for a sixth radio station playing formats similar to the city’s other five stations, its owners seized upon the idea of appealing to the city’s African American listeners. Nat D., a well-known public figure in the Black community, was selected as their first African American disc jockey.
Nat was soon broadcasting in the morning and afternoon and teaching school in between. WDIA hired other hosts, and by the summer of 1949 it became the first station in the United States with an entire cast of Black disc jockeys.
Nat D. held down his afternoon show, never missing a shift, until he retired from the air following a stroke in 1972.
Williams died October 27, 1983 in his hometown of Memphis, eight days after his 77th birthday.
Spotlight on Spider
2015 Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame Inductee Spider Harrison is a veteran radio personality, entertainer that started in his native home state on New York. He was tagged with the name ‘Spider’ while playing football in high school as a running back. The name stuck throughout college and his entire entertainment career.
Coached and groomed by some of New York best and talented veteran radio personalities of the ‘60s while interning, Spider was advised by his mentors to play all the hits, R&B, Soul and Rock n Roll. Now on Hippie Radio 94.5 FM in Nashville from 8 pm to midnight. He’s still making it happen.
He rose to prominence after leaving WTLC-FM in Indianapolis in 1973 and replacing the legendary John R. at WLAC Nashville, with the night time signal coverage of 28 states.
Successful with the new rock n roll format in the seventies, WLAC (15LAC) quickly became the number one teenage radio station in Nashville and throughout middle Tennessee. In northern Indiana at nights where the 15LAC could be heard were two young teenage brothers that listened to Spider Harrison’s Rock n Soul show. Both brothers went into the broadcasting industry and the youngest, Tony Richards, at age 13 had always dreamed of owning a radio station in Nashville. In 2008 he made his dream come true, and today he is the owner of WHPY-FM ‘Hippie Radio.’ He found Spider Harrison still active and the rest is history.
Creating Spider Harrison Productions, he hosted the first Billboard Soul Countdown syndicated radio weekend show. He has appeared in scores of television shows, motion pictures even made a few records via his music publishing companies. An active SAG/AFTRA member his plans are to continue on air and having fun in the entertainment industry.
He’s also a member of the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters. With a degree in business administration, his activities and hobbies include spending time in the gym, some bowling, and hitting golf balls at the golf driving range, both left- and right-handed.