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In Nashville old-tyme radio still going strong.

A weekend trip to Nashville for a professional conference yielded nuggets of radio-related happenings, not the least of which was a visit to the historic home of the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, a 19th century church with timeless charm and perfect acoustics. It wasn't until I spotted TNN uplink vans outside that I realized our 6 p.m. arrival was related to a live telecast, in addition to the decades-old radio version carried on clear-channel WSM-AM (650 AM).

Divided into individually sponsored half-hour segments, the Opry kicked off with the blindingly sequined Porter Wagoner, warming to the crowd and serving to introduce one outstanding act after another on the Ryman's century-old stage.

The audience was treated to a typical warm-up routine by the WSM announcer, and the show quickly got under way. A glance at the program was a pleasant surprise, mainly because the group's expectations were for generic country acts, mostly unknown, and other side shows.

Titan fever was pervasive this night before their loss to the Rams, with local fans calling their opponents a "four-letter word," and this columnist keeping a low profile.

Among the acts were Charley Pride, Lorrie Morgan, Ricky Skaggs, "Little" Jimmy Dickens, an ailing but spirited Skeeter Davis, and the amazing Melvin Sloan Dancers, a square dance troupe. Each act had its own combination of backup musicians and the high-energy level continued for two and a half hours. The 7:30-8 p.m. segment was televised on TNN, though the entire evening was beamed over WSM, complete with classic live commercials for Martha White baking products and Goo Goo candies, among others, lending the aura of a time warp to the presentation.

The previous night, the conference's evening entertainment featured budding country artist Mary Sue England at the legendary Wildhorse Saloon, a former TNN television venue.

The Wildhorse also houses the studios of WSM-FM, which gave an amusing weather forecast calling for "not more than one-tenth of an inch of ice." Fortunately, it never materialized.

The Opry wrapped up its month-long engagement at what "Little" Jimmy Dickens called the "Mother Church" of country music and returns to the newly renovated Grand Ole Opry facility next week. This famous Nashville destination delivered a highly recommended evening of live performances which covered a wide range of country music flavors from mainstream to bluegrass to gospel.

Local Parkway Central middle school student and music fan Philip Fasano, Jr. was in the right place at the right time as his family prepared to board a sightseeing helicopter on Maui during Christmas break. Ahead of the Fasanos in line were an unassuming couple in their late teens, correctly identified by Philip's mom Judy as Top 40 sensations Britney Spears and N'Sync's Justin Timberlake. The duo was, very friendly and approachable, and posed for photographs with family members.

Britney said she was in Hawaii to see the N'Sync concert and is a friend of Timberlake. In anticipation of her upcoming European tour, the American tabloid press had already linked Spears in an alleged romantic entanglement with Britain's Prince William who, according to published sources, she has never met.

On the local scene: A few personnel changes occurred in local radio during SJR's year-end hiatus. Longtime radio promotions and marketing whiz Judy Martin, J.C. Corcoran's executive morning show producer during the heady Gannett days, left the market for Dallas and 102 FM.

Martin told SJR she'll miss her broad base of St. Louis friends and contacts in the biz, but is looking forward to working for a well-positioned station in a new and exciting market. She recently ended her tenure here with Sinclair's triplet of the Point, the Rock and the River.

Another change involves recently departed KTRS Program Director Steve Moore who has taken up temporary residence at KMOX for programming projects, including recent Rams special broadcasts and contests. Program Director Tom Langmyer told SJR Moore was expected to be with KMOX for a short time as he considers his options for a permanent position, most likely outside the market.

After Moore left KTRS, the station dropped Mike Siegel's satellite-fed talk show and expanded all weekday shifts by one hour in most cases. This means George Noory's already interminably long evening show has just gotten even longer. More power to him if he can carry this off night after night.

It was a fortuitous coincidence that Clear Channel CHR clones KSLZFM (107.7 FM) and Tampa's WFLZFM were located in the cities represented in the NFC playoffs. Cross promotions went well, though WFLZ morning show clowns Froggy and Fester, who appeared at a mobbed Union Station rally before the final playoff game, phoned the MJ & BJ morning show after the Tampa Bay loss to report they were hightailing it out of town after destroying their room at an unnamed downtown hotel. Bad form, guys--and ultimately a Clear Channel liability.

Grover Washington's death shortly after the last issue's publication deadline evoked memories of two outstanding and intimate shows at Westport Playhouse in the mid-late 1990s as part of the Hennessey tour. The legendary jazz saxophonist and his talented entourage gave impassioned and inspiring performances which will serve as lasting remembrances for those in both devoted St. Louis audiences.

Returning to the Bucs-Rams playoff coverage, former sports staffer Mike Kelly was pressed into service in place of CBS football broadcaster Howard David and turned in an outstanding game without much advanced notice. However, the only place. the CBS broadcast "cleared" in St. Louis was the KMOX control room due to KSD-FM and Clear Channel's ownership of Rams play by play broadcast rights. Following the game, veteran KMOX newscaster Bob Hamilton likened a burst of snowfall, which started as fans exited the TWA Dome, to confetti. A timely, well-placed quip. Though nothing compared to the confetti that fell in the Georgia Dome following the Rams' triumphant victory.

In a late January program, NPR's usually well-balanced "Diane Rehm Show" carried what I consider to be misleading and scientifically unvalidated statements by Robert C. Atkins, MD, author of the recently released book "Dr. Atkins' Age-Defying Diet Revolution."

Atkins drew direct connections between mercury poisoning, allegedly induced by high mercury blood levels caused from the presence of silver dental fillings, and numerous debilitating and ultimately potentially fatal diseases. He restated views found on pages 218-19 in his book tying multiple sclerosis, cancer and heart disease to mercury toxicity.

When questioned about opposing viewpoints, Atkins told Rehm and the radio audience that the American Dental Association was not being truthful in defending the use of the 160-year-old material, and urged listeners to detoxify their bodies by having all such fillings removed and replaced by alternative materials such as resins and ceramics. The ADA, whose position was not represented on the show, unequivocally supports the safety and use of dental amalgam (silver filling material), citing the complete lack of scientific evidence to the contrary.

The ADA goes further in saying that it is unethical for its members to remove otherwise serviceable fillings from non-allergic individuals for the purpose of causing abatement of various diseases.

The ADA's media liaison told SJR that the association had received reaction to the show via its website, and that WAMU-FM/Washington, DC, the, station of origin for the "Diane Rehm Show," may be contacted to present the opposing position on a future edition of the program.

Larry Hoffman has been a freelance contributor to Billboard and wrote several chapters of Dick Clark's First 25 Years of Rock and Roll.
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Author:Hoffman, Larry
Publication:St. Louis Journalism Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U4MO
Date:Feb 1, 2000
Previous Article:New mag editor signals change in content.

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