Since the 650 signal blasted onto the airwaves in 1925, the call letters WSM have represented the best in American Music. Whether it be the pop music performed on the legendary "Waking Crew" show, morning shows featuring Hank Williams and Flatt & Scruggs, or the legendary Grand Ole Opry, live music has always been a hallmark of the station.
Now, fans can relive some of that history with the release of Live From The Archives of 650 AM WSM, Volume One, a collection that includes live cuts from acts such as Rodney Crowell, Elizabeth Cook, and J.D. Souther. Joe Limardi, Program Director of WSM, is excited to be able to share these rare performances with the public. "In the time I've been here, I've witnessed hundreds of live performances, whether in our studios, side stages – such as the Station Inn, the CMA Music Festival, or the Hall of Fame that are non-Opry performances. They are such great performances, and I thought 'I wish there was a way that we could capture those, preserve them, and ultimately share them with people."
As great as that idea sounded, releasing a record required a different plan than they were accustomed to. "It's a whole other business to produce a record, and we're in the business of making great radio," said Limardi. "We just had these hours and hours of archived performances on video and audio, and was just waiting for a day that we could put this out on record."
Then, one day a conversation with Nashville businessman Billy Holland sped up the process. "He and I were talking about it one day about two years ago. I told him I thought about it all the time, but with the resources and the finances, the opportunity just wasn't there. He said 'What if we made it an opportunity?' I brought it to my bosses, pitched them the idea, and we collaborated on it together."
The more conversations that took place about the project, the more it grew – and that excited Limardi even more. "It was great to have someone else outside the station championing the idea for us, it was something I had only dreamed about. He said 'I'll do it. I believe we make something of this.' I thought it would be a little CD project – about 500 copies, send them around as a promotional item or whatever. He comes back, and says Sony Red is into the idea, and they want a multiple volume set. They think the brand is strong and notable, and the performances are one of a kind."
Then, the real work began. "So, I took it back to my bosses, and got the blessings, and off I started listening through thousands of hours of live performances. I thought 'What have I got myself into?' Some of the stuff we had archived was just stamped with a time and date, it didn't have what the performance was, who was on it, or anything. I was just looking at a bunch of numbers, and thought 'I'll just click on this and see what this is.' I spent days, weeks, and then months listening to audio. I found about 40 or so that I thought would be good to start, so I sent them off to Sony. They listened to them, and we narrowed them down to a list of about 30, then we had to get approval from the artists, and we landed with the sixteen tracks we have."
Vince Gill opens the disc up with an introduction, and excerpts from Ralph Emery's 2010 induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame by Reba McEntire are also included to give the disc the same kind of historical feel that listeners gain each day from listening on 650 AM, the station's phone app, or www.WSMOnline.com
And, in true WSM style, the project will be available on a 2-disc vinyl set beginning August 6, but the PD stresses you better act quick. "It's a limited edition with only 650 copies produced, and each are numbered with a commemorative Hatch Show print. If you're a fan of vinyl or WSM, this will be the piece for you!
(Track Listing for Live From The Archives of 650 AM WSM - Volume 1)
1. Introduction - Vince Gill
2. Ralph Emery's National Radio Hall of Fame Induction: Pt 1 - Ralph Emery & Reba McEntire
3. Nineteen Somethin' - Mark Wills
4. Stand By Your Man - Georgette Jones
5. Hello Lonely - Del McCoury Band
6. We Just Disagree - Billy Dean
7. Jesus Take The Wheel - Hillary Lindsey
8. Two Dozen Roses - Marty Raybon
9. It's A Great Day To Be Alive - Darrell Scott
10. Girlfriend Tonight - Elizabeth Cook
11. Together Again - The Time Jumpers
12. Last Train To Clarksville - The Grascals
13. Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight - Rodney Crowell
14. Would You Go With Me - Shawn Camp
15. New Kid In Town - JD Souther
16. Ralph Emery's National Radio Hall of Fame Induction: Pt 2 - Ralph Emery & Reba McEntire