Backbeat: WSM-AM Co-Sponsors Durango Stage With Gene Watson, Billy Dean at CMA Fest
Backbeat: WSM-AM Co-Sponsors Durango Stage With Gene Watson, Billy Dean at CMA Fest

gene Gene Watson performs at the WSM-sponsored Durango Acoustic Corner at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. (Photo: Robin Roberts Ladisa)

Many radio stations were in Music City over the past few days doing live radio broadcasts from the CMA Music Festival. That being said, few have the relationship to the event that Nashville's WSM-AM has. In fact, the heritage station was among the founders of the event when it was called Fan Fair.

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So, it only makes sense that the station still has a vital presence at the festival. For the third straight year, along with Durango Boots and Casino Aztar, WSM has sponsored the Durango Acoustic Corner stage at the festival. The entertainment ranges from current to classic country, bluegrass, and Americana -- all of which can be heard on the legendary signal -- as well as around the world on and the station's mobile app.

General Manager Tom English says that the two entities enjoy a history together, so it's only natural to want to add to that rich legacy.

"WSM was there 40 years ago when the first Fan Fair was formed," English told Billboard.

dean Billy Dean speaks to the crowd during his performance. (Photo: Robin Roberts Ladisa)

"No radio station in America has more 'Skin in the Game' when it comes to the long term success of country music. We will always stand with the CMA when it comes to promoting the music, the people and the city of Nashville."

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The stage, which had been located inside the Nashville Convention Center, moved this year to the exhibit hall downstairs to allow more room for the fans. Having just come aboard at the "Air Castle of the South," English deferred to the players on his staff that have made the event a success. "This is my first year at 650 WSM so I have no historical view. That being said, promotions director Nicole Judd, program director Joe Limardi, and their team put an immense amount of time, effort and heart into this every year. The move to the larger stage inside Fan Fair Hall was a huge success and we look forward to continuing to grow with Music Fest each year."

riders Riders in the Sky perform with their matching cowboy hats at the Durango Acoustic Corner. (Photo: Robin Roberts Ladisa)

English takes great pride in the variety of talent that the Durango stage was able to present to the thousands of people that made the trip to Nashville. Newcomers such as Sarah Darling, Due West, and Joanna Smith, along with legendary talent such as Gene Watson and Lynn Anderson all made appearances on the stage. "Our mission is to remind fans that, as much as we love and appreciate her, Country Music didn't start with Taylor Swift. Thanks to the great work Joe Limardi has done in the last few years, WSM is now approximately 70% classic country, 10% current country (that fits texturally with our "true country" feel), 10% Americana and 10% bluegrass. On the Durango Stage we tried to present that kind of well rounded entertainment in an up-close and personal way. Every artist stayed and signed and visited with fans after their show and the fact that we broadcast every performance live on the air (and on makes this the most special opportunity outside LP Field for both fans and artists."

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The station -- which opened for business in 1925 -- is still an innovator today. One of their most popular programs is "The All Nighter," an overnight show geared toward truck drivers. It is hosted by Marcia Campbell, the only live radio personality in Nashville during the wee morning hours. The station's Bill Cody and Eddie Stubbs are regular nominees in the CMA and ACM broadcasting categories.