Wade Jessen, Pam Green & Charlie Morgan Lead 2023 Country Radio Hall of Fame Class
Jessen, who oversaw the Billboard country charts for two decades, was announced March 13 as a 2023 inductee.
Wade Jessen, an exacting and encyclopedic country music figure who oversaw the Billboard country charts for two decades, was announced March 13 as a 2023 inductee into the Country Radio Hall of Fame.
Jessen joined Billboard in December 1994, handling the genre’s charts during a difficult period of transition for the industry in which the introduction of streaming technology changed the way consumers experienced music. His work with Billboard included oversight of the Christian, gospel and bluegrass charts, and he played a role in the development of the groundbreaking Hot Country Songs chart — which blends airplay, sales and streaming data — reflecting significant changes in consumer behavior in 2012. Jessen died shortly after his 20th anniversary with the company, suffering a heart attack on March 5, 2015, less than a week after that year’s Country Radio Seminar concluded.
The Billboard charts job was the final entry on Jessen’s résumé, though it was hardly the only significant span in his work history. He held an on-air role in two different stints at KSOP Salt Lake City before taking the music director position at historic WSM-AM Nashville, the home of the Grand Ole Opry, in 1987. Even after he shifted to the chart position, Jessen continued to keep his radio voice in working condition, imparting his knowledge on SiriusXM’s classic country channel, Willie’s Roadhouse.
Jessen was one of six new members announced on the first day of this year’s Country Radio Seminar by Kelsea Ballerini along with the Hall of Fame’s co-chairs, consultant Joel Raab and Audacy/Detroit vp of programming Tim Roberts.
Joining Jessen as off-air inductees are Pam Green, Charlie Morgan and John Willyard. Newly announced on-air members are Trish Biondo and Dollar Bill Lawson.
Green came to prominence during a 13-year run as music director at WHN New York, a station that was among the genre’s first to employ research to connect with the nation’s most diverse local audience. She held a position with Raab’s consultancy and served as United Stations Radio Networks senior director of artist relations, continuing in the post after the company was absorbed by Westwood One. Along the way, she became one of country’s first female music directors.
Morgan has a lengthy history with Country Radio Broadcasters, where he served as board president. He is the current board chairman for the Country Music Association. Morgan’s tenure was spent primarily in Indianapolis, where he worked on-air at WFMS, rising to program director for the station and country sister WGRL, en route to becoming vp/market manager for the Susquehanna cluster, now part of the Cumulus chain. Morgan shifted to rival Emmis/Indianapolis, including country WHLK, in 2009, adding stints at Emmis/New York and Apple Music, where he is global head of radio and music programming.
Willyard sets a precedent as the first inductee recognized primarily for voice acting and imaging. Boosted by 2012 Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Walker, Willyard became the central voice for more than 100 country stations, maintaining a similarly sized client list for more than 30 years. He has also handled the voiceover work for the Country Music Association Awards for two decades.
Biondo built her Hall of Fame credentials primarily at WUSN Chicago, beginning in research and promotion during college, segueing to board operator and eventually handling the microphone and the music director position. She spent 14 years in mornings before taking on the midday role. She also spent an early portion of her career in Nashville as an intern at MTM Records.
Lawson received the Tom Rivers Humanitarian Award during the opening-day ceremonies at CRS 2019 and returned to the winners circle this year for his work on-air in Birmingham, Ala. He spent 18 years at WZZK, with a decade in the a.m. daypart, and has held the same morning-drive role at WDXB since 2002.
This year’s class will be officially inducted during a dinner ceremony at the Virgin Hotel Nashville on July 10.