In the beginning, sometime in the mid-fifties, Keith and Wynez Wroten came into town looking to set up a radio station. Wroten, an engineer for WBIP radio in Booneville, handcrafted the tiny new station from scratch with the exception of the tower. WNAU was first located in the building across from the Magnolia movie theater (later the Cine’). The studio was upstairs sharing the floor with a dentist, Dr. Gus Parr. Wroten built an office, guest studio, control room, and a recording studio.
All music back then was on vinyl records (33 and 45 RPMs) as kids called them. Records played on air were furnished by the record companies in hopes of giving their artists more exposure through airplay time. Sometime around 1962, WNAU moved their operation to its present location on Moss Hill Drive and about 1965, Wroten added FM to the station.
In the early years the radio announcers did double duty, announcing for half the day and then out selling ads the other half. The hours that WNAU were on the air could vary but was basically from 6 a.m. till 6 p.m. The format started out with the first hour being country music, followed by two hours of teen music, followed by a 15-minute newscast of local news and events. After that adult music as it was called was played until 11 a.m. with the infamous “Swap/Shop” next. Folks would mail in letters and postcards with things for sale, swap, or trade and the announcer would read them on the air. In the early 1980s they started taking calls for items and “Swap/Shop” was changed to “The Interchange.” Postcards and letters were still taken, but phone calls were encouraged to get live interaction with the public.
After this, local churches were given 15-minute segments until noon. At noon pop music was played until 1 p.m. after which country music was played for two hours, and teen music was played from 3 p.m. until sign off. Now lest we forget, sponsors ads were played off and on all day between songs and comments. Later, in the early sixties, more equipment was added and the broadcast day was extended until midnight, with teenage music until ten p.m., then albums of big band music was played until midnight.
One of the early announcers (Bill Allshouse) made friends with some of the teen listeners and he began to survey the juniors and seniors of New Albany High School to find out what current music they liked and disliked. In early 1961, Allhouse became the night D.J. (6 p.m. until midnight.) In 1966, when he was offered the job of morning D.J. (6 a.m. until noon) where he remained until 1971.
In July 1968 George Callicutt was hired as the afternoon D.J. During his career he worked all the time slots. Back then the studio was downstairs with a big window separating it from the transmitter room. They didn’t have sufficient air conditioning and it got really hot in the control room and even more so in the transmitter room where heat is a downfall for the equipment.
One particular hot, muggy day the back door was propped open and as George looked up, a cow from the neighboring pasture was standing there just inside the transmitter room. Needless to say, he shooed her away and closed the door without even finding out what her request was for the next song.
In the early days commercials were read by the announcer live and only sometimes was a spot was pre-recorded. All the music was on 45 RPM records or long-playing vinyl albums. George said that it was ironic that the same songs that are played today are the same songs that were played in 1968 when he first started.
George, semi-retired now, still does the Sunday morning gospel show, playing the old gospel songs that are dear to him and playing the sermons of a few of the local pastors. He also keeps busy helping Terry with “The Interchange.”
In 1979, a young man by the name of Terry Cook hit the scene. Terry was an announcer for years on both the AM and FM side of radio.
The FM side of the station was sold in 1993 and is also the time that Terry, Marty, Les Kitchens, Scott Spencer, and Chris Murphy bought the AM side of the station as well as the property. The format was changed to Southern Gospel and remained that way until the year 2000 when Hollis Brown bought in to the station. The format was changed again to “Oldies music” and has remained to present day.
A few years later Hollis bought out the rest of the partners with the exception of Terry and in 2009 Terry and Ricky McCollum bought out Hollis.
One of the favorites at the station is “The Interchange.” Terry and George have taken this segment to a new level with call-ins. With the public now calling in live and actually getting regulars that call in “The Interchange” has taken on a life and personality of its very own. Terry with his sincerity and George with his dry wit just made a great combination, along with folks that called in.
For instance there was Lester, who by the way had a personality of his own. The driver’s education teacher for Myrtle High School (Elvis Thomas) would always make the students pull over when Lester would call in because they all laughed so hard he was afraid of having a wreck. Terry has also always been sports minded and this being an all sports town and county, WNAU has always been the voice of local sports, along with Blue Mountain and North East Community Colleges as well as state playoffs.
Some of Terry’s favorite interviews were Hamilton, Joe, Frank, and Reynolds (Pop music group), Roni Stoneman of Hee Haw fame. Rick Dees (Memphis DJ and “Disco Duck” fame) a real favorite making many appearances at WNAU as a guest, and Dick Hawley (Memphis TV newscaster) was a regular visitor. Many local artists have been on over the years getting their feet wet in the music industry.
“WNAU - what a place to work!!!!” shouted Kim Surber. “That was my first job and what a busy place. Our general manager was Eddie Ferrell and the electrical and construction person was Hollis Brown. I worked with Ann Hoffman-Champion in the front office. Our sales reps were Gayle Mercier-Rutledge and a lady named Cindy. The wildest place was upstairs where the broadcasting was done. Pat Story, Rick McCay, George Callicutt, Andy Clemmer, were the seasoned announcers that I recall.
Then there were the new kids on the block besides myself, Terry Cook, Mickey Basil, and Angel Bain. You know, high school folks just like me trying to make a little spending money and maybe save some for college. Snakes were a problem being there at the river and Hollis Brown was the man to get the snakes out of the transmitter room. I got the opportunity to smell fried snake a few times. Ann was the person I worked closest with and really learned a lot from, especially how to deal with the fruit bowl of personalities at WNAU. Everyone there enjoyed a good laugh and you never know when it would be at your expense, but we really worked hard and we always pulled together to make the WNAU work for the community. My Dad, Bro. Jimmy McMillen, worked there some time in the late ‘90s and maybe the early 2000s. He was an announcer that was loved by this community. He worked closely with Terry and George. You knew my dad was going to be on the Exchange every day moving the items that were called in and carrying on some kind of fun with Terry.”
WNAU is still a force in the New Albany/Union County area and the listener base has gone viral with the addition of the internet and social media. Today the WNAU is heard worldwide and gets calls from all over the U.S. Folks say they listen to WNAU exclusively, because of the music, sports, and specialty shows. Listening is easy now, not only can you tune in locally at 1470 AM radio, but you can also listen in at www.wnau1470.com and click on the streaming button and also download the SimpleRadio app on your smartphone.