A tribute to Tiger Radio: WMOC-AM 1450 in Chattanooga

If you want to hear some great early 1960s Chattanooga Top-40 radio that hasn’t been heard in more than fifty years, you have my permission to jump to the end of this post, and click the YouTube link.  But if you have a moment, read the story behind it first.

Most folks these days don’t even remember WMOC Radio in Chattanooga, and truth be told, I’m one of them.  By the time I really started listening to local radio, WFLI and WGOW were playing the hits, WDOD was spinning country records, and Luther Masingill was finding our dogs on WDEF.  A few other stations were up and down the AM dial, and FM started to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s, but WMOC had started to fade.

At 1450 on the AM dial, the station began as WAGC in 1946, broadcasting from the Hotel Patton.  Harry Thornton, “The Milk Man” competed against Luther for the morning listeners, and personalities like Roy Morris and Gus Chamberlain came along later.  The station broadcast Lookouts and University of Chattanooga games at various times through the 1940s and 1950s.  In 1959, new ownership renamed the station WOGA, competing with WDXB for the teen audience.  By 1961, the station was sold again to brothers Al and Jim Dick, who attached yet another set of call letters to 1450 AM: WMOC, in honor of UC Mocs football and basketball.

WMOC staff, circa 1967

WMOC staff, circa 1967

Earlier in 1961, WFLI entered the top-40 music battle with a powerful 10,000 watt signal.  WDXB soon changed to a more adult-sounding format, leaving WMOC to do battle with “Jet-FLI.”  For most of the 1960s, Chattanooga’s young listeners switched back and forth between WFLI and WMOC to hear the latest hits, with WFLI consistently winning the ratings battle.

WMOC shouldn’t be forgotten though.  The station had some terrific radio personalities, like Allen Dennis, Charlie Champion, H.C. Clark, Wild Bill Carter, Bill Lee (Lassiter), Ronnie Brandon, Dave Randall (Cleveland Wheeler), Bob Reich, Sonny Limbo, Bobby Dark (Bobby Box), Fred Forrest (Fred Gault), Phil Rainey, Bob Kelley, Paul White, Pat O’Day, Jack Diamond (John Deering), and Elliot Dubrow, among others.  Limbo and Champion died many years ago.  Carter, Lassiter, and Dennis died recently.  Brandon, Wheeler, Box, Gault and White are still active, working and on social media.  I haven’t been able to find the whereabouts of Clark, Rainey or O’Day.  Deering left WMOC in 1966 to serve in Vietnam.  He was a Prisoner of War, often in solitary confinement from 1968 until 1973.  He died in 2007 at the age of 64.  Dubrow died in a car accident on his way to cover an Atlanta Braves game in 1966.

A 1962 classified ad in Broadcasting magazine reads, “Wanted: Two fast-paced top-40 announcers to work for a swinging operation in one of the largest cities in Tennessee.  Prefer men on their way up who are willing to follow directions.”

One thing’s for sure: it was a swinging operation.  And it remained so until about 1968, when owners threw in the towel in the top-40 battle, choosing to battle WDOD for the country audience.  Many of WMOC’s announcers opted to stay in the top-40 game when Ted Turner switched adult-format WAPO (AM 1150) to WGOW.  Most of WGOW’s deejays were former WMOC jocks.

When you click the YouTube link below, you will hear sounds and voices that have not been heard in more than fifty years.  You may hear them now, thanks to a gentleman named Steve Farrington from Atlanta, who contacted me in 2002.  He was researching the history of WFLI radio, and other stations owned and operated by the Brennan family of Alabama.  Sadly, Steve died a couple of years later, and never finished his project.  But during our brief friendship, he was kind enough to send me a treasure trove of early 1960s Chattanooga radio tapes.  He used to visit family on Signal Mountain when he was a teen in the early 1960s, and would tape his favorite radio stations on his Wollensak reel-to-reel recorder.  Most of the early WFLI sound I used last year in my Jet-FLI tribute came from Steve. Thankfully, he recorded WMOC as well, and what you’re about to hear has been on my shelf for the past few years.  Let’s put it out there for everyone to hear.  By the way, WMOC’s call letters were surrendered by yet another set of owners about 30 years ago, and are now being used by a station in Lumber City, Georgia.  I sure wish we could get them back.  What a great set of Chattanooga call letters.

So with no further ado, here it is: Tiger Radio, WMOC:

 

About David Carroll

David Carroll is a longtime Chattanooga radio and TV broadcaster, and has anchored the evening news on WRCB-TV since 1987. He is the author of "Chattanooga Radio & Television" published by Arcadia.

26 thoughts on “A tribute to Tiger Radio: WMOC-AM 1450 in Chattanooga

  1. Fred Millsaps

    Carlton Holder (Bob Kelly) was from Murphy NC started at WKRK radio in Murphy while still in high school. He begin working at WMOC in 1963 and left in early 65.Later he ended up in Los Angles writing for TV. He passed away several years ago.

    Reply
  2. Cleveland Wheeler

    Thanks loads David! You missed Allen Dennis and Charlie Champion and a black dude that was a helluva jock, H.C. Clark. A lot of those guys helped move me into my first job but Bob Kelly was the one who made the connection for me with Al Dick, the station Manager. Never forget that day!

    WMOC was an operation full of great people and the first place I saw team spirit at work in business.

    I think I related to you that I met John Deering when he was released at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, after arriving home as the last 12 surviving POWs of the VietNam war. I did not know that he had passed on in 2007 though.

    Thanks for keeping the memories alive.

    Reply
    1. David Carroll Post author

      Cleve, I knew I would forget a few, thanks for filling in the blanks. I will add those guys to the story. Please share with anyone who might enjoy it. Thanks for reading Cleve!

      Reply
  3. Ron Brandon

    Thanks David… always fun to revisit that many years ago. WMOC, although a struggling operation (financial and signal problems) a lot of talented guys called it home for a while.

    Reply
  4. Bill Miller

    Hello David! Thanks for sharing the WMOC info and aircheck.

    Phil Rainey spent decades working in radio and TV in Knoxville. I just checked with Phil Jarnagin at 96.7 Merle FM and he heard from Phil not long ago. He thinks Phil Rainey might be living in the Knoxville area, but retired from broadcasting, of course.

    Around 3:03 in the aircheck there’s a drop “You’re In The Middle of a WMOC Twin Spin.” That voice belonged to the late Claude “The Cat” Tomlinson. Claude was the legendary morning man at WMOC’s sister (or brother in this case) station, WIVK in Knoxville for somewhere between 30 and 40 years. When WMOC went country with automation and canned voices, most of those voices came from WIVK. I think Claude did one of those shows, too.

    Thanks!
    Bill

    Reply
  5. Fred Millsaps

    DJ’s in picture Front row L to R HC Clark, Paul White, Bob Reich and Jack Diamond. Back row Pat O’Day, Cleveland Wheeler and Bobby Dark.

    Reply
  6. Paul White

    At last Contact, Bob Reich was in Nashville, I understand now
    he’s in Fla., Chattanooga was His Home…Lots of pleasant memories, Bill Nash was a salesman for us, as was Norma Miller,
    When we automated the country sound, Claude Tomlinson, Kenny
    dearstone and Bobby ???senior moment from WIVK were all used
    on the morning, mid-day, and Afternoon shows, all the others
    were automated, but were local team players…Bobby just
    recently passed away in Knoxville…..Paul White

    Reply
  7. Johnny Eagle

    A great tribute David. I remember WMOC as a competitor they served to make us at JET FLI a better radio station.

    Reply
  8. Phil Bell

    Great Job, David… By the time that I began at WMOC, in May of’71, it was an automated country format. Al Dick was managing the station, Norma Miller was the sales manager, Alan Dennis had moved over to WDXB, and I was doing sales, and the voice-overs.
    Thanks for all that you have done to keep Chattanooga radio alive.

    Reply
  9. Rick Govan

    I remember in the fall of 1964, Allen & Charlie in the morning, Sonny Limbo afternoons, and “Eddie the Playboy” evenings. Johnny is correct, they kept us at FLI on our toes!

    Reply
  10. Jim Stevens

    Those jingles were awful! What a great aircheck! I remember well listening to this station and practicing my “DJ voice” for when I got on there. Here the cueburns on some of these…wow…great Radio!

    Reply
  11. Fred Millsaps

    Eddie The Playboy was Ed Brantley that went on to great success at WIVK in Knoxville and is still working in Knoxville

    Reply
  12. BILL MALONE

    love this piece on wmoc sent to me by Bill Markham..believe it or not we started Sonny Limbo in radio at WAAY huntsville..he was a natural and a heck of a top 40 d.j.

    Reply
  13. Don Roden

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-YxqB08H1s

    Sonny Limbo @ 2:07 in….

    I met Sonny when he was hitchhiking from Lee High School in Huntsville to WCRI-AM in Scottsboro, Alabama.

    Mr COOL !! Suit and tie and sunglasses and a briefcase.

    He was maybe 15 years old and my cousin and I were 10 or 11.

    He told us that he was a radio disk jockey, but we didn’t know what that was. He said he was going to be a famous record producer, and he gave us some records out of his briefcase.

    We didn’t know what to do with them, so we played with them like Frisbees.

    Fast Forward twelve years and I was working with WAAY-TV.

    Sonny had a recording studio in Chattanooga, but someone stole all of his equipment. Back in Huntsville, Sonny worked a deal with MD Smith , owner of the TV station. They held back 100 dollars a week of his pay under the condition that he had to stay a full year or he would lose all of the money.

    At the end of the year, MD gave him his $5,000 and Sonny bought new recording equipment, and said adios.

    He told us he was going to make it big in the recording business.

    After Key Largo, Sonny, true to his word, came back to the TV station in a limo and took all of us out for a steak at Boots.

    I heard that he was buried somewhere south of London after producing records in the UK.

    Don Roden WAAY-TV ( retired )

    Reply
  14. Wayne Woodall

    I enjoyed going back to the 60s with WMOC. I visited the station many times when “Wild Bill” Carter was a DJ there. I remember the promo room where the ads would be cut and the DJs having to dial up the transformer. Good memories and good times.

    Reply
  15. Doug Hullander

    It was the 60’s and top 40 radio was enjoying what some would later call its “golden age”. and I was truly enamored by it all.

    Fifty thousand watt, clear channel blow torches like WLS, WABC, WCKY. etc. as well as local stations and personalities had fueled my determination to be a part of this phenomenon since the age of 14 or so. Getting on the behind the mic became an obsession and I would not let go until it became a reality.

    After years of listening to and studying the pros in my hometown and those from larger markets, I finally got my chance when Phil Raney, PD at WMOC, hired me for my first gig.

    That was some more heady feeling for an 18 year old, a euphoria unlike anything I had ever experienced…playing the music I loved and getting to speak to an audience of thousands…on a good day at least.

    I made a whopping $1.10 and hour, but I couldn’t have cared less. I would have paid THEM to work.

    Yes, that first crack at the biz on the 11th floor of the Patten Hotel, WMOC’s home, was an experience that, when I look back still to this day, kindles an intense feeling of nostalgia that I’d give anything to repeat.

    Thank you David for the memories.

    Reply
  16. Pat wimberly

    Don’t know if this is still monitored, if so, do you have a current contact for Cleveland Wherler? We worked togeather at MOC in the early 69s.

    Pat Wimberly

    Reply

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