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.
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: