Air Castle of the South

Air Castle of the South

WSM and the Making of Music City

By Craig Havighurst

University of Illinois Press, Hardcover, 9780252032578, 279pp.

Publication Date: November 2007

Started by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company in 1925, WSM became one of the most influential and exceptional radio stations in the history of broadcasting and country music. WSM gave Nashville the moniker Music City USA as well as a rich tradition of music, news, and broad-based entertainment. With the rise of country music broadcasting and recording between the 1920s and 50s, WSM, Nashville, and country music became inseparable, stemming from WSM's launch of the "Grand Ole Opry," popular daily shows like "Noontime Neighbors," and early morning artist-driven shows such as Hank Williams on "Mother's Best Flour." Sparked by public outcry following a proposal to pull country music and the Opry from WSM-AM in 2002, Craig Havighurst scoured new and existing sources to document the station's profound effect on the character and self-image of Nashville. Introducing the reader to colorful artists and businessmen from the station's history, including Owen Bradley, Minnie Pearl, Jim Denny, Edwin Craig, and Dinah Shore, the volume invites the reader to reflect on the status of Nashville, radio, and country music in American culture.

About the Author
Craig Havighurst is a Nashville-based writer, editor, and producer whose company String Theory Media specializes in music documentaries. His short "WSM Snapshot" for Nashville Public Television won a regional Emmy Award in 2001. A former staff music writer for The Tennessean in Nashville, he is also an independent journalist whose music correspondence has appeared on NPR and in Billboard, The Wall Street Journal, Country Music Magazine, and Entertainment Weekly.

Praise For Air Castle of the South

"In the midst of commercial radio's struggles comes a reminder of its glory days, when stations' soaring transmitter towers seemed like monuments to the broadcasters' influence. Air Castle of the South, by Craig Havighurst, tells the story of one such station, Nashville's WSM-AM. . . . While Mr. Havighurst, a music journalist and documentarian, is most interested in the station's cultural import, Air Castle of the South also presents a fascinating case study in the rise of commercial broadcasting. . . . Mr. Havighurst has done a service in preserving the colorful and instructive history of WSM - and in reminding us that giants once lived on the radio dial."--Wall Street Journal

Air Castle of the South brings a great deal of existing and new information about WSM into a single location. Havighurst employs a very readable style in presenting the history of this radio station, and there is no doubt that WSM has fostered the dissemination of country music. This book will have tremendous appeal to both general readers and scholars interested in country music.”--James E. Akenson, cochairman, International Country Music Conference, and coeditor of Country Music Goes to War 

"This is a vital book in the canons of country music history, but it's also a delightful read because the corporate growth and technological advances are peppered with stories such as Ernest Tubb's arrest for firing a gun in the National Life lobby and Hank Williams's call from jail. Havighurst treats WSM as if it's a character as rich and important as those it made famous, and he recreates the intangible studio moments that evaporate into thin air after reaching listeners' homes."--Weekly Standard