WGST, Atlanta PD Randall Bloomquist writes an insightful review of this new book which traces the unlikely birth of "Music City" in Nashville to the need of insurance sales.
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. "
As history, "Air Castle of the South" is engaging but less than definitive. It's long on anecdote and sentiment ("demanding that WSM live or die by the media economy's new rules feels a bit like asking your grandmother to work at Burger King to make ends meet") but short on analysis.
Recent years have seen the dissolution of Gaylord's "Opry"-centered media empire and the final stage of WSM's descent from broadcast powerhouse to radio curiosity. More thorough contemporary reporting would have helped buttress the book's contention that Gaylord's corporate strategy -- which included the much-criticized closing of the Opryland USA theme park in 1997 after attendance began slipping -- has endangered Nashville's future as a major hub of the entertainment industry. Still, 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.