Radio broadcasting to the public began in 1920 from station KDKA in Pittsburg and WWJ in Detroit, a licensed radio station was not erected in the Muscle Shoals area until 1933. The announcement was made that Station WMED was expected to open in September. Before the station opened the call letters were changed to WNRA. The station began test programming about November 1, 1933 from its main studio in Muscle Shoals City at Highland Park. Remote facilities were also opened in Florence and Sheffield.
WLAY was put on air by Kathryn Jones in the 1933 as WNRA. As WLAY, the station was the Shoals’ rock n’ roll home. Some important figures in early popular music were disc jockeys here. Sam Phillips, the ‘Father of Rock n’ Roll’ and founder of Sun Records, began his music industry career here. Clayton Ivey was working here when he ‘discovered’ Percy Sledge. FAME Recording Studios of Muscle Shoals owner Rick Hall was working here as well. FAME has an extensive history in rock music artists like The Tams, Joe Tex, Etta James, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin either recorded at FAME or were produced there by Rick Hall.
Mr. Jake Armstrong (in the 1940s), built and operated the first black broadcasting station in the Shoals.
Dr. Droke presented a Program of Vocal and Instrumental Music over WMSD Each Sunday Afternoon beginning in 1937 under the leadership of Manager Joe VanSandt.
Florence State Teachers College
Florence State Teachers College broadcast line up in 1941 included three-times-a-week programs which are broadcast from the Student Lodge and Kilby Auditorium from 12:15 to 12:30 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The same year broadcasts on the situation in Europe were a regular feature.
WOWL Local bandleader George Brooks broadcast an hour of R & B every evening on WOWL. A lot of the same records that Brooks played were also on the jukebox at Hamp’s Drive In.