In the early 1950s, broadcast radio in Prentiss County and the Baldwyn area was as full of diversity as one could imagine. There were many low-power stations locally with a variety of programming, mostly our favorite music, ballgames, and local and national news. If we, as youngsters, had an old car to run around in, and if it had an AM radio, that was a real luxury (if it worked). We loved music.
The best pop music stations were in Tupelo, WTUP and WELO. A great station to listen to was WVOK in Birmingham "The Mighty 690" ( see http://wvok-memories.tripod.com/ ). WVOK played a variety music format in those days. Whatever was in the top twenty chart in the pop and country category- they played it.
The local country station most listened to was WBIP in Booneville. Many humorous words were put to the station call letters: "We Built In Pasture", "Watch Booneville's Ignorant Players" (ball teams), and others too numerous to mention. The top draw at WBIP was an afternoon after-school show hosted by Jack Gardner, a very well liked DJ who would read request letters from listeners wanting top tunes of the time played for named couples. He would read the names in each letter and we thought that it was really cool (more appropriately then, "far out") to have your name mentioned on the radio. Although some "spoof" letters pairing some couples that didn't want to be done as such was read, the end result was that it was a lot of fun anyway.
Jack would also host as emcee/DJ for events. Once (or more) he hosted a cakewalk at the Baldwyn gymnasium. He was also seen at ballgames with a telephone hookup calling plays for the station to air. These were for Booneville games, or for their games away, such as at our gym.
At that period in time, it was forbidden to say things on-air that we hear everyday now - NO four-letter words and some songs were modified as they were played. One notably was Carl Perkins' hit "Blue Suede Shoes". When he sang "drink my liquor from an old fruit jar" the word "liquor" had to be cut out and not heard in our dry world. Jack was a master at that. Instead of cutting the word off, he would cut the audio and say a word like "pop" or "cola" or a variety of other words. We all waited patiently to hear what he would say; it was different each time. Jack would always emphasize the name "Ruby" when he read it in a letter. He would draw out the first syllable very long (Rooooo-bee) and there were a lot of gals by that name in those days.
Jack was a victim of multiple sclerosis and was partly paralyzed, causing severe problems with his walk and movement which got much worse later in his life. He was as active as possible in the community but eventually became immobile. Many of you may remember his wife Hazel who worked at NEMJC(now NEMCC) until about 1976 before retiring.
After dusk, when stations increased power, tuning across the AM band resulted in more reception of far away signals. We listened to WOAI, San Antonio, WSM, Nashville's Grand Ole Opry station, KMOX, St. Louis, WBAP, Fort Worth/Dallas, and many, many others. But it was a lot more fun to listen to WBIP when your and your "main squeeze" names were mentioned over the air!
Betcha didn't know that Jack Gardner had a more famous cousin - "Brother Dave" Gardner, who had several comedy record albums with such funny stories as "The Motorcycle Riders" (Chuck and Miss Baby), "Driving the Governor" (I thought he wanted to race, so I shoved the gearshift up into R), "Little David and Goliath" (He killed the giant with a flat smooth "Red River Rock"), and others. Brother Dave is the only comedian that we ever heard make stone-faced Dewey Phillips on WHBQ in Memphis laugh.
Thanks to Sue (Kimbrell) Honeycutt of Booneville who greatly assisted with some facts of this article.