Fine Tuning 

Music in the air

Music in the air

Tuned-In Broadcasting, Inc.—the locally owned company whose holdings include Lightning 100-WRLT-FM and its sister station, Thunder 94-WRLG-FM—is set to purchase another local FM station. According to station management, this is the first step in a series of upgrades that will more than double Thunder 94’s potential listenership. The purchase coincides with a number of developments at the two stations in the past few weeks, noteworthy among them the hiring of a well-known program director at WRLT.

Last week, Tuned-In owner Lester Turner and general manager David Tune announced the impending purchase of WDBL-FM, a Springfield station, from a Kentucky company with diverse holdings in radio, banking, and nursing homes. Pending FCC approval of the deal, the station will begin simulcasting Thunder 94’s modern-rock programming, which is already simulcast over Dickson’s 93.7 FM.

Of equal importance to the tiny station’s geographical location is its location on the FM dial. At 94.3 FM, the station’s frequency rests right alongside that of Thunder 94 at 94.1—meaning that WRLG will be able boost its power from 3,000 to 6,000 watts without fear of interfering with WDBL’s signal. (By contrast, Thunder 94’s modern-rock rival, WKDF-103.3 FM, broadcasts at 100,000 watts.)

The purchase will permit Thunder 94 to expand into the Clarksville/Fort Campbell market while allowing a simultaneous signal upgrade in Rutherford County—which, according to Tune and Turner, will ultimately boost WRLG’s potential listenership in that region from 295,000 to 646,000, when combined with other alterations.

“This makes a significant impact on what people can listen to in Nashville,” said Tune, spreading out maps and documents in a conference room on the former observation deck of the Life & Casualty Tower. The most noticeable difference, he notes, is that a mobile WRLG listener can now stay tuned to the station all the way from Harding Mall to the current site of the Nashville Zoo without losing the signal.

As for WRLT, the adult-alternative station just hired Jessie Scott, a 25-year radio veteran, to replace former program director Jon Peterson. “For the first time in my life, I’ve found my format of choice,” says Scott, whose career spans album rock in Pittsburgh in the ’70s, progressive country in New York in the ’80s, and adult-alternative in Orlando, Fla., in recent years.

The activity at Tuned-In Broadcasting counters the uneasy speculation that has clouded the company over the past six months. Last fall, after months of management studies, WRLT underwent radical shifts in personnel, including the departure of longtime general manager (and acknowledged visionary) Ned Horton and many key staffers and on-air personalities.

In addition, Tuned-In Broadcasting trimmed its ambitious lineup of auxiliary projects. It canceled the music-television program Bone TV after months of development, and it discontinued Bone, a monthly Nashville-based music tabloid syndicated to other stations across the country. Small wonder rumors on the street have placed the Tuned-In empire on the brink of either sale or a format change.

Addressing the rumors, Tune and Turner state firmly that neither Tuned-In Broadcasting nor its holdings are up for sale. Instead, Tune says, narrowing Tuned-In’s focus to music has improved the company’s well-being. Furthermore, Scott, Turner, and Tune say they are committed to WRLT’s eclectic format. Currently, the station mixes live evening broadcasts—which include shows from Caffé Milano and 3rd & Lindsley as well as Billy Block’s Western Beat Roots Revival, which is expected to go into syndication soon—with a varied playlist that features blues, jazz, neo-folk, contemporary rock, and large doses of alternative country.

WRLT’s lack of focus—both in its format and its business dealings—has drawn criticism even from supporters. Scott plans to bring “more cohesion [and] more flow” to the station’s many sprawling elements. However, she believes the variety of the station’s programming mirrors the city’s thriving club scene. “The music scene here is exploding,” she says, “and there’s no reason why it can’t explode nationally.” Only the music—and the next few months—will tell how well Lightning 100 and Thunder 94 have weathered recent storms. (JR)

Blues music is stronger in Nashville in the mid-1990s than it has been in the last couple decades, and a primary reason is the enthusiasm generated by the hardworking volunteers at the Music City Blues Society. Acknowledged as one of the nation’s best blues organizations by the prestigious Blues Foundation, MCBS hosts its sixth-annual Music City Blues Celebration, Sunday at 328 Performance Hall. The hefty, impressive lineup includes special guest Mississippi Millie McLain, as well as several of Nashville’s best blues acts, including Reese Wynans & Big Time, Miranda Louise, Rick Vito & the Blues Town Rhythm Kings, The Roadrunners, The Amy Watkins Blues Band, Jimmy Markham & the Jukes, The Mojo Men, and Dean Hall & the Loose Eels. Music begins at 2 p.m., and Jack’s Barbecue will be on hand during dinner hours. (MM)

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