||This article possibly contains original research. (March 2014)|
|City of license||Nashville, Tennessee|
|Broadcast area||Nashville, Tennessee|
|Branding||95-5 Nash Icon|
|Slogan||"The music that made country great...and the best of today."|
|First air date||November 1, 1962|
|Callsign meaning||We Shield Millions
(slogan of former owner, National Life & Accident Insurance Company)
|Sister stations||WKDF, WGFX, WQQK, WWTN|
From 1968 to 2008, WSM-FM was the sister of the legendary clear-channel WSM. The station is now owned by Cumulus Media and no longer has any organizational relation to the AM. A transmitter site is co-located with the station's former television partner WSMV in West Nashville, and its studios are located in Nashville's Music Row district.
Original WSM-FM, 1941-1951
The National Life and Accident Insurance Company, owners of WSM, became the first commercial broadcaster in the U.S. to receive an FM license from the Federal Communications Commission in 1941. Originally known as W47NV, the station operated for about 10 years, until NL&AI realized that few area households had FM radio receivers and that its commercial potential was lacking, unlike the company's television station, WSM-TV (now WSMV). NL&AI shut down WSM-FM in 1951 and returned the license to the FCC.
Early 95.5 MHz operations, 1962-1976
The present-day FM began broadcasting on November 1, 1962 as WLWM-FM, owned by C. Webber Parrish (d/b/a Barlane Broadcasting Corporation), a local Nashville businessman. NL&AI purchased the 95.5 MHz frequency from Parrish in 1968, and after a short period of simulcasting the AM, programmed an easy listening format (the format WLWM used) on it from 1969 until early 1976.
Afterward, NL&AI allowed a change (despite some management misgivings) to a soft-rock playlist that was very broad by today's standards; during those years, the station adopted the branding "SM95".
In demographics, the station went after an audience of people in their twenties and thirties who, obviously enough, wanted something more musically interesting than easy listening but disliked the harder and louder rock that was becoming popular among teenagers then. SM95 was one of the few outlets in the nation for up-and-coming singer-songwriters to get airplay without having a smash record elsewhere; some of the artists were in fact Nashville-based, reflecting the growth in non-country artists recording there. One might consider the moderately eclectic format a forerunner of the "adult alternative" playlists that achieved some success years later, in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Former SM95 disc jockey Nick Archer operated a Live 365 internet-only streaming re-creation of the station's format (featuring the original station IDs and jingles) from November 2001 until February 2008, almost longer than the original broadcast station's run. Archer attempted it again in 2014, but it was not successful.
Under the Country Music format, 1983-present
The ratings of SM95 began to decline (and thus advertiser appeal) as its audience began aging in the early 1980s. By 1983, some four years after the conversion of the AM to a full-time country format and after the sale of WSM, Inc. to Gaylord Broadcasting, management decided to bring the FM in line with the AM, and flipped the format to country (with an emphasis on current hits, instead of the AM's emphasis on oldies). Gaylord moved the studios of both AM and FM to the Opryland Hotel complex at that time, from their 1970s home on Knob Road in west Nashville, where former sister TV station WSMV still operates today. In the 1990s, WSM-FM operated from a studio inside Opryland USA theme park, which visitors could view through a glass window. Following the theme park's demolition, the station moved into a renovated guestroom at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. The station had an auxiliary studio at the Wildhorse Saloon downtown, and later at Opry Mills.
For most of the 1980s and 1990s, 95.5 FM was a highly competitive, yet usually #2 (behind rival WSIX-FM), country station. For much of the 1980s and 1990s, the station was branded as "Nashville 95". However, upon the arrival of a fourth country station in the market in 1999 (the legendary FM rocker WKDF, which shocked longtime Nashvillians by changing formats), WSM-FM fell to a distant third place, and sometimes fell to fourth behind then-sister WSM.
In 2001, WSM-FM attempted to differentiate from the other FM country outlets by shifting to a format consisting mostly of live performances provided by the artists' labels or those within the WSM archives (such as Opry performances and in-studio appearances). The station was known during this era as "Live 95", and also simulcast the Opry live every Friday and Saturday night. After abandoning this approach to return to a traditional method of programming, and until the end of the Gaylord era, the station was called "Back to Back Country 95.5 WSM-FM".
In 2003, WSM-FM (along with sister news/talk/sports station WWTN) was sold to Cumulus Media, and its studios and offices moved to Cumulus' existing property on Music Circle East, in Nashville's Music Row district. Cumulus promptly dropped WSM-FM's "Back to Back Country" tagline, and began referring to the station only by its frequency and callsign. Along with the purchase came a joint sales agreement between Cumulus and Gaylord, which allowed Gaylord to maintain ownership and programming of WSM (AM), while Cumulus operated its sales and news departments. This five-year agreement expired in 2008, once again giving Gaylord Entertainment full control of WSM (AM), and ending the 40-year association between WSM (AM) and WSM-FM.
In September 2004, the station adopted a revised country format (branded as "95.5 The Wolf") that included some Southern rock music, and minimizing the amount of talk by the air personalities. After some initial ratings success, the station fell to a consistent third place behind WKDF and WSIX, and a more traditional country approach was once again employed.
On December 16, 2010, while rival station WSIX was in the midst of a reboot and stunting with nonstop Christmas music, WSM-FM itself relaunched, dropping "The Wolf" moniker. The station returned to using its heritage call letters, while offering a mainstream country playlist that included the top country hits of the day, as well as a heavy reliance on familiar hits dating back to the early 1990s.
In 2012, due to the bankruptcy of Citadel Broadcasting and subsequent acquisition by Cumulus, WSM-FM and rival WKDF became sister-stations, operating from the same building, yet still competing for the same mainstream country audience. Their operations were streamlined in January 2014 with the hiring of a common program director. WKDF adopted Cumulus' "Nash FM" moniker and format in February 2014, six months ahead of a similar change to come on WSM-FM.
On August 15, 2014, the station rebranded as "95.5 Nash Icon", thus serving as the nominal flagship station of Cumulus' new Nash Icon brand, a spin-off of Nash FM that focuses on more familiar traditional country titles ranging back to the 1980s, as well as a focus on new music by more traditional-sounding artists. The format minimizes the amount of talking by the air personalities and places a heavier emphasis on the variety and amount of music. The Nash Icon radio format is a by-product of a joint venture between Cumulus and Big Machine Records to launch and operate the Nash Icon Records label.
In January 2015, WSM-FM's air personalities became syndicated nationally on Westwood One's offering of the Nash Icon format, which is distributed to several Cumulus Nash Icon-branded stations, as well as some non-Cumulus-owned subscribing stations. The personalities provide a unique, locally-focused on-air presence on WSM-FM, separate from their more generic presence on the syndicated version.
Grand Ole Opry schedule conflicts
In past years, when WSM had the rights to broadcast Vanderbilt Commodore football and basketball games and Atlanta Braves baseball, it had WSM-FM air them whenever they took place on Friday or Saturday nights, in order not to preempt the live Grand Ole Opry shows on AM 650. Until the end of the 2003-08 Cumulus operating agreement, WSM-FM also aired NASCAR broadcasts under the same circumstances.
- Broadcasting Yearbook 1963
- Cumulus press release on WSM-FM acquisition
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WSM
- Radio-Locator information on WSM
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WSM