||This article possibly contains original research. (March 2014)|
|City of license||Nashville, Tennessee|
|Broadcast area||Nashville, Tennessee|
|Branding||95-5 NASH ICON|
|Slogan||"Playing ALL of your favorite country...not just the new stuff."|
|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 (or disco) 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.
However, Archer revived the SM95 format on his own website in April 2014, once again streaming, at SM95online.com.
Nashville 95/The Wolf/WSM-FM/NASH ICON, 1983-present
The ratings of SM95, however, 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 brought in country (with an emphasis on current hits, instead of the AM's emphasis on oldies) full-time. 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". Cumulus dropped the "Back to Back Country" tagline when it purchased the station in 2003.
From 2003 to 2008, Cumulus Media operated the sales department of WSM, while Gaylord Entertainment continued to hold the license. Cumulus, however, bought WSM-FM outright (along with FM talk outlet WWTN) from Gaylord at that time. When the WSM agreement ended, the two stations' 40-year association came to an end also. WSM-FM's offices and studios moved to the Cumulus complex on Music Circle East, in Nashville's Music Row area, while WSM remains at the Opryland Hotel.
In September 2004, the station adopted a revised country format, with the branding "The Wolf." The FM generally has gone after a younger demographic than the AM, whose appeal to older listeners and devotees of traditional styles of country is unique.
On December 16, 2010, the station began to slowly discontinue "The Wolf" moniker and retreat to using its heritage call letters, "95-5 FM WSM".
On August 15, 2014, at 3pm, the station rebranded as "95.5 NASH ICON", thus serving as the nominal flagship station of the Nash Icon brand. Sister station WKDF is likewise the nominal flagship of the hot country-oriented Nash FM brand.
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