TN Radio Hall of Fame

2018 Legacy Category Nominees

(6 Finalists to be chosen by the Board of Directors)


Philip Beal (nominated by Charlie Chase/John Young)

       Philip Beal began his broadcast career at WRGS during his teen years. His father and two uncles opened the station in 1954 in Rogersville... Tennessee's second oldest town. After graduating from ETSU, he left WRGS to work for WJCW in Johnson City for a brief span from late 60s to the early 70s. He was an on-air personality and sports broadcaster during that time. He returned to WRGS in 1972 as owner and on-air personality and remained in that position until his death in December 2015. 

       Always community minded, Philip was a board member on the Rogersville 4th of July Committee, Of One Accord Ministry, The Hawkins County Relay For Life, and constantly made sure his station was a supporter of many other civic organizations in Rogersville and throughout Hawkins County. Philip served two terms on the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen and was Vice-Mayor during his second term. In the early 90s, Hawkins County Mayor Doug Price proclaimed a week as Philip Beal week for his service to this community. He received several honors for the same service including a road in Rogersville named posthumously in his honor.

  Billy Benns (nominated by Johnny Eagle/Ben Cagle)

       William E. (Billy) Benns Jr. spearheaded WFLI’s phenomenal success in the 1960s and 1970s, creating the legendary top-40 station WFLI-AM 1070, a 50,000 watt station that is still going strong today. Benns was born on September 13, 1918 in Bessemer, Alabama. He was a licensed pilot, and a man of vision who was incapable of thinking small. The sky was not the limit. It was his playing field. His radio career began in 1939, shortly after he graduated with honors from Auburn University. He formed a new station, WFTM in Fort Myers, Florida, serving as manager and chief engineer.  After returning to civilian life in 1944 from a Navy stint in WWII, operated a radio engineering consulting business, with offices in South Carolina, Alabama, and Washington, DC. He was a Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of South Carolina. In 1946, he and longtime friend Bill Brennan (a fellow Auburn graduate) formed Voice of Dixie Broadcasting, and put WVOK/Birmingham on the air. The 10,000 watt station on 690 AM sometime later increased power to 50,000 watts. Mr Benns and the Brennans actually designed and constructed the 50,000 watt transmitters for WVOK and WBAM. The next year, he and a Brennan family member established WFEC-Miami. In 1952, Mr. Benns acquired a share of another powerful Alabama station, WBAM-Montgomery (740 AM, 50,000 watts). In the late 1950's he established WEZL-Richmond, VA. He was instrumental in the engineering and construction to obtain WEUP AM for Leroy Garret in Huntsville, AL. This is one of the first if not the first minority owned and operated station in the US. Mr. Benns spent the remainder of the 1950s operating and consulting radio stations along the East Coast. . He did some of the pioneering work in design of directional antenna systems, especially the electronic circuits to control the power to the antennas. He was called on by other consulting engineers to assist in design and adjusting of directional system and to troubleshoot difficult installations. In the early 1960's he and Bill Brennan operated CH 8-TV in Selma AL (now serving Montgomery, AL).
        At the beginning of the 1960s, Mr. Benns began to focus his efforts in Chattanooga. After being told the city already had six radio stations, and could not get FCC approval for more, he persisted. As he gazed at the city from the cockpit of his plane, he saw Lookout Mountain on the city’s southern border. He observed a small village on the tree-covered mountaintop, but no radio broadcasting towers. The FCC would soon approve his application for a 10,000 watt radio construction permit for Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. WFLI’s one-of-a-kind transmitter dated back to the 1940s, and was shipped piece-by-piece from Washington DC to Chattanooga prior to WFLI signing on the air. Mr. Benns re-assembled this water-cooled transmitter while purchasing property in the Tiftonia area of Chattanooga. He built the only studio fully intended for radio broadcasting in the market. He conducted soil tests to ensure maximum signal efficiency for the station’s towers. When WFLI signed on the air, on February 20, 1961, Mr. Benns made sure his station was ready to shake up the market. Mention WFLI to the “baby boom generation in Southeast Tennessee and beyond, and they will immediately respond, “JET-FLI, WFLI…down-beat..beat..beat,” the station’s signature slogan for some twenty years. He assembled one of the finest radio staffs in the Southeast. Dale Anthony, Tommy Jett, Johnny Eagle, and others are still household names in Chattanooga, more than a half-century after making their initial impact. While Mr. Benns’ talents had been primarily centered around engineering, he also displayed a flair for promotion and showmanship, at one time bringing in a rare white lion as a mascot. The station’s immediate domination of the young-adult market toppled longtime market leader WDEF, and caused other top-40 stations to switch to other formats. His relationship with the Brennan family’s stations in the region (WVOK, WBAM in Montgomery, and WAPE in Jacksonville, Florida) enabled him to bring some of the top musical acts of the 1960s to Chattanooga’s Memorial Auditorium. The twice-yearly “Jet-FLI Spectacular” brought top-10 acts to the city, the first of which was staged in 1965. The venue was always packed, as fans drove to the WFLI studio to obtain tickets, usually priced around three dollars each. Mr. Benns’ request for an increase to 50,000 watts for WFLI was approved by the FCC in 1965, and became a reality in 1968. His final engineering endeavor was in television, as he successfully obtained FCC approval for WFLI-TV in Cleveland, Tennessee, which signed on in 1987. Mr. Benns died on December 27, 1999 at the age of 81. His wife Ying Benns continued to operate WFLI until 2017, making it among the state’s longest consecutively owned family radio stations (more than 56 years). Their daughter Betty Benns, a teacher in South Carolina, continues to be active in radio, helping form a committee to create a national Top-40 museum, soon to be established at WFLI’s studio. Mr. Benns was a conscientious worker, a dedicated family man, and a good business man. His legacy as a pioneering radio engineer is impressive, and inspiring. He changed Chattanooga radio forever.
  Sam Hale (nominated by Bart Walker/Scott Walker)

       Sam was fascinated with radio from his earliest years. His first paying gig was at WMMT in his home town of McMinnville, TN. When WBMC went on the air there, he was among its original staff. Following military service with AFRTS, where he became anchor for the first scheduled news program ever on an U. S. Army broadcast TV station, Sam joined WKDA in Nashville.
       He was hired away by the Bartell group and worked at their stations in Birmingham, Milwaukee and New York City. Sam also did mornings in Minneapolis and Chicago. He came to WQXI in Atlanta’s in 1962. In 1966 Sam began to devote full-time to his avocation, the stock market. Following a successful career as a Chartered Market Technician and affiliate of the New York Society of Security Analysts, he retired in 2003. Hale was a founding member of the Tennessee Radio Hall Of Fame. Sam Hale died Aug 4, 2015 at age 78 in Atlanta, GA
David Earl Hughes (nominated by Melissa Wagner/Gator Harrison)

       David Earl Hughes was born on June 30th 1956, in Peoria, IL. He was the son of Sidney D. Hughes, winner of numerous Dove Awards, and Mary Nicholson. He was a member of the Maplewood Baptist Church in Nashville, TN. He has two sons Steven David Hughes and Michael Cody Hughes. David Earl started in May of 1976 at WRIP in Rossville, GA where he worked there for about 3 years. In, 1979 he worked at WGOW doing middays until he moved across the hall in 1981 to be a part of the Morning Zoo on KZ 106, WSKZ. He moved to US 101, WUSY, in the early 90's where he was a part of the Dave and Dex Afternoon show.
       In July of 2003, he took a position doing afternoons at WSM-FM in Nashville. He worked there until his death in 2004.
       David Earl brought a lot of laughter and love of music to the airwaves. He made an immediate connection with listeners with his booming bass voice and distinctive drawl. His time on-air also brought him much success.
       The KZ 106 Morning Zoo was the top rated morning show in Chattanooga for 5 years. During his time at US 101, he helped the station to win 8 CMA Station of the Year awards and he also took home the CMA Award for Personality of the Year in a Medium Market in 1994 and 1999. The Dave and Dex Show on US 101 was also the top rated afternoon show, bringing in double digit numbers in the ratings.
       For David Earl though, the most important aspect of his career was helping out the community. He was a part of the cancer walk held yearly for the American Cancer Society. He also helped raise money and awareness to the Forgotten Child Fund, a charity which helps local children have a Christmas. He could always be found on the ball field helping to encourage kids play the sport of baseball. He spent many years coaching and umpiring the game. He was also an active member of the Chattanooga Rescue Squad, and was an honorary member of the Catoosa County Fire Department.
       One of his biggest passions though was his love of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. David Earl spent his time participating in radio-thons, car washes, and the St. Jude Rodeo which is celebrating its 20th year. US 101 has raised several million dollars for the hospital and David Earl was a part of the foundation that got the passion for St. Jude going in the Chattanooga Community.
   Jeff Jacoby  (nominated by Cindy Arnold/Chip Chapman)

       Jeff Jacoby, local sports announcer and radio personality, was born in Toledo, Ohio and later relocated with his parents to Cincinnati, Ohio where he graduated from Finneytown High School. Jeff received a scholarship to play football for the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tennessee where he played inside linebacker from 1973 to 1976 and helped the Eagles win the Ohio Valley Conference Championship in 1975. He graduated in 1977 with a double major in English/Journalism.
       During his tenure at Tennessee Tech Jeff worked with the Tech Sports Information Office and was the sports director for the campus radio station. After graduation Jeff hosted “The Golden Eagle Football Review” and did play-by-play for Tennessee Tech football and women’s basketball, serving as one of the earliest play-by-play announcers for the Golden Eaglette Basketball program. Jeff’s love of football and sports of all kind continued as he started his career with WHUB-Radio in Cookeville as a play-by-play announcer and advertising representative. He became a sports announcer for WCTE-TV and wrote “SportsTalk” for the Herald-Citizen in Cookeville.
       Jeff moved to Knoxville in the early 80’s to become an account executive at WMYU Radio and kicked off his Knoxville sports career in 1983. He joined the Vol Network in 1985. Before leaving WMYU and WWST radio stations in 1998, Jeff worked as the station’s General Sales Manager then Vice President and General Manager and was elected to the Journal Broadcast Group Board of Directors. In January 2000, Jeff joined the Dick Broadcasting Group (now Cumulus Media), parent company of stations WIVK, WOKI and WNML as Morning Sports Reporter and Account Executive. In 2005 the SportsAnimal went on air and Jeff kicked off the new station as a co-host in AM drive which became the “Doc, Jeff and Heather Show”. He was a fixture on the Knoxville airwaves and known to Knoxville sports fans for 34 years. Over the years, Jeff received numerous sales awards and recognition, culminating in his most treasured honor - The “Bobby Denton Employee of the Year Award,” a coveted honor awarded by his peers.
       Jeff was a 2005 inductee of the Finneytown Hall of Fame. In June of 2017, Jeff was honored by the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame during its Champion Within Luncheon with the “Courage Award”. Jeff’s greatest passion, besides his beloved family and radio profession, was his love for making memories through his devotion to photography and videography. You could often find Jeff on a sideline capturing memories at sporting events including his grandson’s baseball and basketball games, his granddaughter’s cheering on their teams and at UT football and basketball games. He made an enormous photographic contribution to sports fanatics, spirit squads, and families across the country. Philanthropic by nature, Jeff was an integral part in making the annual “Game On Against Cancer” event a success for the last 6 years. It was a cause very close to his heart. Jeff passed away on Christmas Day 2016 at the age of 61.

Martin Karant (nominated by George DeVault/Herb Howard)

       Martin Karant began his broadcasting career in 1942 at WKPT(AM) in Kingsport, at that time Kingsport's only radio station. A native of Chicago, he was employed by the WKPT stations full-time (except during his Army Air Corps tour during World War II) until 1971 when the moved to Chicago to become public relations executive for the B.P.O Elks.
       Following his traditional retirement, Karant returned to the Kingsport stations in 1980 to host the morning show, which he did until he finally truly retired at the age of 80. WKPT was joined by WKPT-FM in 1948 and by WKPT-TV in 1969. Eventually elected a Vice President of Holston Valley Broadcasting Corporation, during his long tenure at these stations he held at one time or another almost every on air executive position including Radio Program Director, News Director, and Sports Director. Martin was responsible for the company's famous student announcer program, which produced a plethora of radio and TV talent including famed NBC newsman John Palmer and others, who went on to positions at a number of larger stations including WSB, WSM, and WBT. To join the program a candidate had to pass the infamous audition Martin had taken in 1951 when he was offered, but declined a position with NBC in New York. It's safe to say that Martin Karant was the most popular radio personality in Kingsport for decades!
John Lashlee (Nominated by Bobby Melton/Larry Melton)

       John Lashlee, Jr. is best known as one of Middle Tennessee's most notable radio and television sportscasters during the 1960's, 70's and early 80's. He was the lead sportscaster for WLAC Radio and later television (later to become WTVF) and hosted such shows as the "Coach John Merritt Football Show" and "Channel 5 Outdoors". Most recognized in Nashville for his position as a sportscaster, John Lashlee was also elected 2 terms as Councilman-At-Large as well as Criminal Court Clerk for Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County.
       Born December 31, 1931, he was the son of Senators John & Mildred Jolly Lashlee. A 1950 graduate of Huntingdon (TN) High School, he was a standout football player during his school years. He attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville his freshman year and began his broadcasting experience as the campus sports radio announcer covering UT football games pre and post-game duties. Soon after his freshman year ended, he enlisted in the US Navy just after graduation and served during the Korean War until his discharge in 1954. During his time in the Navy, he continued his interest in radio broadcasting and would participate part-time as a radio DJ for the various Navy functions at the bases where he was stationed. He began his professional career in radio broadcasting just after his discharge and went to work for Lady Bird Johnson's radio station KRGV in 1955.
       Later he then went back to his hometown and broadcast on the radio for WFWL in Camden, Tennessee as well as WTPR in Paris, TN. About early 1961, he was chosen to do the television weather for a Jackson, Tennessee affiliate before being selected by WLAC in Nashville to be their lead radio broadcaster in 1962. In the mid-1960's WLAC Television would make him their lead Sports anchor, but he maintained his presence in radio as well for he became the play-by-play announcer for the Tennessee State University Tigers Football and Basketball game broadcasts. This was a first for Nashville in that the success of John Merritt's football program had inspired John Lashlee to propose to Tennessee State University to begin radio broadcast of their games. This was during a frictional civil rights movement in the south as well, yet John Lashlee's broadcast was at the top in the Nashville radio market.
       Having the position of "sportscaster" did not mean Lashlee ignored his love of the outdoors. He hosted and promoted multiple news segments on hunting and fishing and became one of Middle Tennessee's most successful competitive bass fishermen. Even before "The Tennessee Outdoors" show brought outdoors enthusiast to television in the mid-1970's, John Lashlee was highlighting segments on a regular basis beginning in the late 1960's while the other stations ignored the mass following of hunting & fishing enthusiasts viewers in Middle Tennessee. John especially promoted and highlighted the success of football coach Big John" Merritt and his Tennessee State University Tigers. He was one of the first sportscasters in the South to feature a predominantly black university sports show on television. Track & Field Coach Ed Temple was also given time to highlight his successful program on the TSU football show during track season.
       Lashlee was a lifelong fan of the Tennessee Volunteers and close friend of Coach Johnny Majors. He claimed one of his greatest sports experiences of his life was attending the 1999 National Championship Game in Tempe, Arizona to watch his beloved Volunteers win the BCS Championship. He died in November 2007, but not before he was able to watch his grandson Austin Johnson sign a scholarship to play for the University of Tennessee football team.
  Dick Layman (nominated by Melissa McDonald/Gary Beatty)

       Layman spent 12 years as a news anchor/reporter at WSM-AM/FM, Nashville (1986-98). His work on breaking news and news series helped WSM win numerous awards, including the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award, the equally coveted George Foster Peabody Award, and second place in the 1996 National Headliner Awards (the first place winner that year was the ABC News Network). He also received numerous awards form the Associated Press and United Press International.
       Prior to coming to WSM, Dick worked at: KFNK, Des Moines (air personality, 1972-74) KBCM, Sioux City, Iowa (morning air personality, 1974-75) KWSL, Sioux City (news director, 1975-76) KSO/KGGO, Des Moines, (news director, 1976-1986).
       After leaving WSM in 1998, Dick became morning news anchor at WHO, Des Moines, where he worked until his death at 59 in 2013. Dick also used his golden voice to tell stories at the Iowa State Fair, and was instrumental in the founding of the Story Teller's Festival in Story City, Iowa.
  Gene Nobles (nominated by Brian Craig/David Tower)

       Gene Nobles at WLAC in Nashville was the first disc jockey to play blues and R&B on the radio for a racially mixed audience. Starting in 1947, after some Fisk University students requested some "boogie woogie" music, Nobles started incorporating African American music on his nightly WLAC disc jockey program. Nobles is credited with being the first to play such artists as Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and Little Richard. WLAC's 50kw signal covered much of the U.S. and Caribbean so most listeners were hearing this music for the first time on the radio. Randy's Record Shop-- "The World's Largest Mail Order Phonograph Record Shop" --in Gallatin, Tennesse soon became his main sponsor shipping the R&B records heard on Nobles' show all over the world.
       Nobles was later joined on WLAC by John R and Hoss Allen who also were instrumental in spreading African American music to a wider audience and helping to create rock and roll. But Nobles was the man who started it all. He continued to be heard on WLAC up to the early 1970s.
  Lee "Cash" Pellerin (nominated by Jack Parnell/Tyler Hawks)

Lee Cash (Pellerin) began his radio career in 1962 at station WGMM - Millington, TN. In 1965 Bill Thomas, who had been PD, was elevated to General Manager, whereupon Lee Cash became PD. By 1968 WGMM was a country & western station. From Jack Parnell: "My first knowledge of the great talents in all areas of broadcasting for Lee Cash, came when I began working in Airplay at The Wm. B. Tanner company in Memphis...he had just left there to become president of a country music production company and was working with Don Bruce & others in the production of "The History of Country Music", which was a huge success in many many stations, nationwide. He also went to a station in Florida and became their traffic HIS OWN PLANE! He was an extremely talented man in broadcasting and many of us who knew him, wondered if he he himself really knew of the great talents he did have !"

Copyright: The Tennessee Radio Hall Of Fame.  Founded by John Long.  Organized by Lee Dorman.

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