53 years ago this week, the Chattanooga radio landscape was jolted with an infusion of rock 'n roll music. WFLI's strong AM signal, at 1070 on the dial, provided the soundtrack of the Baby Boomer generation.
Saturday, at the station's historic Lookout Valley studios, original employees gathered with friends and fans to celebrate the anniversary.
Known as "Jet-FLI" with matching airplane sound effects, the station was an overnight success in 1961, and later ushered in the British Invasion, Motown, and the Beach Boys to local teens. From 1965 until 1972, the station's twice-yearly "Spectaculars" brought top music acts to Memorial Auditorium, offering as many as six top-charting acts in sold-out shows.
Original station manager Johnny Eagle hosted Saturday's reunion, joined by Ying and Betty Benns, the wife and daughter of the late William Benns, who founded the station. Ben Cagle, a former radio executive who worked for WFLI in the 1960s, created a 3-hour radio program commemorating the history of the station. Cagle interviewed various deejays, and re-created the sounds and music from the station's heyday.
Much of the station's original equipment is still intact, providing a trip back in time for those who visit the station, from classic radios in the lobby, to vintage control room equipment, and the station's hand-made, water-cooled 50,000 watt transmitter.
In addition to Eagle, 1960s deejays Tommy Jett, Mike King, Del Allen, Ron Arnold, Ringo Van, Nick Smith and Bill Miller attended Saturday's event.
WFLI switched to a country music format in 1980, and then to gospel, which is the format it carries today. Saturday's show was the first time rock 'n roll music had appeared on the station since 1980.
Note from David Carroll: I worked at WFLI in the mid 1970's. For some personal comments, and a link to the History of WFLI radio special, click here: http://www.chattanoogaradiotv.com/general/a-gift-to-you-from-the-great-jet-fli/