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WMMT Jamboree
WMMT
McMinnville, TN
Year Started:  1954

WMMT Jamboree

Turn back the pages in time to 1954 and McMinnville, Tennesse when a fellow by the name of Pleas Taylor told the program director of his station, Roy Crocker, that he had a lot of talent to play on his top ranked shows and thought they deserved a show of their own.

The show, like so many others, fast outgrew the studio as audiences kept increasing.

WMMT Jamboree

It turns out that the station's transmitter was located on a nice piece of land, a logical place to hold the show. But station manager had to use his powers of persuasion to get the station maintenance man, Sam Johnson, to allow a show to originate on that piece of lawn. Dick Davis got his engineering group to literally wire the entire grounds for sound.

This may have even been the first drive-in country music show. Fans started discovering that they could come to the show and just sit in the comfort of their cars and still hear and see the stars they came to enjoy. The parking area was filled every Saturday night. Many of the fans got out of their cars and sat in front of the stage on the grounds. They wrote that the crowds averaged about 500 folks.

When the weather got bad, or, later in the year when winter came around, the show was moved back into the studio.

One of the members of the Hill Family contacted us and told us a bit about the WMMT Jamboree and its settings. Raymond Hill told us, that while the station's studios may have been small, it was on a very large area of land of about three acres. As mentioned above, Ray says the station built a large stage for the show and kept the entire property mowed nicely.

"People for miles around would drive their cars and park them on the lawn facing the stage. Some sat in their cars watching while others brought lawn chairs or blankets to sit on. The crowds were good with maybe 50 -75 cars parked there each Saturday afternoon to watch the show. Most people would have us on their car radio, (1230 on the AM dial) with the volume turned on as well as hearing us through the speakers on the stage. I guess this was the forerunner of stereo. Tennessee has a mixed bag of weather all year long so the (WMMT) Jamboree show (was) outside on the stage probably only about six months of the year as cold weather would force the show back into the WMMT studios until spring."
   —Raymond Hill, of the Hill Family

Ray told us that Studio A in the WMMT building was a tiny one, barely enough room to hold the musicians and their instruments, so there was no room for a live audience during those times when it was held in the studio. In fact, the entire facility may not have been much more than 1,500 square feet.

Pleas Taylor handled the emcee role, leading the hour and a half show, interviewing guest stars appearing in the area and all the regular members of the Jamboree.

In those days, fans weren't charged any admission fees to the show or even for parking according to Raymond Hill. Refreshements weren't available at the show. But nearby, within walking distance was a little 'Dairy Queen' type of restuarant that probably had its best day of business on those Saturdays the Jamboree show was held.

Back in 1955, there were three groups had been with the show since it started in 1954.

One was the Hill Family - led by Mother Thelma, her three sons and her daughter. Another was The Taylor Brothers, Joe and Don, who had a knack for stirring the crowds with their gospel tunes. Finally, there was the Smilin' Hillbillies who thought that hillbilly music was good enough to sing as much and as often as they could.

Pleas Taylor was also a bit of a musician, who played the bass fiddle and had played with Eddie Hill and Benny Martin.

The show remained on the air until about 1960.

Some of the acts that were a part of the WMMT Jamboree included:

  • The Smilin' Hillbillies
  • The Hill Family
  • The Taylor Brothers



The Taylor Brothers



The Hill Family



The Smilin' Hillbillies

 

Credits & Sources

  • Cowboy Songs No. 51 (Apr 1957), American Folk Publications, Inc., Derby, CT
  • Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to express its appreciation to Raymond Hill of The Hill Family for sharing his memories with us of their group and the WMMT Jamboree.


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