Saturday, March 25, 2017

TN Radio: Chattanooga's WFLI To Sign-Off Friday

WFLI, known as the Mid-South's Most Powerful AM Station and once one of Chattanooga's most popular radio stations, is going off the air.

WFLI 1070 AM (50 KwD, 2.5 KwN DA2)
According to The Chattanoogan, Station officials said, "After more than 56 years of broadcasting, WFLI 1070 AM radio will go off the air on MARCH 31, 2017. We sincerely appreciate our listeners, employees and clients for their support.

The station, owned by the widow of longtime owner Billy Benns, in recent years had a Southern gospel format.

Licensed to Lookout Mountain, TN WFLI signed on with 10,000 watts in February 1961, competing with the other AM radio stations in the Chattanooga market such as WDXB and WOGA (later WMOC) for the youth market. WDEF ruled the ratings in the morning with adults while WFLI appealed to teens and young adults with exciting shows during the afternoon and evening.

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.

In 1967, the station increased its power to 50,000 watts. Among the many deejay personalities at WFLI, Tommy Jett is known for greeting his listeners with an enthusiastic "Hey Now!" and is remembered for his work on the midnight show "Night Train," which featured many young teens calling in to share their hopes and dreams live on the air. In 1968, Ted Turner bought WAPO (later named WGOW), to give WFLI a run for its Top 40 money. Billy Benns, the owner of WFLI, remembers Ted Turner rumored as saying "I'm going to run that grey haired man (referring to Billy Benns) out of town." Of course, Ted Turner turned his focus from radio to other business enterprises such as the creation of CNN.

From 1961 to 1980, WFLI was a popular Top 40 station in the Chattanooga area, and featured disc jockeys such as Johnny Eagle, Dale Anthony, Tommy Jett, Nick Smith, Ron Daily, Mike King, Jimmy Byrd, Dexter, David Carroll, Gene Lovin, Ringo Van "the Music Man", Bill Miller, Rick Shaw, Mike Murray, Jim Copeland, John David Spangler and Stanley Hall. It was nicknamed "Jet Fli." The station also held annual concerts called "WFLI Jet-Fli Spectaculars" which featured many big acts of the 1960s.

The WFLI Light in the Sky projected a gigantic spotlight in the sky, viewable for miles around, acting as a beacon to nighttime listeners and drawing them to places of interest in the Chattanooga area. These remote broadcasts, or "remotes," as they are called, involve a broadcast from an outside location, usually an advertiser's place of business. After listeners follow the light in the sky, they can experience the excitement of radio close-up, by meeting the deejay, listening to him or her 'cut-in' over the air in real time, and possibly winning a prize.

By 1979, FM was becoming popular, and the new WSKZ (KZ-106) captured most of WFLI's audience almost overnight. After a two-year switch to a country music format, WFLI switched to the religious and gospel format in 1982, branding itself as the "Midsouth's Most Powerful AM Gospel Station."

The station is currently owned by WFLI, Inc. and features programing from USA Radio Network.

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