Memphis-based radio station WHER (1430 AM), which was run almost entirely by women, went on the air in October of 1955. It was billed as America’s “First All-Female Radio Station.”
The station was created and funded by legendary record producer Sam Phillips — the guy who discovered Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, among others.
WHER’s original staff included Sam’s wife Rebecca (Becky) along with seven other women: Barbara Gurley, Donna Rae Johnson, Dorothy “Dot” Fisher, Dotty Abbott, Fay Bussell, Phyllis Stimbert, and Roberta Stout.
Six of these eight ladies were on-air personalities with their own programs, each of which emphasized “some particular subject of interest to housewives” according to a 1957 source.
Which of the original WHER names do you like best?
(Dotty is usually a nickname for Dorothy, so I combined them above.)
Vida Jane Butler, who joined WHER later in the ’50s, was known on-air as “Janie Joplin.” She’d been told that Vida “was considered too old-fashioned and too Southern for WHER,” and the data backs it up: the name Vida was indeed out of fashion and associated with the south at that time. These days, though, Vida is picking up steam — particularly in California. Janie, on the other hand, saw peak usage in the mid-20th century and has been in decline ever since.
- Brigance, Linda. “WHER.” The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Volume 18: Media Ed. Allison Graham, Sharon Monteith. Chapell Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
- NPR Revisits WHER – The World’s First All-Girl Radio Station
- Tenn. Radio Pioneer ‘Janie Joplin’ Has Died
- “W”HER” Memphis’ Newest Radio Station.” Broadcast News [PDF] April 1957: 20.
Image: © 1957 Broadcast News