Ladies, if you ever needed something to play on the stock car radio of your brand new 1955 Dodge La Femme, then Memphis was your kind of town.
Because also debuting in 1955 was radio station WHER. At 1430 on the AM dial, WHER was the first radio station completely staffed, programmed and operated entirely by women. The only Y chromosomes at WHER were there to write the checks and fix the transmitter whenever it got wonky. The women controlled everything else.
A terrestrial radio station with a mostly female staff is still a very rare thing. But in the 1950s, it was extremely rare to hear a female DJ with her own program. The 1950s were a pretty sexist time and the ceiling wasn't glass in the radio industry. Most women in air positions at that time were network voice actresses or they were local socialites who read recipes during the midday show. But most women overall however remained behind the scenes, doing office work.
WHER was owned by local record mogul Sam Phillips of Sun Records and Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson. Phillips used the money he got for Elvis Presley's recording contract from RCA Victor records as seed money for WHER.
But surprisingly, WHER played no rock. Probably because of the uncomfortably close link between Sun and WHER (the payola scandals around the country were just beginning to simmer.) The music on WHER was a mix of easy listening, jazz and country swing.
WHER became an instant sensation and inspired many imitators (including KPEG in Spokane, WA.)
An early press release for WHER described the station as this :
“The studio and offices have been feminized from front door to rear exit. The disc jockeys are called jockettes, the studio is known as the doll’s den, the control rooms are called playrooms, the hallway is mirrored, the equipment room has been decorated with murals depicting the evolution of feminine clothing, the stationary is perfumed, the advertisers are listed in a date book, and the exit to the parking lot is labeled “Bye, Bye ‘Till Next Time”.
You were clearly in their world.
1430 kHz in Memphis today is WOWW, a repeater for country music station "95.3/97.7 The Rebel" WEBL.
More info on WHER:
WHER Radio Station
The Kitchen Sisters documentary on WHER (Complete with audio!)