WMUU - Greenville's Unique Radio
By Barbara Rumminger
Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., was a man of amazing God-given insight. Radio was still in its infancy when he began his daily broadcasts to spread the Gospel and to promote Bob Jones College, just a baby itself. During the years the school was in Cleveland, Tennessee, Dr. Bob had a daily broadcast on the first Chattanooga station, WDOD. Realizing the potential for reaching great numbers of people in their own homes through radio, he added radio courses to the college curriculum.
When the University moved to Greenville, enough radio courses were added to offer a major. In May of 1948 Bob Jones University applied to the FCC for a permit to set up a new standard commercial AM radio station. It would operate daytime only with 1,000 watts 1260 Khz. Permission was granted on March 24, 1949, and two weeks later construction began on the studios, just across East Drive from the Rodeheaver Auditorium on the Bob Jones University campus.
The purpose in opening a new broadcasting station in the area was to provide the best in classical and sacred music and drama, not only to entertain and edify the listeners but also to provide a further educational opportunity for the students and a public relations outlet for the University. Above all, the objective was to give out the Gospel message, surrounded by pleasant listening that one could leave on all day without being offended.
WMUU AM SIGNS ON
WMUU AM signed on the air at 9:30 A.M., September 15, 1949, with a dedication ceremony from the Rodeheaver Auditorium on the Bob Jones University campus. Dr. Bob Jones, Jr., introduced the regular staff, which was under the temporary direction of the late Robert Pratt, on loan from the University speech department. Dr. Jones, Sr., delivered the dedicatory message and prayer.
The first year's schedule included daily live hymn programs, daily serialized dramatizations of classic novels; and two weekly half-hour programs that were recorded and sent to other stations across the country. Miracles was the dramatized story of the power of God in the lives of men and women; Hymn History dramatized the story behind a hymn, with music by a 16-20-voice choir. Everyone "got into the act" that first year . . . just about every member of the University Fine Arts faculty was involved, either performing on live broadcasts or planning music for the ones using commercial records. As we learned more about our craft and became more efficient, we were able to lean less on the University and carry on with our own staff. Bob Pratt went back to his teaching, and James Ryerson assumed the position of manager.
WMUU ADDS AN FM STATION
The ministry of WMUU expanded in its second decade, as Bob Jones University applied to the FCC for license to operate an FM station in addition to WMUU AM, and to increase AM power from 1,000 to 5,000 watts. License was granted, and WMUU FM began broadcasting at 94.5 Mhz on August 15, 1960. The FM transmitter was erected atop Paris Mountain. In 1963, WMUU FM became the most powerful station in South Carolina, radiating 100,000 watts of power. The station's coverage increased from a radius of 50 miles to 100 miles, and FM listeners with outside antennas could hear the FM programming at even greater distances, and in 1965 WMUU initiated FM stereo broadcasting — the second station in South Carolina to do so.
As we began our third decade of broadcasting, we faced a number of changes. The University itself was expanding, and it was decided that WMUU's facilities would be relocated, and the new Founder's Memorial Amphitorium would be built on the corner where WMUU had stood. For several years the studios were housed in the FM transmitter building on top of Paris Mountain. The station itself became WMUU, Incorporated, and became the property of Gospel Fellowship Association. In 1976, the station moved to the present location at 920 Wade Hampton Boulevard.
A SUCCESSION OF GODLY AND CAPABLE MANAGERS
For almost all of its first thirty years, WMUU was directed by Manager Jim Ryerson. As the station began its thirty-first year, Jim assumed a new ministry as counselor with the University, and Dayton Walker became the new manager. After two years as manager, Dayton was called into a different field of service, and Jim Dickson took the position. Jim brought to the station an impressive background in broadcast engineering, having served as Director of Engineering with Sudbrink Broadcasting and Director of Radio Engineering with Meredith Broadcasting in Atlanta. Under his leadership, WMUU made great progress in many areas, including technology and financial stability, as well as in outreach. Jim established Unique Productions, a programming syndication service which provided music programming to interested stations in the United States and abroad. For many years, the station’s motto verse had been the prayer of Jabez, found in I Chronicles 4:10: "And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh, that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast." (This was long before that verse became so popular.) Through Unique Productions, we began to see the Lord answering that prayer.
In 1996, the University appointed Paul Wright as manager of WMUU, as Jim Dickson was called to head another department. Paul came to the position from long experience in radio. Having been trained in the University's Radio and Television department, he worked as an announcer at WMUU during his student days. After serving his country in the Vietnam War as a member of the U. S. Army, Paul returned to Greenville and to WMUU, where he was appointed Chief Announcer. In addition to that responsibility, he also worked in sales, as well as serving as Operations Manager. For nearly a quarter of a century Paul was known across South Carolina for his weekly program Carolina Outdoors, in which he covered the vast array of hunting and fishing opportunities afforded in the Palmetto State. Paul’s creative leadership and considerable business acumen has brought WMUU to a new level of excellence.
WMUU ADVANCES WITH THE TECHNOLOGY
As one would expect, the constantly advancing technology of the computer age has made itself felt in the broadcasting world. All of the control rooms have been upgraded and brought into the digital era. Thanks to the untiring efforts of Chief Engineer Joe Norris, WMUU's broadcast facilities are keeping abreast of the state-of-the-art. Gone are the turntables, the cartridge machines and even the tape decks. Now, the operation is controlled by sophisticated computer programs, with all of the music and programming coming from large-capacity computer servers. Because of the excellent equipment the Lord has provided, the broadcast facility reaches out with a strong, clear signal.
In order to keep up with these changes, the WMUU music library has moved from vinyl long-playing records to the clean digital sound of compact discs. Still, it boasts one of the finest collections of classical, sacred and Beautiful music to be found in the state. In spite of the changes, WMUU remains committed to playing only the best in music. As the late Jim Ryerson often said, the only way to know what is good is to measure it against the best there is. The great masterworks of music have been proven by time and experience to be of intrinsic worth. Such music gives us an excellent gauge for determining the quality of other types of music. Charles Koelsch, music director since 1965, adds, "As we combine this principle with Scriptural guidelines, we discover the source of WMUU's musical standards. With God’s help we intend to maintain those standards as long as He enables us to broadcast."
News and public affairs coverage remains a high priority at WMUU. News director Burke Crohn works tirelessly to keep the listening audience informed of important state and local issues. Programs such as Legislative Report provide interviews with elected officials, helping to keep listeners abreast of happenings in local and state government.
During the past few years, there have been some changes in the format of WMUU FM. In order to provide more consistent programming, the daytime format from Monday through Friday consists of twelve hours of "Beautiful Music," from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M., and twelve hours of sacred music and Bible teaching and preaching from 7 P.M. to 7 A.M. Saturday evenings, the hours from 7 P.M. to 11 P.M are devoted to concert music programming. In keeping with our mission to make a spiritual impact in the community, the Lord’s Day is devoted to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and to providing uplifting, Christ-honoring sacred music.
NEW FM TOWER ERECTED
Undoubtedly, the most significant change has been the sale of the AM facility. In the year 2000, the FCC amended the "height above average terrain" requirement for Class C FM stations. After forty years of broadcasting, WMUU FM suddenly found itself out of compliance with tower regulations. The choices were either to build a higher tower or to suffer a down-grading of our license status. After several months of considering options, the board of WMUU decided to build the higher tower. Funding this very expensive project necessitated the sale of the AM station. When the construction was completed, in April 2008, the new FM tower reached to 490 feet, well within the FCC requirement.
AROUND THE WORLD WITH WMUU.COM
The advent of the INTERNET has opened up new avenues of opportunity for WMUU. Through our newly-designed website — www.wmuu.com — we're able to reach around the world—literally! In addition to twenty-four hours of sacred and Beautiful Music daily, the website provides all of the Bible teaching and preaching programs heard on our local station, including the Chapel Hour from Bob Jones University, which is available the same day it occurs on the campus. We receive e-mails on a daily basis from people all over the world who have been blessed by the programming on the website. In addition, the web site makes it possible to enter prayer requests for our Powerhouse program, as well as to participate in the numerous contests that the station conducts, such as birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Truly, the Lord has "enlarged our coasts" to an extent that is beyond our wildest expectations!
As we look back over more than sixty years of broadcasting, we praise the Lord for His faithfulness and provision, and His goodness in allowing us to be a small part of this ministry. It is exciting to see how the Lord works in our lives and in the lives of our listeners. We rejoice to hear of souls saved, bodies healed, financial needs met, as well as a host of other blessings that have resulted from the proclamation of God's Word over these facilities. We appreciate our listeners and your loyalty to WMUU; we appreciate the businesses that advertise with us. And though the programming has been changed to meet current needs, WMUU is still presenting the never-changing good news of salvation, good music, and community service. May the Lord grant us many more years of broadcasting for His glory.
Barbara Rumminger was a staff member of WMUU since the station's first year on the air, until her retirement in 2001. Mrs. Rumminger began her work with WMUU as a graduate student. For many years she was involved in the planning of music programs. Much of the present sacred music format is the result of her planning and programming efforts.