A long-ago news editor at The Ledger said his family lived “so far back in the hills of West Virginia that we didn’t get the Grand Ole Opry until Tuesday.”
That distance is surely a lot of axle greasin’s, for the Grand Ole Opry began broadcasting on Nashville’s WSM 650 AM radio in 1925 (first as the WSM Barn Dance; the name change came two years later). Back then, the station had a 1,000-watt transmitter, allowing it to reach listeners as far away as Nebraska and Puerto Rico.
By 1932, the station increased its transmitter wattage to 50,000, which gave it coast-to-coast radio coverage and the coveted “clear channel” designation. As a clear channel, WSM was the only station in the nation allowed on its assigned 650 channel, thus preventing interference.
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Today, the Grand Ole Opry is broadcast every Saturday night, making it the longest-running radio show in America. And WSM Clear Channel 650 is still broadcasting it.
Which brings us to today’s topic: There’s an app (and website) for that.
It’s RadioGarden (www.radio.garden), and users can not only listen to WSM in Nashville on their smartphones and computers, but will have access to more than 30,000 radio stations across the United States and throughout the world.
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The app is available for Android and Apple operating systems in the Google Play and App Store, respectively. The apps are free; both versions are highly rated by their users.
The concept is easy to learn. A 3D view of the world is displayed. As the globe is rotated, the countries that come into view are covered with uncountable green dots. Each one of them represents a radio station. Click on one, and it begins playing whatever the station is broadcasting.
The project began in 2016 when it was commissioned by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. It was supposed to be temporary and was only on the web. But by 2018, it was available in an app, and by 2019, the founders had turned it into an independent company.
Radio Garden can be used to listen to the radio station one listened to as a child. Or to listen to the station back home when on vacation. Or drop in on the music of other countries and cultures.
It’s like having a shortwave radio to listen to various broadcasts around the world — only far more powerful. Be aware that it’s easy to spend more time exploring Radio Garden than planned on.
Speaking of powerful: There it is. Radio Garden found it. WSM 650 AM in Nashville, Tennessee. Radio Garden’s so well done that it’ll bring in the Grand Ole Opry on a Saturday. Even in the hills of West Virginia.
Lonnie Brown can be reached at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Radio Garden, on web or app, takes you around the world on radio waves