Traveling back in time
THE ORIGINAL WGAY - notes by Ward Boote
following are a couple emails I've received from Mr. Boote
that tell of the pre-mood music days of WGAY - some great radio history!
Now... if only we had some air checks?!?!
Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 12:44 AM
Sir: Enjoyed reading your website. How nice was the 4 hour
Sunday morning program, "Music in the Air." (late 40's/early 50's!)
At one time, WGAY was one of the best country music stations in
the area. The late Don Owens hosted a four hour program every morning, the
station was pop in the afternoons to sign off. You also had "Fiddlin' " Curly
Smith as a DJ. Don Owens, Curly Smith and Perry Westland had their own band
known as "The Blue Mountain Boys." They would make tapes evenings as the
station (on Kemp Mill Road) for use on the air. (Don gave me one of the tapes,
but it turned out to be a blank.) Don later worked at Del Rio, TX, WBMD in
Baltimore. At the time of his death (auto accident) he was at WEAM in
Arlington. He also hosted the Saturday night TV programs on WTTG from Turner's
Arena on 14th St.This is where Jimmy Dean got a good foothold. I have been
told by other sources that blue grass would not be what it is today without
the efforts of Don Owens.
As you can see, I grew up with WGAY from the time the old
transmitter first came to life. At one point in time, during the summer
months, 5 local sundowners formed "The Metropolitan Network" to provide nice
easy listening summer evenings. That only lasted for one summer assuming my
memory is correct.The stations, including WGAY, took turns in hosting the
Unfortunately for listening, I am now far beyond the range of
either your AM or FM transmitters being located in the northern tier of PA in
a rural area. The old transmitter was good as far north as Harrisburg. It used
to be comical to walk into business places in Harrisburg in the afternoons and
hear WGAY with a lot of hissing and static. WGAY carried race track results;
obviously no station in Harrisburg did. North of Harrisburg, you started to
get WLYC in Williamsport, also on 1050.
Silver Spring was, at one time, just a nice small southern
The town got too large, too congested.
So, I left. Never to return...
Dear Bill: Here is Don Owens' obit for your station's
collection. I knew him from the first day the school (now a county office
building) adjacent to Sligo Creek Golf Course opened; my first day in school.
We lived a few blocks apart.
The MVA which resulted in his demise was not his first. He had
2 prior ones where he was badly injured, I visited him while hospitalized for
both. He was at WBMD when he had the second one.
The obit missed his working at the old WEAM after leaving WGAY.
If my memory is correct, he was at WGAY until about 1950. He told me about his
stint at XERF, Mexican licensed with studios in Del Rio, TX He and his wife
were divorced. The obit also omits his Saturday night TV stint from the old
Turner's Arena at 14th & W Streets, NW.
As the time of his fatal MVA, I was living up here in the north
but did attend his funeral. If Don was living today, there would be real
country music in the DC area.