Around the world NASHVILLE is known as "Music City." This is correct, even though Insurance and religion have been the number one and number two in terms of money generated. The music industry was number three all of those decades. The strangest story was how it was the number one industry, the insurance companies, started a change in the field of popular music world wide, and helped to spread and popularize three of the souths most successful forms of music.

The insurance
company which owned WSM for decades.
(State Capitol in the background)

The insurance company which owns WLAC.


Two great insurance companies based in Nashville decided to go into broadcasting in the early days of radio. These were the days when an AM station could be granted a license for 50,000 watts - and get a clear channel (no one else on that spot on your dial). The National life company used their slogan, "We Shield Millions" as the acronym for their radio station call letters, "WSM." In the 1920's they started broadcasting a live radio show which they called their "barn dance." This powerful signal reached across a vast area of the U.S. - and even could be heard in parts of Canada. The "WSM barn dance" was re-named "The Grand Ol' Opry" and is to this day the longest running live radio broadcast. Because of WSM, country music was reaching new audiences and growing decade by decade. Local stations followed in various markets popularizing country, western, and gospel music in areas far from its roots. It is all thanks to one of the insurance companies based in Nashville.

There was another insurance company with a giant 50,000 watt station in Nashville also. The Life And Casualty insurance company showed their faith in the future of downtown Nashville in the 1950's, by building the first skyscraper in the old downtown area. More important to the world of music, they put a radio station on top of the building and made the decision to broadcast what was then called "race music." This was rhythm and blues and it was the first time many people had heard it. Until then, black recording artists had a hard time getting their records played and heard. WLAC had a powerful signal which carried their music to the bottom tip of Florida and beyond as well as far to the East, West, and North. New fans of all races found music they really enjoyed and the market started to grow.

The result of this was that two southern sounds, country music and rhythm & blues, spread far beyond their old borders and were often mixed in live performances for fans. A new music form was born. Carl Perkins, who had not yet met Elvis Presley, was doing a version of the bluegrass hit "Blue Moon of Kentucky" which he did upbeat and leaning toward the R&B side. When he and his brothers in their family band soon heard Elvis on the radio doing the very same song in the same way, their first reaction was, "He does the same kind of music we do." All over the south, "rockabilly" was being performed by different entertainers who came to the same type of music through the blending of R&B with country music. This, combined with stations in the north starting to play R&B as did WLAC, launched a new form of music, Rock 'n' Roll which eventually spread world wide. All pioneered by a radio station atop the L&C tower broadcasting R&B over a wide area of the country while another station, over on knob hill, broadcast Country with its equally powerful 50,000 watt clear channel signal. Two insurance companies changed the world of music forever.

The tower that changed the music world forever.

  Once the tallest building in Nashville, The L&C tower now has taller neighbors closing in on it. None of the newcomers share the place in history that this tower created for itself.
Because of the radio station at the top and the decision to program R&B music, the L&C tower literally changed the course of music worldwide.

The L&C tower in Nashville Tennessee.

The Ryman Auditorium.
(Where country music spread across the land.) For many years the WSM broadcast of the "Grand Ol Opry" was performed live in this building and broadcast from  WSM .