Ron Meredith is the owner of WMYL-FM in Knoxville. As we reported yesterday, the station took an online poll of its listeners, asking them if they wanted Morgan Wallen’s music back on the radio station. They said yes, overwhelmingly. We spoke to Meredith yesterday about adding Wallen back while every other broadcaster continues to ban his music. Here’s what he had to say.
Radio Ink: What was the general feedback when you took him off?
Ron Meredith: What you expect. The incident took us all by surprise. I think the
listeners were surprised as we were. Then, calls started coming. A lot of requests to put the music back on. More surprise.
Radio Ink: What made you decide to be the first station to put Morgan back on?
Ron Meredith: We didn’t decide this. We decided to examine what our mission statement is (it is at the bottom of our home page @ 967Merle.com). Everyone – including us – just took him off. That’s really not been done before since the Dixie Chicks and they kind of took themselves off. People around here know Morgan and know he isn’t a racist. He has a sort of Hank Williams problem if you know what I mean and we hope he gets some help for that.
For 96.7 Merle, because more than 35,000 individuals cast a vote asking us to play his most popular songs again, we followed the lead of listeners. We didn’t do that lightly; we left a poll up on Facebook and our own site for 7 days. The result was 92 percent to
play his music.
Radio Ink: Any reaction from advertisers on this topic at all?
Ron Meredith: There has been a lot of attention. Local, regional and even national media coverage. The reaction from advertisers has mirrored listeners. It has even lead to new business. We’ve been pleasantly surprised. People really find it refreshing that at least one of the country stations in Knoxville actually asked listeners.
Radio Ink: How do you think his career will fair after this?
Ron Meredith: I’m just a local broadcaster in Knoxville. I hope that he gets grace
and redemption. That’s part of country music, isn’t it? I do think that the big corporate stations will likely start filtering his music back in on their playlists. They will probably try to do it in a way that they hope won’t get them noticed. After all, the rebuke has been harsh and no listeners were asked. At least not by any of those stations.
A lot of the newer country out of Nashville over the last few years has started to resemble something other than country. We’ve seen that mean lower ratings for many country stations and WIVK, WCYQ and Duke in Knoxville have been trending down for months now. I think Morgan represents real country music and our format has a history of people like Hank Williams, Sr and Morgan Wallen. Brilliant songwriters with maybe a few demons. Honestly, country isn’t in a position to knock off some of our most brilliant talent. Maybe he will finally get the help he needs.
As far as 96.7 Merle, we didn’t know what listeners would say, but we were not going to decide for them what they should hear. I actually live here in East Tennessee and I understand Knoxville Country music lovers. They are smart enough to decide what they want to hear. They don’t need an out of state corporation deciding what Knoxville listeners need to hear on the radio. Maybe this is what finally gets enough people to say, “Enough.”
We don’t just cancel a hometown boy made good. Yes, we were disturbed by the video, and we do not condone the behavior. We are not into the cancel culture either. So, we ask listeners; they answered and Morgan Wallen is playing on 96.7 Merle