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WCMT-AM 1410 was the first radio station to begin broadcasting in Weakley County on June 1957. WCMT’s call letters stand for “Weakley County, Martin, Tennessee” and was solely owned by Jones T. Sudbury of Blytheville, Arkansas. The property was purchased from Cliff and Virginia Weldon on highway 45 North which would later become known as North Lindell Street in Martin. In 1957, a thirty- second radio announcement sold for about 25 cents. Early programming consisted of local news, a swap shop program, country and gospel music. The radio station signed on at 6am and off at sunset because FCC regulations permitted the station to broadcast from 6am until local sunset. There was no night time radio in Weakley County. In November, 1958, the station began to prosper when Dwight A. “Duke” Drumm was hired as the station manager.
Because WCMT-AM was forced to “sign off” at sunset to avoid creating interference with other stations WCMT needed an “FM station” to broadcast high school and college games “live” instead of recording them on tape and replaying the next day. Drumm persuaded Sudbury to seek an FM station and on October 1, 1968, WCMT FM was added to the airwaves. Music on WCMT FM was considered mostly background or “elevator music” and ball games were aired at night.
In 1970, Drumm hired a 15 year old high school sophomore Paul Tinkle to be the “clean up” boy for the station. Tinkle would later become the President of Thunderbolt Broadcasting. Sudbury sold WCMT AM-FM to Harold T. Brundige, a local attorney who formed Thunderbolt Broadcasting Company and began operations of WCMT in March 1980.
In June of 1981 Brundige hired Tinkle who returned as News and Sports Director of the stations. Through the years Tinkle was named Broadcaster of the Year by the Associated Press, elected president of the association in 1989, and later elected president of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters in 1991 and would later be elected to the National Association of Broadcaster’s Radio Board.
Tinkle sought to improve WCMT stations with local news and sports coverage and WCMT every state AP award in the 1980s. Tinkle also revived “Coaches Corner,” a popular Saturday morning sports show wich airs “live” from the Hearth Restaurant.
Following deregulation of the FCC in the late1980s, WCMT- AM became a 24-hour-a-day station but with reduced night time power so as to not cause interference with other stations. This allowed listeners never to have to turn the dial to other stations after sunset. WCMT improved the station’s coverage by constructing a new broadcast tower in 1989 which allowed for a stronger signal for listeners.
In July 1992 Brundige sold his interest and Tinkle was named President of Thunderbolt Broadcasting and joined a group of local investors to continue to enhance local radio. In March 1994, Thunderbolt purchased 6,000 watt WCDZ- FM 95.1 in Dresden from Valley Wide Broadcasting of Camden. In October 2004, WCDZ FM 95.1 increased its power from 6,000 watts to 25,000 watts.
Continuing to improve the listening signal, in July 2004, WCMT FM moved from 101.7 on the dial and 6,000 watts to 101.3 and increased power to 25,000 watts.
In December 2005, Thunderbolt purchased KYTN- FM 104.9 and WQAK- FM 105.7 in Union City from Twin States Broadcasting and built a new state of the art studio was built in Union City in 2007.
Also in 2007, Thunderbolt began the addition of placing the first of its five repeater stations on the air called “translators” which allowed each station to broadcast on another frequency allowing more opportunities for local listeners to hear their favorite stations with 10 radio channels on the dial. The first was for WCMT AM 1410 which now broadcasts on 100.5 FM.
In addition to its community involvement and public service programs, Thunderbolt stations have served as a training ground for UTM students through internships and college work opportunities. Thunderbolt Broadcasting awards the WCMT Duke Drumm Scholarship to UTM students who major in communications.
Thunderbolt has held radio-thons for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, St John’s -CDS, We Care Ministries, have helped the needy with its “Can Caravan” food drive and “Coat Drive,” broadcast thousands of ballgames through the years and has been a friendly companion to listeners for almost 60 years.
In 2004, WCMT and Thunderbolt Broadcasting were named Weakley County Chamber of Commerce “Business of the Year.” In 2005, Tinkle was named “Weakley Countian of the Year” for his commitment to community service.
In 2005, WCMT won the prestigious National Association of Broadcasters’ “Crystal Award” for community and public service.
In 2013 KYTN-FM and WQAK FM were named recipients of the Obion County Joint Economic Development Committee’s award “You Made It Happen” for its commitment to community service.