KWEM radio in West Memphis back on the air after 54-year silence

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — A Crittenden County radio station that helped ignite the musical careers of entertainers like B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley is once again “on the air.”

KWEM-AM radio went off the air in 1960, but now the station has been re-born and has found a new home.

After more than 50 years of silence, KWEM radio in West Memphis, Ark., is re-born.

From its first studio on West Broadway, to a Quonset hut in Midtown Memphis, the station is back where it began, but now calling Mid-South Community College its home.

Diane Hampton, VP at Mid-South Community College, said the station has an important history in West Memphis and should not be kept a secret.

“We’re reviving this radio station. It’s a great revival of history, of the music that really was born over here in West Memphis, Arkansas,” said Diane Hampton.

It was across KWEM’s airwaves that some of music’s greatest icons made their first radio appearances.

“Johnny Cash’s first radio appearance was on KWEM. Elvis Presley, Albert King, Ike Turner got his start at KWEM,” said Hampton.

Musicians not only performed on the station, they also recorded some of their music too, using the original recording device on display now.

“The recording lathe that Ike Turner first recorded Rocket 88, which was Ike Turner’s first big hit, sits in here,” said Hampton.

The exhibit is opened to the public during regular school hours and features numerous record albums and photographs of musicians who called the station their home before it closed in 1960.

“And here’s the man himself, Howlin’ Wolf inside the KWEM studios. That’s a rare picture and really glad to have that,” said John Bennett, KWEM station manager.

It was a blend of blues, country, soul and rockabilly that made KWEM great and is sure to make it a hit again.

Right now the station is streaming music at kwemradio.com, but in August it will broadcast on the community college’s low-power FM band.

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