Tony Richards Journey in Radio

Jun 24, 2024 at 01:07 pm by RMGadmin

Retro Revolution

By Dominque Paul
It all began in Fort Wayne, Indiana during the summer of 1973. Thirteen-year-old Tony Richards and his buddies were invited to a neighbor’s house who claimed he was running a radio station out of his bedroom. When Tony saw the two turntables and a microphone poised on the kid’s desk, and realized he could hear what was playing through his father’s car radio, his deep love of radio was born. Tony and his brother Jack went straight to RadioShack, fashioned a transmitter and purchased other equipment with money they’d earned by mowing lawns, and launched WSRM radio out of their parent’s basement.
“We told all our friends about it, and our signal got out about a mile. It wasn’t that far, but for us it was a big deal!” says Tony, who quickly invented creative ways to increase audience engagement. “We would raid my mom’s pantry and give away a bottle of pop to caller seven,” says Tony. “We’d be jamming away, you know, playing the Doobie Brothers or whatever, and the phones are ringing off the hook! Our mom would yell down the basement, ‘Are you giving out our phone number again?!’”
From these humble beginnings, Tony went on to get his first job at a country music station in Fort Wayne at age fifteen, earning a whopping $2.28 per hour. “But I got fired three months later because my voice was cracking.” After the throes of puberty were behind him, the radio station hired Tony back, and that’s when an unexpected opportunity presented itself. “There was a screaming match in the hallway between the boss and one of the boisterous, on-air jocks. The boss is screaming, and I see the DJ grabbing albums out of the studio and he’s taking them. ‘These are mine’ because he had brought some of his in. That’s what you did back then.” After the DJ quit, the General Manager offered Tony a job as Program Director. “I had to call my mom and ask her if I could stay overnight at the radio station because I was just promoted and I had no idea what I was doing.”
Tony stayed up all night re-imagining the radio’s song lineup. “I scratched out all the weird songs and put in all the good songs that everybody knew. The next morning, we played them on the air and our ratings started going up.” Over the following three-month period, Tony’s direction took the radio station from a three share to an eleven share in the Nielsen Ratings, and they were one of the top stations in the market. After his local success, Tony was then hired by the parent company, WME, where he worked for thirty-nine years.
By 2010, Tony was ready for a change of pace. Having gotten his start at a country music station, Nashville had always been on his radar. Just as he was daydreaming about how to make the move to middle Tennessee, Tony received a call from a broker friend who told him about a radio station that was for sale in Nashville but wasn’t currently on the air. Sensing the opportunity for a new chapter, Tony took a leap of faith and purchased the station. In 2011, he formed Kensington Digital Media and launched radio station WHPY-FM (Hippie Radio 94.5), in Nashville on February 10, 2012. “I don’t recommend starting a business when you’re fifty-three years old, but I did and here we are twelve years later and still alive, thank goodness.”
WHPY-FM (aka “Hippie Radio”) simulcasts a classic hits radio format with sister station WYGI 1430-AM Madison and considers itself an alternative to traditional oldies programming. “The average radio station in Nashville plays about 250 songs and that’s it. We play over 1500,” says Tony, who adds that his company conducts music tests twice a year to ensure the station plays what listeners want to hear. With songs from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, listeners can tune in to Hippie Radio 24/7 to hear everything from Alabama to Motown, Johnny Cash to KC and the Sunshine Band. The station also offers “Nashville’s Morning Show with Pam & Tony,” co-hosted by station owner Tony Richards himself.
In 2020, Tony Richards was elected to the board of directors of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters. In 2024, he was elected Chairman of the Board. Tony currently owns a total of twelve radio stations in Tennessee, Alabama and Indiana. When he’s not running his radio empire, Tony enjoys spending time with his wife and family, including ten grandchildren. He also is an aviation enthusiast who flies airplanes, plays golf and stays active in the community through various philanthropic efforts.
We asked Tony why he settled in Williamson County, and he said the answer really comes down to one word: Connectedness. “I wanted to be in Franklin from the moment I got here. I could just tell it felt like home immediately to me. It’s just a feeling you get. I knew when we came here and went to Dickens of a Christmas that this was the only place I would ever call home.”


To learn more visit and make sure to listen in at 94.5 on your FM dial.