published Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Earl Freudenberg celebrates 50 years in radio

Earl Freudenberg is celebrating 50 years in the radio business this summer. All but two of those years have been spent here in Chattanooga.
Earl Freudenberg is celebrating 50 years in the radio business this summer. All but two of those years have been spent here in Chattanooga.
Photo by Barry Courter.

LUTHER EARL FREUDENBERG

Hometown: Chattanooga.

Education: Kirkman Technical High School and the University of Chattanooga before going into the military.

Age: 64.

Family: wife, Julie; daughter, Amy, and son, Mark; granddaughters, Rachel and Juliana.

FAVORITES

Book: The Bible.

Movie: "The Glenn Miller Story."

Play or musical: "My Fair Lady" and "The Sound of Music."

Song: "Wonderful Grace of Jesus" and anything by Elvis.

When it comes to Chattanooga radio, Luther Masingill is the undisputed king with 70 years at the same spot at WDEF.

Right behind on the longevity list is Tommy Jett at 51 years and just behind him is Earl Freudenberg, who is celebrating his 50th anniversary on the air this summer.

Many Chattanoogans might think his real first name is "Hey," but it's actually Luther.

"Yep, I was named after the king," he said. "My mother went to school with Luther. I think everybody of that era went to school with Luther."

Freudenberg's first job was at WAPO. His father helped get him the job, which included filing records and helping Gus Chamberlain broadcast Chattanooga Lookouts games.

"Back then, we broadcast them from the studio using ticker tape," he said. "My job was to tear off the ticker every half inning and take it in to Gus.

"I remember my first payday. I got a crisp $5 bill."

In 1965, his dad again made a phone call, this time to Ernie Fagans at WDOD.

"His weekend guy was leaving," Freudenberg said. "I spent most of my life at WDOD."

He said he recently visited the patch of grass on the Baylor School campus where the station once stood.

"I told the guard, 'I wonder how many millions of memories there are buried under that grass.'

"He said, 'You made a good many of them.''

He's done just about every format and job in radio, he said. He is currently playing gospel music on the "Sunrise Show" Sunday through Friday on WDYN-AM 980. He also worked at WDEF for a while.

"In this business, the only way to get a raise is to quit and go to another station and come back," he said.

His only radio job outside of Chattanooga was with American Force Network Radio and Television Services in 1972 and 1973 in Frankfurt, Germany. That was also his favorite radio gig.

"That was a highlight of my career. ... It was a real honor."

Freudenberg said wherever troops are stationed around the world, AFN services are there.

"When I opened the microphone, there was the potential to have 20 million listeners," he said.

He said for his interview test, the officer in charge handed him a think book with a lot of classical names and phrases and asked him to read them.

"I said, 'Sarge, where I come from we say Buck Owens and Elvis.'

"He laughed and said he was from Kingsport and he just wanted to mess with someone from Tennessee."

Freudenberg was one of the first on-air personality to do a call-in talk show. When he came home from the war and went to work at WDOD, manager Bill Nash asked him to forego playing music on a particular Sunday to discuss President Nixon's recent initiative to move the highway speed limit to 55 and to alter daylight savings time.

"So, instead of music between church services, I went on and asked people what they thought. Our telephones rang constantly. We called it 'Sound Off.' It was born in 1974 because of the energy crisis."

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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