It was at this console, from 1955 until 1961, when Grady Cole left the air, that Tom Callahan, Tommy Stutts, Lee Jenkins, Bill Cook or some other WBT technician, "ran the board" for Grady. All he had to do was cue up his records and talk.

People | Grady Cole

The Charlotte News, August 3, 1930

Clipping from Ed Cole collection

In this popular national magazine of the time, a 5,000 word story, titled “Mr. Dixie,” appeared about our own Grady Cole.

It traces his journey from birth in 1906 on a poor farm near Candor, N. C., to his role as the most popular and influential broadcaster in the South.

Magazines in the '50s like Collier's and Life were the size of pillow cases, with lots of space for content. Even so, an article of this length, especially on a “local” celebrity was extraordinarily long.

The accompanying photo was shot by Grady's good friend, Hugh Morton, in his old studio in the Wilder Building.

Read the story.

Magazine courtesy Ed Cole.


From The Jeffcaster, July 23, 1979

(A week ago today, former WBT Radio personality Grady Cole was killed in an automobile accident. Over an on-air career spanning five decades —the late 1920s through the early 1960s—Grady and WBT became synonymous. Here are some of the lesser-known stories about "King Cole of the Carolinas".)

St. Patrick's Day ParadeBuilding A Hospital

Alexander County is a small county of about 14,000 people in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The county seat—Taylorsville—has a population of about 1300. But the people of the county wanted their own hospital. They got a promise of money from the state and from various foundations on the condition that the county raise part of the cost themselves. So they went to work. Just about every living soul in the county chipped in what he could, but when they counted it up, it wasn't enough. So they had barbecues, fish suppers and box suppers. They had square dances and round dances, minstrel shows and womanless weddings, turkey shoots, raffles and white elephant sales, and counted their money again. They were still short. The hospital seemed doomed.

Then somebody thought of Grady Cole. They called his office, told him the story, and asked his help. Grady's response was immediate. He would come up to Taylorsville and conduct an auction sale.

Grady Dances

On Saturday the good folks of Alexander County poured into the county seat and with them they brought things to be auctioned off—bed spreads, live pigs, apples, preserves, canned goods, furniture and clothes. The crowd had the little court house bulging at the seams. All afternoon Grady auctioned off these things, some at many times their value. When everything was sold and the money still wasn't enough, Grady harrangued the crowd for more money. He sang, he danced at so much per song and dance. After midnight the frazzled crowd was told that the money was still short, but that Grady had made the difference out of his own pocket. So Grady got in his car and drove back to Charlotte and arrived just in time to sign on the station Sunday morning.

Thanks to Grady, Taylorsville got its hospital—and there's a room in it dedicated to Grady Cole.

Grady Burns Raincoat

Eight minutes after Grady Cole's raincoat was nothing but a small pile of ashes on the curb of South Tryon Street in front of the Wilder Building, it began pouring rain.

The WBT Farm Editor had told his listening public for the last several days that if it didn't rain by 4 o'clock, Wednesday (May 21), he would burn his only raincoat. It didn't and he did.

Hundreds craned from office windows along the first several blocks of South Tryon Street and jammed the sidewalks to see if Mr. Cole was actually going to burn the raincoat. A minute or so before 4 o'clock, he came from the building, stuck the raincoat on a small pole fastened into the storm grating, doused the coat with gasoline, and struck a match to it. In a moment it was burnt to a crisp. Mr. Cole pushed through the ring of people in front of the building, went inside the soda shop, ordered a milkshake and a piece of pie.

And the rains came.

(From the May 22, 1947 Charlotte Observer).

(Note: According to U.S. Weather Bureau reports, Charlotte and vicinity were well on the way to record rainfall ... reporting an inch and a half by early evening.)

At a Tobacco Festival in Durham, N.C. in 1949. From left, Perry Como, Bob Hope, Grady Cole, Arthur Godfrey, Eddie Arnold.

A fan photo from his early days at WBT
(Courtesy Angie Urps)

Button image courtesy Lew Powell Memorabilia, North Carolina Collection Gallery. Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

WBT Hall of Fame

This plaque along with those of other inductees hangs in a special place at WBT.

Image courtesy Tom Warlick.