Wayne Glenn has spent much of his life on Ozarks airwaves.
Radio personality Wayne Glenn’s voice has smiled through Ozarks airwaves every single Saturday since he was 31 years old.
That fact alone might not sound especially significant. But when Glenn was 31, Jimmy Carter was president of the United States. Vinyl records were popular — for the first time. And disco was staying alive.
After all, when Glenn was 31, the year was 1978.
In the nearly 40 years since, Glenn has become one of the area’s most well-known and well-loved personalities. His weekly show, “Remember When” on local radio station KTXR, has given him a channel to share vintage music with listeners across the region.
But Glenn is famous for more than just his show — and for things that some might deem unique.
Known as “The Old Record Collector,” Glenn’s reputation sings through his 7,000-plus record album collection. He wears his generations-deep Ozarks connection as a badge of honor, proven by a library of 13 books he’s written on the region. There’s also his knowledge of music, which he routinely shares throughout his shows.
“I’ve never been normal, in terms of the norms of society,” says Glenn. “I’ve never had any interest in being like everybody else. I don’t think you accomplish very much if you’re just like everybody else. So I’ve always enjoyed old music.”
And it all began with a stack of 78 RPM records in his grandparents’ closet.
The story’s start
Few, if anyone, could be called a greater Ozarker than Glenn.
His family goes far into Christian County’s past, arriving in the area before the Civil War. He and his wife, Nira, even live on the same farm where he grew up.
It’s the same farm, in fact, where his love of records began.
His grandparents, who lived nearby, had a collection of records that they were going to get rid of. Stacked in a closet, they weren’t in great shape.
But right before they were due to be disposed of, Glenn’s mother had a thought: Perhaps her son, around nine years old at the time, would enjoy those records.
“Well, I became brainwashed by those strictly 78s,” says Glenn, which crooned tunes from the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s.
It wasn’t the first time he’d been around music. He grew up watching the “Ozark Jubilee” television show, and country voices regularly sang in the kitchen, where his mother’s radio lived. Another radio stayed in the barn, so his father could listen while he milked the cows.
But Glenn was still struck by the scratchy vinyl of those closet-found records; ones he played on a small, table-top turntable. They sounded happy, a quality Glenn was conditioned to appreciate based on his father’s dislike of sad and downtrodden tunes.
“His father was mustard-gassed in World War I,” says Glenn, noting a consequence was constant coughing. “My dad and his brother lived kind of a miserable life because I guess they probably thought … their dad was going to die because he acted like it when he had those coughing fits.”
So instead, Glenn’s father — and subsequently, Glenn — gravitated toward happy tunes. And those Big Band and western swing records he found fit the bill.
Glenn with part of his current record collection.
Those few records began a collection that today is thousands deep.
At one point, Glenn owned around 16,000 albums covering a wide spectrum of genres. He’s built extra room to house the collection, and even has sold some of his rarest finds to the Library of Congress.
However, he doesn’t have quite as many these days. He continually refines his collection as time goes by: After all, he says, “How many Lawrewnce Welk records do you need?”
But Glenn’s collection contains more than simply record albums. A walk around his home near Nixa reveals years of passion, evident through stacks of books, bound newspapers as well as shelves crammed with the aforementioned record albums. Ozarks memorabilia, sheet music and photographs also fill space.
There’s even a collection of framed original photos of downtown Springfield from the 1920s. He found them at a garage sale, priced individually, but couldn’t bear to see them split up — so he bought the entire set.
Despite Glenn’s mammoth record collection, his fascination with music isn’t limited to listening. Even as a high schooler, radio had his attention. He was so intrigued that he proactively jumped right in to the business after graduation.
“In May of 1965, I wrote a letter to Loyd Evans,” says Glenn. Back then, Evans was a well-known local personality on KGBX and Glenn thought he could learn a thing or two from the seasoned radio name.
“He agreed to let me be an intern for him,” says Glenn. “So I drove to Springfield five or six days a week to KGBX, which was next to the newspaper office at the time, and would meet him there.”
The shifts began early — 5 a.m., most days — but they gave Glenn invaluable experience.
“He did a country show, and so the first time I was on the air was there,” says Glenn. “The first time I played a record was there.”
That radio experience was all he had for the next few years. After that internship, he went on to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees Southwest Missouri State University, become a history teacher, and later was promoted to principal for both the Nixa and Clever districts.
But in early 1970s, his love of records got him another shot at radio.
“I found out from someone that (KTTS) had about 8,000 78s up on the third floor,” says Glenn, of the radio station’s former home, a rickety old building on Jefferson Avenue in downtown Springfield.
“They were not using them any longer,” says Glenn of the records. “This was in the ‘70s. The 78s went through the early ’50s, so they were useless to them.
“So I negotiated with him, and (the manager) finally sold them all to me for $50. But the catch was I had to carry them down three flights of stairs (since) there was no elevator.”
While he was retrieving his hard-driven deal, he met someone else: Robert “Barefoot Bob” Kinney, another local radio personality. “We met in the hallway as I was taking records down,” says Glenn. The two got to talking, and Kinney ultimately invited Glenn to come on the show periodically over the next few years.
However, eventually the elder host thought it might be best if Glenn didn’t come back.
“He encouraged me to get my own show,” says Glenn. “He wasn’t trying to run me off, he was just doing me a favor.”
Glenn took him up on the idea, starting small in 1975 with a 15-minute weekly show on KWTO for which he found his own sponsors. “Then we started bartering the time, or renting,” says Glenn. “So I had to pay the radio station every month for it to be on.”
He later began at KTXR in 1977, working for owners Ken and Jane Meyer. But even though he joined KTXR, he didn’t leave KTWO until September 1978: For those few months, Glenn did shows for both stations.
“And they were big time competitors,” says Glenn. “When my KWTO bartering contract was up, I then began doing the new ‘Remember When’ show in September 1978 that I am still doing!”
Even in that era, Glenn was already attracting local attention for his uniqueness.
“‘Old’ describes the record, not the man,” reported the Springfield News and Leader in November 1987. “At 31, Glenn says most of his listeners are surprised when they find out he is not a 50-year-old Glenn Miller fan from way back when.”
The positive response he got early was only the beginning. Within five years, Glenn was so successful that he was able to leave his career in education and concentrate full-time on radio.
“That didn’t mean that I was making very much money,” says Glenn today. “It meant I was making enough, and got to do something I wanted to do.”
Back when “Remember When” began, Glenn was regularly playing tunes from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s.
“I play anything except hard classical and hard rock,” he told the newspaper 39 years ago. “Easy listening, country, popular songs, anything that is at least 15 years old.”
That’s largely still the case. He still plays vintage music — but in a sense, “Remember When” has caught up with the times. Today, Glenn routinely plays tunes that were popular when the show began.
“All Time High,” by Rita Coolidge, the Bee Gees’ “Jive Talking” and old favorites made famous by Perry Como and Ella Fitzgerald all played on a recent Saturday, all alongside a good dose of country from Hank Williams.
And such tunes start off each Saturday at 6 a.m. sharp, when Glenn goes on the air to greet the day.
“This is the Old Record Collector,” he croons into the studio microphone as a song fades away. He speaks with ease achieved through familiarity. After all, he’s spent more than 14,000 hours on air — the equivalent of 592 days — during his Saturday broadcasts alone.
But even though he’s more than 2,030 consecutive shows into his career, Glenn still prepares for each one in advance. For each seven-hour program, Glenn says he devotes around four hours per show to get everything finalized. The handwritten list of songs is his reference, each numbered and listed by name and artist.
“It’s down to a science now with me,” he says. “It’s a Wayne Glenn factory.”
Glenn still takes time to write out every single show in advance.
He uses the list throughout the show — hours of constant movement for Glenn — flipping between pages during breaks. What’s been played, what’s ahead. When commercials should be shared. When the next contest should go.
He technically has a chair in the studio, but it seems he rarely sits in it. After all, there are records to ease out of cardboard covers, CDs to ready and phones to answer, the latter which Glenn still picks up himself.
His silk-like “radio voice” greets each caller, some calling to tell him the answer to his trivia question. Others have questions they think he can answer, and song requests.
“The show used to be driven by requests, and I think that was one of the keys to the success of it,” says Glenn. He does still take requests today, too — but since the shows are planned in advance, callers may be told their selection must wait until next week.
As some songs fade away, Glenn dons headphones and once again takes the mic, his “old record collector” persona taking over.
Glenn at work.
“Well, I’ve got a $10 album I’d like to tell you about, I say $10 — 95 percent of the population wouldn’t give a dollar for this. In fact, I think that’s what I gave,” he says with a laugh, record album in hand. “I occasionally find a bargain.”
He goes on to share that the record is by the McCormick Brothers, and on the Hickory Label. That there were four brothers — and that they actually were related. That they were from Tennessee, and that the album dates to 1961.
“I picked out a song called the ‘Red Hen Boogie’ to play by the McCormick Brothers to give you a feel for their style of music,” says Glenn. “And again, if I had to give a dollar at the flea market where I bought this one, I’d of given ten.”
Glenn regularly brings records from his collection to play on his weekly shows.
Chicken-scratch-sounding music crescendos into earshot, the McCormick Brothers introducing themselves to some listeners more than 55 years after debuting the song.
But sharing musical tidbits are only one thing listeners get from Glenn. His shows are supported by sponsors, shared with the audience through old-fashioned, live commercials.
Those advertisers are the reason Glenn is still in the business. And he’s told the audience that, too.
“I’ve always been very blunt about having to have advertising, and trying my best to not advertise for somebody that’s a crook,” says Glenn.
Today, that approach has resulted in trust. When Wayne Glenn tells listeners to visit such-and-such business, they jump in their car and go. Other times, he reminds listeners to find him online: In addition to his radio presence, Glenn leads a Facebook group where he shares stories of local historical significance.
It’s an approach he’s long used strategically in his shows.
“Whether you’re saying Barney’s is the best place to go get windows and doors, or that Bing Crosby was born in 1903, you’ve got to know and make it sound like and believe that you know what you’re talking about,” he says. “If I’m not the authority, then I’m worth nothing.”
And that authority and trust have been built every single Saturday for 40 years.
“When we were on the farm milking cows, you milked every morning and you milked every night,” says Glenn. “There wasn’t a day off, and that’s my mentality. My background. That’s my dad’s background.”
And financially, it was important to not miss. “I mean, Mr. Meyer doesn’t pay you if you don’t work,” he says. “For many years, we couldn’t have made it without that.”
Glenn’s dedication, however, has come with a cost at times.
“I missed out on everything that my kids were doing on Saturday mornings,” he says. “I was on the air when (my daughter) was born in 1977. I was on the air when Nira called me and told me my dad had a stroke.”
Still, he’s kept on — and plans to continue as long as he’s given the opportunity. But while he can tell a lot about music, he acknowledges he can’t foretell tomorrow.
“Mr. Meyer, he’s the basis for my future,” says Glenn of the station’s 89-year-old owner. “The day he dies or something happens to him, the station within a few months certainly is going to sell.”
And Glenn doesn’t hold any illusions than a new owner would have any sentiment or attachment to him.
“They’ll think ‘If we can get someone for $8 an hour, we don’t need him,'” Glenn surmises. “So I wouldn’t be on long probably if he’s not there. Could be wrong — but I doubt it.”
Regardless of his future, Glenn says he believes that even today’s world needs — and wants — the type of connection radio shows such as his bring.
“We’ve still got what it takes,” says Glenn. “We just have a lot of (advertisers) who do get results. We reach the people.”
Want to connect?
Wayne Glenn’s “Remember When” is on KTXR 101.3 every Saturday from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. He also airs a Sunday evening show twice a month (his son, Dwight, does the other two weeks) from 6:30 to 10 p.m.
Online, Glenn welcomes history enthusiasts to “like” his Facebook page, where he regularly posts about local photos, facts and information.
“Never missed a day,” Gregory Holman, Springfield News-Leader, Nov. 23, 2016
No headline, Springfield Leader & Press, April 30, 1977
No headline, Springfield Leader & Press, May 28, 1977
“Ozarker spins old tunes,” Barbara Clauser, Springfield News-Leader, Oct. 25, 1987
“Record collector in Nixa fills home with 16,000,” Scott Sharp, Springfield News and Leader, Nov. 4, 1978