Ramblin' Rhodes: PBS in Georgia has come a long way in half century

Kacey Jones, 66, who was known in Nashville, Tenn., music circles as part of the trio Ethel and the Shameless Hussies, died Sept. 1 from cancer.

Public television broadcasting certainly has come a long way since when Georgia educational TV station WCES in Wrens serving the Augusta area went on the air 50 years ago on Sept. 12, 1966.


Originally, the thinking was that Georgia public broadcasting stations in the daytime would be “aimed primarily at classrooms,” according to the news article in The Augusta Chronicle about WCES the day after it went on the air.

The initial programs beginning at 9 a.m. that Monday centered on biology, Spanish, music and geography.

“Evening programs, designed with more an adult flavor,” according to The Chronicle, “included public affairs programs such as The Growing South and Hong Kong and the African Revolution.”

Inaugural station manager Raburn Bobo urged viewers to write the station or call him and let him know “where and how the programs are being received.”

The thinking also – apparently in those pre-cable company days – was that no one would stay up late watching educational programs.

The broadcast day for WCES in 1966 was from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6 to 11 p.m. on Saturday with no Sunday broadcasts.

Readers were told that the programs geared “to augment and strengthen regular classroom study” were being transmitted to WCES by microwaves from their origin in Atlanta or the University of Georgia campus in Athens.

It was on the UGA campus that the first Georgia Public Broadcasting television station went on the air on May 23, 1960, located in the Georgia Center for Continuing Education building.

Most of the state’s educational television stations came about during the 1963-67 administration of Georgia Gov. Carl Edward Sanders, who initials were used for WCES.

Sanders, the only native Augustan to be elected governor of the state in the 20th century, made improving the state’s educational offerings his No. 1 priority.

Each area station has its own advisory council with the Augusta council currently being co-chaired by Jane Howington and Pat Knox-Hudson.

Included on the local council are several couples including Gwen and Pat Blanchard, Lynda and Thomas Blanchard, Jamie and Jim Garvey and also Lee Ann Caldwell and her husband, Richard Swann, as well as individuals such as attorney Albert “Buddy” Dallas and historian Hugh Connolly.

Education is still the basis of almost all of Georgia Public Broadcasting stations, which includes such great music programs as Austin City Limits, travel theme offerings such as Georgia Traveler and Georgia Outdoors, historical drama through its Masterpiece series and even self-produced specials such as the recent Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel.

And, of course, the programing is 24 hours a day, even on Sundays! Visit gpb.org to learn more about the Georgia Public Broadcasting radio and television stations and their programming schedules.


GOODBYE TO THE SHAMELESS HUSSY: The music world lost a great talent last Thursday, Sept. 1, with the death of Kacey Jones at the age of 66 after a three-year battle with cancer.

Jones, who was born as Gail Zeiler in Gilroy, Calif., became extremely well known in Nashville, Tenn., music circles in 1986 as part of the comical trio Ethel and the Shameless Hussies with friends Valerie Hunt and Becki Fogle.

Recent years have found her as part of the musical trio A Cowgirl, A Diva and A Shameless Hussy with Becky Hobbs and Benita Hill.

She moved from California to Tennessee in the late ’80s when a song she co-wrote, I’m the One Mama Warned You About, became a Top 10 country hit for Mickey Gilley.

“I did not move to Nashville in 1986 with the attitude that I was the chick who was going to write funny songs,” Jones once told me in a call. “Ethel and The Shameless Hussies came about as a way to make some money for what was to be one show in Huntsville, Ala.

“But it grew its own legs, and six months after we formed, we signed a recording contract with MCA Records.”

I first interviewed Jones before a performance by A Cowgirl, A Diva and A Shameless Hussy in August 1988 at the Miss Kitty’s club on Gordon Highway.

She was back in Augusta in 2007 to perform in the comedy Nipples to the Wind at the Imperial Theatre. Jones had co-authored several songs for the show.

Her other projects included producing a tribute album to her songwriter friend Mickey Newbury and also producing Texas musician Kinky Friedman’s album Pearls in the Snow, which featured Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett, Delbert McClinton and others.

She and McClinton in 2000 recorded their version of Tammy Wynette and George Jones’ song You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly, and Jones also contributed three original songs to the soundtrack of the Beau Bridges’ film Sordid Lives.

North Augusta-reared singer/songwriter Carey Murdock came to know Jones and her performing partners Hill and Hobbs when he first began trying out Nashville music circles.

“Kacey was always the kindest person and most supportive of me,” Murdock recalled. “Her songs made me laugh. I sure do cherish being around her, Becky, and Benita at the Frank Brown Songwriters Festival in 2013 on the gulf coast of Alabama.

“The organizers put us all in the same house together, and I remember sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee with the three of them. My life wouldn’t be the same without her and Becky and Benita.”



Marty & Manuel: Grand Ole Opry star Marty Stuart is opening an exhibit of his photos and celebrity tailor Manuel Cuevas is opening an exhibit of his elaborate stage costumes with a reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, at the Morris Museum of Art, 10th at Reynolds streets; $10 for museum members or $20; call (706) 724-7501.

Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives band immediately afterward will perform at the Imperial Theatre. Tickets are $28, $23 and $15 at the Imperial Theatre box office, 745 Broad St., or by calling (706) 722-8341 or online at imperialtheatre.com.

Jeff Barnes benefit shows: Memories of the King, a tribute to Elvis Presley is at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, at the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center, 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd. Tickets are $15. Brothers Jeremy and Daniel Froebel will open with their Blues Brothers tribute.

Barnes’ American Salute To Country Legends show is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at the Jesse C. Lynch Memorial American Legion Post 71 in North Augusta, 333 East Spring Grove Ave. Tickets are $10.

Call (706) 394-3916 to reserve tickets for either show or buy at the door. All proceeds benefit the agriculture program at Jefferson County High School in Louisville, Ga.

Driving Miss Daisy: This play was rescheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the Burke Office Park Auditorium, 715 West Sixth St., in Waynesboro, Ga. Tickets previously sold will be honored by the Waynesboro-Burke County Concert Series.

Tickets are $15 advance or $20 at the door for adults or $15 for students and are available at 1st National Bank and Burke County Library as well as by calling Downtown Development director Don Lively at (706) 554-8018 and the concert board at (706) 437-0070.

Yonder Mountain String Band: This Colorado-based band is headlining the Riverwalk Revival Series with Oregon-based quintet Fruition opening. The show starts at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater, Ninth at Reynolds streets. Tickets are $25 advance and the show benefits The Savannah Riverkeeper. Visit fwbpro.com.


WGTV, Atlanta: The flagship station of Georgia Public Broadcasting, May 23, 1960, originally located in the Georgia Center for Continuing Education building on the University of Georgia campus in Athens.

WXGA-TV, Waycross, Nov. 19, 1961

WVAN-TV, Savannah, Sept. 17, 1963

WJSP-TV, Columbus, Aug. 10, 1964

WCES-TV, Wrens, Sept. 12, 1966

WABW-TV, Pelham, Jan. 2, 1967

WNGH-TV, Chattsworth, Jan. 30, 1967, as WCLP. Its call sign was changed to WNGH-TV on April 15, 2008.

WACS-TV, Warm Springs, March 6, 1967

WMUM-TV, Macon, Jan. 1, 1968, as WDCO-TV. Its call sign changed to WMUM-TV in the summer of 2006 in reference to Macon-based Mercer University.