What were you doing 25 years ago?
It was 1992. Bill Clinton was elected president, Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You topped the charts, and Mall of America had just opened its doors.
And some guy named Dave Ramsey, who was just a few years out of bankruptcy, made a decision that would change not only the life of his family but also the financial industry forever.
Dave had been coaching people who needed help managing their money. When he was invited to take questions from listeners on a local radio show in Nashville, Tennessee, he accepted.
And the rest is history.
Within a few years, Dave went from co-hosting The Money Game to hosting it on his own—still answering money questions, but now hearing listeners celebrate their debt freedom with a scream. Just 25 years later, The Dave Ramsey Show has more than 585 radio affiliates and over 13 million listeners. That’s a long way from the radio show’s small beginnings.
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Some would say the big break for the show came when it was picked up in Jackson, Tennessee. Although only 131 miles away from Nashville, the Jackson market represented a major milestone in establishing The Dave Ramsey Show’s national platform.
"I did the syndication when we started," Dave said. "Which means I picked up the phone and I called the radio stations. There wasn’t anybody else. I just called the guy and told him what we’re doing over here with our ratings and with our revenues. And he put us on, and we’re still on in Jackson."
Dave’s voice was new and fresh where political talk radio filled the airwaves. He gave people hope in an industry needing something unique and inspiring. Other than the occasional interview or themed show, the subject matter has always been entirely based on the listeners’ questions about money.
About Those Listeners . . .
While most listeners have pretty straightforward questions about car payments, mortgages, and student loans, some stand out a little more than most.
One listener from the Tennessee hills called to tell Dave he had $100,000 cash buried in coffee cans throughout his backyard because he didn’t trust banks! Then there was the guy who financed a monkey on credit. An actual monkey! He eventually had to get rid of it, but he was still making payments for years.
Dave said one of his most memorable calls came from a man looking to save on his phone bill:
"He wanted to put a pay phone in his house so his family would have to pay for the calls. And I asked him, ‘Who’s going to pay for the phone line, buddy?’ He really couldn’t figure out that he wasn’t going to make money off his family using a pay phone. It was so funny that I lost it and had a hard time getting composed after that."
While those calls gave us some laughs, the truly memorable ones are where lives have been changed.
The Heroes of the Story
We know lives have been changed when we see a listener like Lauren pay off $105,000 in four years. She finished paying off the debt just a few months after a brain tumor took her husband’s life.
We know family trees have been altered when we see a mother of three like Cinthya pay off $60,000 less than two years after losing her 29-year-old husband to a tragic stroke. Her husband listened to Dave before he passed, and she continued his vision to have their family debt-free.
They are the heroes of the story. Like any unique story, the journey to becoming debt-free is marked by triumphs and trials—and sometimes even tragedies. But one thing unites them all: hope.
We’ve heard plenty of debt-free screams on The Dave Ramsey Show throughout the years. Each one is filled with struggle, determination and a triumphant outcome as they finally get to yell, "We’re debt-free!" And every debt-free scream marks a life and family tree forever changed.
From a Cramped Room to a High-Tech Studio
If you visit the Ramsey Solutions headquarters in Brentwood these days, you’ll find a four-story main building with a high-tech broadcast studio just outside the lobby, plus several other buildings in the area. We just keep growing!
But did you know Dave almost bought a different building? In fact, the main Ramsey Solutions building was originally his least favorite option out of three office spaces he was considering. So, what changed his mind? His lovely wife, Sharon.
She walked into the building and saw the potential for more. Sharon had the vision of putting the studio in the lobby with the bookstore to the left of it—a place where guests could gather and be part of the show.
This is how the studio is today. But what was the first studio like on Music Row with WWTN?
"That was a decent studio," Dave said. "Then we moved to the top of a building that is now the Hutton Hotel in Nashville. It was pretty ragged then. We had antiquated equipment, but it worked."
Later, the show moved to the Opryland Hotel. The so-called studio was really a small office room with a piece of Plexiglas dividing Dave from the running board and phones.
"We were always ordering Domino’s pizza," Dave said. "They would deliver it during the first commercial break, and when we came back live we would try and not burp during the whole segment after that."
The show eventually moved from Opryland to Brentwood, close to where Ramsey Solutions is today. But the first Brentwood studio was a do-it-yourself job.
"We got an old, round, 36-inch table from the scratch-and-dent section in the back corner of Staples," Dave said. "It had nicks all over it. We drilled holes in it and stuck those microphone holders in the holes. We put the soundproofing stuff on the wall, but it didn’t work."
When the show moved to its current location 15 years ago, Dave and the team finally had something worth staying in. Though the current studio has been through several updates, it will be staying put until Ramsey Solutions moves to the new location in 2019.
What might the future hold for the show?
From podcasts to the video channel, The Dave Ramsey Show radio and marketing teams have always looked for ways to expand the show’s reach to share its message of hope.
You can expect the team to bring even more innovation, guests and creativity to the show in the future. But the one thing that has stayed the same about The Dave Ramsey Show is its focus—the show is still and has always been about you, the listener. That will never change.
And if you ever ask Dave how the last 25 years have gone, he’ll always respond with one answer:
"Better than I deserve."
For more of The Dave Ramsey Show’s history, watch our brand-new documentary, Never Give Up.