In the 1940s and 50s, bluegrass music could be heard on radio stations all over the country, with many offering live performances and playing host to regular shows by Flatt and Scruggs, The Stanley Brothers, Jim and Jesse, and the like. Today, there are very few stations like that left, and new bluegrass groups are more likely to get their big break on YouTube than they are on the radio waves. However, Mt. Airy, North Carolina’s WPAQ 740-AM has been going strong since 1948 by largely staying true to that format. Today, the majority of the music they play is bluegrass and old time, including live Saturday performances known as the Merry-Go-Round.
Perhaps their continuing popularity can be attributed to the view of bluegrass as one of the few remaining authentic types of music. WPAQ DJ Tim Frye, who serves as the host of two weekday shows, Mountain Morning and Mountain Mid-Day, and is also the station’s music director, believes that bluegrass plays a vital role in many people’s lives. “Bluegrass has more heart and soul than most any other form of music. It’s right up there with the blues,” he says. “Since country music seems to be more southern rock than country, bluegrass has certainly filled the void for folks yearning for music that is genuine and not just a formula.”
He has worked at the station since 1987, but his family has an even longer history there. In the late forties and early fifties, his grandmother’s sisters had their own show on WPAQ. Frye attributes much of his interest in radio to them. However, his mother might tell a bit of a different story. “My mom says I was born to be in radio,” he says, “because she used to pull a record player up beside my baby bed and give me a stack of records. She said I would play records for hours. I could pull up on the rails and stand, but I wasn’t old enough to walk.”
Frye has translated that early interest in music into a career that has earned him wide recognition in the bluegrass community. He has been nominated for Bluegrass DJ of the Year several times by SPBGMA and was also named Broadcaster of the Year by the Blue Ridge Acoustic Uprising in 2013. He’s also a bluegrass musician himself, and currently plays mandolin for Travis Frye & Blue Mountain. The band, which is led by Frye’s son, was signed to Kindred Records this past winter and plans to release an album in the near future.
Frye recently took the time to answer a few questions for us about his thoughts on bluegrass music.
What form of bluegrass do you most enjoy?
What artists do you consider examples of the form you most enjoy?
“Big Country Bluegrass, Junior Sisk, James King, etc.”
If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
“Probably Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs Songs of the Famous Carter Family. My mom bought it when it was released, and it brings back a lot of memories.”
What album is currently in your car stereo?
“Balsam Range, Five.”
Artists who are interested in submitting their music for airplay consideration on WPAQ can mail a physical copy of their album to Frye at the following address:
Radio Station WPAQ
Attn: Tim Frye
PO Box 907
Mt. Airy, NC 27030
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