Although bluegrass music is decidedly international these days, and has been for quite some time, in all actuality, it’s really a tightly-knit, interconnected community. North Carolina DJ Bobby Franklin knows all about those connections first hand. The legendary Pop Lewis is who first helped him get his start in radio, while today, his daughter and son-in-law are making their own marks as bluegrass musicians.
Franklin first became interested in a broadcasting career by simply listening to the radio. He then worked his way up on a local station. “I started out running board at basketball games for WGWR in Asheboro,” he says. “When the AM/FM split in 1968, they hired me to DJ country music. Back then, that was country, bluegrass, and Gospel all together.” He’s worked in radio ever since, and has hosted True Bluegrass with Bobby Franklin on Asheboro’s WKXR since 1992. The weekly show is broadcast Saturday mornings from 9:00-11:30.
Over the years, broadcasting has gone hand in hand with MC work for Franklin. He frequently serves as an announcer for music-related events in and around North Carolina, particularly at the Denton Farm Park. This will be his 40th year as the MC for the Southeast Old Thresher’s Reunion.
Franklin’s love of bluegrass has turned into somewhat of a family affair, as well. He says that Pop Lewis not only helped him start his broadcasting career, but also introduced him to his future wife. They’ll be celebrating 39 years of marriage this year. Franklin’s daughter Crystal is a musician, and has been the banjo player for Sweet Potato Pie since 2007. She’s married to guitarist and vocalist Kevin Richardson of Kevin Richardson and Cuttin’ Edge.
Franklin recently took the time to answer a few questions for us, giving readers a glimpse at his thoughts on bluegrass music.
How would you define bluegrass music as a genre?
“Other than basically being acoustic music, with some exceptions, bluegrass music to me is the only genre that still tells a story. It speaks to the heart, and comes from the heart.”
What form of bluegrass do you most enjoy?
“Mostly traditional but some of all of the types.”
What bands do you consider examples of the forms you most enjoy?
“Lonesome River Band, Kevin Richardson & Cuttin’ Edge, Sweet Potato Pie, IIIrd Tyme Out, Marksmen, Churchmen, Larry Sparks, Paul Williams, J.D. Crowe.”
If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?
“That’s a difficult one! There are so many good projects out there, old and new! I really can not think of one I would listen to forever. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good enough, I just love hearing new music.”
What album or artist is currently in your car stereo?
Johnson Mountain Boys
Artists who would like to submit their music to Franklin for airplay consideration can send their music to him via Airplay Direct, though he says he does prefer physical copies in order to see the album credits. CDs can be sent to him at:
2166 Topaz Dr.
Asheboro, NC 27205
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