Bluegrass Saturday Night radio show gets new host

Julie Brown, bassist with the Bluegrass Experience and Hindsight Bluegrass, is the new host for eastern North Carolina’s Bluegrass Saturday Night on Sanford’s WLHC and Sharpsburg’s WLQC Life 103.1 FM stations. Airing 6:00-8:00 p.m. (ET) each Saturday evening, Brown stepped up to the plate to continue the 16 year legacy of the radio show. Its host and Brown’s longtime friend, Tommy Edwards, a talented musician, songwriter, and bluegrass historian from Siler City, NC, passed away on May 22, 2021. After replaying Edwards’ classic shows during the weekend slot for almost a year, Brown was approached to host the show. Hesitantly, she worked as the guest host, but after some persuasion, recently agreed to permanently accept the two-hour weekly position.

Wife of well-known banjo-picker, Stan Brown, Julie recalled her relationship with her radio host predecessor. “I first met Tommy around 1996. Stan and I were dating and we would often run into Tommy and his wife, Cindy. We talked music and became good friends, but never picked together. Then one Thursday Tommy wanted me to fill in and play bass that weekend with his band, The Bluegrass Experience. I agreed, but had never met any of the other guys in his band. By the time the night was over, I felt as if I had known them forever. After that gig, I got called on to play bass many more times.”

A native of Angier, Julie grew up attending bluegrass festivals. Banjo became her first bluegrass instrument.

“I got back into bluegrass right after college when Dad was learning banjo. I knew music so I thought that I could help him. That I got me interested in playing. I played in a band with Stan’s father, Odell, for several years before I met Stan. His dad is the first one to get me interested in bass.”

In 1998, Julie switched to bass when she married Stan. 

“We didn’t need two banjo players in the house ,and he was far better than me, so bass became my main instrument.”

Two years later, her husband became a full-time member of the Bluegrass Experience when Edwards’ banjoist, Donald Beane, passed away. Stan has remained in that position ever since. Julie became the band’s bassist after their bass player, Snuffy Smith, retired following Edwards’ death. So for Julie, performing music came first, working as a disc jockey came much later.

“I remember when Tommy took the radio job (for WLHC/WLQC). We were on our way to a gig when he told us about it. It never crossed my mind to do such a thing! The day he died, I still hadn’t thought about it.”

But Julie had the credentials to be a radio personality.

“I like to talk and I’ve never met a stranger. After Tommy passed, (Hometown Festival radio host) Buddy Michaels called and asked me about taking over the show.”

After polling friends who were totally on board with his idea, she agreed to guest host Bluegrass Saturday Night to test the waters. 

“I thought Julie would do a great job,” Michaels stated. “She knows what she’s talking about. I had to push her, but now the bug has bitten her. She is unstoppable. She plans her shows.”

Julie enjoyed the challenge. “After two months, I became permanent. I select all the music.”

The new DJ then had an epiphany.

I realized that I never learned the titles to a lot of songs! I know the first line, the melody, or the subject matter, but not the proper title. I could tell you the color of the CD and which number song it was on the album, but didn’t know the title of the CD or song. That made it hard to find what songs I was looking for to play on the show!”

She also had to familiarize herself with some of the radio station’s technology.

“At first, I had to learn what’s on their database, and how to dig through it all. I’ve added a lot of music. I love picking out my own playlist.”

A talented musician herself, Julie’s taste in bluegrass tunes is eclectic.

“I like to play traditional ones, but I love a lot of the newer songs and get ‘outside of the box,’ too. I keep it mixed up.”

Julie also involves the bluegrass music community in her weekly shows, interviewing key players such as Tim Stafford, advertising local shows, and playing tunes by regional artists, including the beloved show’s namesake, Tommy Edwards. He would be pleased with her format.

Bluegrass Saturday Night can be heard on WLHC (and WLQC) 103.1 FM each Saturday, 6:00-8:00 p.m. (ET). You can also listen online via live streaming.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.