Who says that you can’t get something for nothing? Each Sunday night, David Pugh of Kentucky, presents Mountain Bluegrass, a four-hour live streaming radio show, at Bluegrassjamboree.com, and it’s all volunteer, so it’s all free!
“I work harder on it than I have a paying job,” Pugh mused during a recent telephone interview.
And he loves what he does, bringing live interviews of top shelf artists, counting down the top 12 songs each week, and playing a great mix of current and past bluegrass tunes.
“I’ve found my niche,” the West Virginia native stated. “I am so proud to be a part of Bluegrass Jamboree.”
A musician himself, Pugh praises the bluegrass community, those who perform the music, promote it, and cherish it. “You’re like family. You eat together, pray together, play together, the friendliest people are in bluegrass that I have ever met.”
Pugh says he is constantly asked, “Why are you in bluegrass radio?” He has a history.
“I was raised in Parkersburg, WV. My dad played in a classic country band.”
When Pugh was a boy of nine or ten, he tagged along to his dad’s band practices.
“I didn’t know then that bluegrass would be my forte,” the DJ admitted. “I would sing and Dad would sing high tenor with me.”
Due to his job, Pugh’s father was transferred and the Pugh family eventually settled in northern Kentucky.
“We were right across the river from Cincinnati, OH. We got tickets to see Jimmy Dean at Cincinnati Gardens. I was about 12 and excited to hear him sing Big Bad John. The opening band was a group from Middletown, OH, The Osborne Brothers. I was thinking it was the Osmond Brothers from the Andy Williams Show. The place went nuts for the Osbornes.”
Pugh fell in love with Bobby Osborne’s mandolin playing and singing. In January 1965, he had an epiphany.
“I wanted to listen to and play that kind of music. I asked my parents if I could get a mandolin. They bought me one. I started working on Bobby’s songs like Ruby and Listening to the Rain. He’s my idol. I watched Bill Monroe on TV and fell in love with bluegrass.”
As a teenager, Pugh began to dream big dreams. “I told Dad I wanted to start a band and wanted him to play guitar and sing harmonies. We formed a pretty good little country band, David Pugh & the Country Rs. I’m not sure how, but my mom got us booked at Renfro Valley.”
In the mid-’70s, that was the big time for the young artist.
“I was excited and a nervous wreck. A little bluegrass band was warming up in the room next to us. They were really good! They were hard-driving bluegrass and we were classic country.”
Pugh was worried about how his style of music would be received.
“We got the best crowd response that night and were invited back several times. That was the biggest highlight of my personal music career.”
“We got into a contest in 1977 and won it. We got to record a 45 RPM record. I was in heaven! It was my first time in a studio.”
The previous year, Pugh started his career in radio.
“I like to talk. I like music. So I liked radio.” He rationalized, “If I go into radio, I’ll love it. I can still do my music and work it together.”
His first DJ job was at WVCM (Voice of Country Music) on Mound Hill in Carrollton, KY. Pugh interviewed for the position with Flannel Mouth Fultz.
“He asked me if I wanted to go on the air tomorrow!”
And that’s just what he did: spinning records during the day, playing gigs in the evening. It was a hectic schedule.
Pugh recalled one particular incident. “I was sick, but I played with my band on a Saturday night from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. Then I had to drive down to Carrollton. It was a sunrise to sundown station. It was my first time signing on by myself. I played the National Anthem and stayed on for four hours. I came home and slept for two days!”
His radio job expanded. “I loved going to work every day. I was the afternoon drive DJ. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.”
“Jerry Dale was the morning guy. He would bring in a stack of albums and played some great bluegrass. He would listen to my show in the afternoons. Down the road, we both ended up at another AM radio station. I got to filling in on his bluegrass show and learned a lot about the music.”
Pugh’s biggest break in radio came when he went to work for WHKK, a southern gospel station, in Erlanger, KY.
“I discovered the Lewis Family! I would go to big southern gospel shows with a reel-to-reel tape recorder in a bag and interview entertainers. I’d go back stage and report to the Singing News.”
Pugh eventually became the station’s program director.
“I got to meet so many people in mainstream radio.”
With the lure of better pay and benefits, Pugh went to work for the Cincinnati Postal Service in 1978, but still continued his work in radio.
“I would get off from the Postal Center at 2:00 and be on the radio at 3:00. Both jobs were too much. I quit the Post Office in 1981, went back into radio and college, and met my future wife.”
Just when it seemed like he was on the right path, Pugh hit a bump in the road.
“The station was sold and they let all the DJs go the week before I was to get married. I said we’re getting married next week, and I don’t even have a job.”
David and his new wife, Debbie, wed, but it wasn’t always easy.
“We struggled, living check to check.”
In May 1983, Pugh returned to the postal work to better support his family. He remained in that position until his retirement in 2012.
“I started hearing about podcasts and streaming radio. I was new to streaming radio, but not new to radio. Just because I didn’t know all the technology, doesn’t mean that I didn’t know the business. I emailed Gracie Muldoon with Worldwide Bluegrass.”
That communication led to Pugh starting an online bluegrass radio show.
“I named it Mountain Bluegrass: Mountain for West Virginia and Bluegrass for the state of Kentucky.”
In May 2019, Pugh joined the Bluegrass Jamboree. His show is known for his weekly song countdowns and live interviews. He has talked with greats in bluegrass such as Jesse McReynolds, Larry Sparks, Rhonda Vincent, Williamson Branch, Dale Ann Bradley, Daryl Mosley, and many more, including country music icon, Jeannie Seely.
“I had one of my biggest shows of my life on Christmas night 2022. Lorraine Jordan was my guest. I’ve made her song, A Little Bit of Bluegrass, my theme song. All in one show, we talked with Larry Cordle, Junior Sisk, Greg Blake, David Stewart, Sage Palser (Prairie Wildfire), Nick Chandler, Olivia Jo, plus Allen Dyer, Kevin Lamm, and Wayne Morris (all members of Lorraine’s band).”
Pugh has developed quite the following.
“People listen to me every Sunday night,” he proudly exclaimed. “I’ve got listeners from seven other countries. My goal is to preserve traditional bluegrass and keep it alive.”
Pugh has started a new chapter in his life with songwriting. He has been collaborating with songsmith, Rick Lang.
“Dad left me his dobro. We’ve written a tune, Daddy’s Dobro. Rick says it is a great tribute to my dad.”
Pugh’s personality shines through on the radio as he fulfills his passion and labors away playing, loving, and promoting bluegrass music…and he does it all for free! That’s commitment and dedication! The industry owes him a lot in gratitude. Thanks, David Pugh and Mountain Bluegrass!
Listen to his live shows on Sunday nights, 9:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. at thebluegrassjamboree.com