Meet Doug Whitley from Hwy 40 Bluegrass

Doug Whitley and Lorraine Jordan

Doug Whitley presents Hwy 40 Bluegrass each Tuesday afternoon on The Bluegrass Jamboree. He was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, and his radio career and love for music developed at an early age. 

“I was still a teenager when I got a chance to go to work for a southern gospel station in Raleigh, WRNC, a 1000 watt AM station. I loved music and was kind of fascinated by the radio thing. I thought it would be something fun to do.”

  Steve Pritchard of the station invited Whitley into the studio.

“He let me record some new feeds and commercial copy. He said, ‘Well, you’ve got the voice for it. You just need to learn the controls.’ So I came in and started watching the morning guy, Ernie Scott.”

He taught him the trade.

“I watched him every morning. You have to learn what your hands are doing before you feel comfortable enough to talk.”

After being on the air for just a short time, Whitley received a call from WPTF 680 AM, a 50,000-watt station. (WPTF played a big role in the early music careers of Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, and the Stanley Brothers, who all worked at the radio station between the 1930s and 1950s.) 

“I did an all-night show (midnight to 5:00 a.m.), part time on the weekends, filling in for Hap Hansen. I was still in school. The show was called Interstate 68. Listeners called in all through the night with requests and dedications. That was a thrill and a half to get to work on a station that big. We had listeners from all up and down the east coast from New York to Florida. We played classic country, bluegrass, gospel, and comedy. I had a lot of fun and have some great memories.

Around 1979-1980, I worked at a station WYNA 1550. On Saturday afternoon, I did a bluegrass show. That’s when I became familiar with Steve Dilling.”

The Sideline banjoist recalled, “Some of my earliest bluegrass memories go back to Doug. I must have been 13 or 14. Doug had a bluegrass radio show on WYNA in Raleigh. I used to call in and request an Earl Scruggs or a J.D. Crowe tune. Doug would always dedicate it to me. That really meant a lot to a young boy just learning to play the banjo. I’m so happy for Doug, for the success of his HWY 40 Bluegrass show, and I’m very proud to call him my friend.”

Whitley’s life gradually went another direction. 

“I did some other stations around Raleigh, WKIX and WQDR. I got out of radio in 2004. I already had my own equipment and did private parties, weddings, and corporate events, plus I deejayed the Long Branch in Raleigh for years.

In 2016, I met my wife at Lorraine’s (Coffee & Music) through a mutual friend. I call her Sweet E, Elise. She’s been a real blessing.”

Together, he and Elise have 5 kids and 13 grandkids. 

“We are blessed to have them all live close by.”

Whitley began working regularly for Lorraine Jordan.

“Working with Lorraine Jordan has been a blessing, as well as a lot of fun. She has given me a lot of opportunities to get back into the music business. She does a lot for many, for bluegrass.”

Lorraine Jordan shared, “Doug Whitley is a great addition to Lorraine’s Coffee House. He serves as our MC for our bluegrass shows. Doug is very professional and gives all the bands a great introduction. He keeps the show moving and makes pre show announcements to get the word out for events at Lorraine’s. All the bands love him and have great respect for him. Doug does emcee work for all festivals that Carolina Road host including Christmas in the Smokies, Willow Oak Music Park, and Bluegrass in the Blue Ridge.”

A little later, Whitley made the transition to internet radio.

“I had been kicking around the idea with Annette (Grady) from Bluegrass Jamboree. I missed radio, but it was a little different the way it works now. It’s a great concept the way it happens. It’s heard around the world.”

Two years ago, Lorraine convinced Whitley to give internet radio a try and helped sponsor his show. 

“I never thought I’d be on Facebook, but with this type radio stream, they say it is important to have that presence. It’s all new to me. I kicked around a lot of names and finally named it Hwy 40 Bluegrass because I’ve always loved that song. I told Larry Cordle and he just loved it.”

The 67-year-old explained his weekly show’s format.

“On Hwy 40 Bluegrass, it is the best in bluegrass, yesterday and today. I like to go back and do classic country and great gospel favorites. I’ve had Larry Sparks, Paul Williams, Ralph II, Doyle Lawson, Joe Mullins, Danny Paisley, Russell Moore, Little Roy & Lizzy, Lorraine Jordan, Larry Stephenson, Sammy Shelor…there’s been a lot on with me. 

I love playing songs for folks through the Bluegrass Jamboree chat page. It means a lot. You never know what’s on the end of that line and what someone’s going through. I found out a long time ago how much playing a song affects people. It’s a blessing to do it each week and a lot of fun.”

Bluegrass A-listers listen in and praise Whitley’s work.

Greg Blake of Special Consensus stated, “I love tuning into Hwy 40 Bluegrass on Bluegrass jamboree, Tuesday 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., to listen to Doug Whitley deejay. He plays a great variety of music from traditional bluegrass to classic country. He also includes the locals on his shows and brags on everyone. And what a smooth voice!”

“Doug is a local hero in the Raleigh area. He was one of the first voices we heard playing Flatt & Scruggs as teenagers on WPTF and WYNA. He has introduced some big names in country music, and got to hang around with some legends in his early days like George Jones. We are fortunate to have him back in radio and live streaming at Lorraine’s Coffee House,” added Barney Rogers, composer of 2020 IBMA Gospel Song of Year, Gonna Rise and Shine.

Danny Paisley noted his emcee abilities.”We love working any festivals and events that Doug Whitley does the emcee work. He always greets the bands and makes sure we have the information we need. Doug gives each band a great introduction which makes you feel great about your show. Great guy, great emcee, great voice!”

Whitley concluded, “I am so excited and thankful to be a part of The Bluegrass Jamboree. Annette Grady does an awesome job and has a great thing going here. I’m honored to be a part of it. Join me at The Bluegrass Jamboree on Tuesday afternoons, live from 4:00 -7:00 p.m., EST. I want to thank Lorraine Jordan for making this show possible and sponsoring Hwy 40 Bluegrass.”

Requests can be sent to Doug by email.

Share this:

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.