Tim Surrett and Papertown Roots Radio

A whole lot of us picked up new hobbies or pastimes during the pandemic shutdowns starting in 2020. Everyone was stuck at home, and we weren’t allowed to visit our favorite haunts. Some folks learned to cook, or garden, while others picked up musical instruments or other creative or artistic pursuits.

Bluegrass artists weren’t immune from this. They, most especially, felt stuck at home, as their normal life was traveling all over bringing the joy of music to people across the country.

One such is Tim Surrett, bass player, reso-guitarist, and vocalist with Balsam Range. During those restless months when everyone was locked down during the summer of ’20, Tim got to missing the music so badly that he reached out to a local radio station where he lives in Canton, NC, to see if they might be interested in him hosting a weekly bluegrass show.

They were very interested, and Papertown Roots Radio was born. From those humble beginnings, with 300 online listeners, the show has grown to a twice weekly program, reaching as many as 40,000 people each time, on both radio broadcast and online cybercast.

The show runs for three hours (Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:00-10:00 p.m.), and can be heard over the airwaves at WPTY 101.7 FM and 920 AM in western North Carolina. It can also be heard by live stream from the station’s web site.

Surrett explained a bit about how Papertown Roots Radio got started…

“In August it will be four years. I started in the pandemic year, and we hadn’t played a note of music since March. I was driving home back from work one day, and had an idea. I had been affiliated with a local radio station here in town, calling high school and football games. Before that I had been sort of jokingly calling games in the band vehicle for the guys, and I really enjoy it.

We started out just playing music that I liked, and they told me to go for it, since people around here know who we are. I play a lot of bluegrass, plus some traditional country, and a lot of gospel. Plus old time music.”

The show is pre-recorded at Tim’s home studio the day before each broadcast, and he hosts a Facebook Live as he is putting the show together. Fans can make requests by commenting on Facebook, or just share their thoughts. The fidelity isn’t as good as when it gets played by WPTL, but lots of folks chime in. If you miss the show on the radio, you can always go back to listen and watch on Facebook.

He says that he likes to keep it simple, and avoids fancy programming tricks and big time radio glitz.

“I’ve tried to make this show hearken back to the old time, small town radio. Bringing small town radio to 40,000 people!

Though it’s kind of weird to hear Gid Tanner & The Skillet Lickers coming out of a MacBook.”

And you never know who might drop in and join Tim when he’s recording the shows.

“It’s mostly recorded music, but sometime we’ll do live music if someone stops by.

I also talk about the artists we play, and offer background from historical acts.”

He’s very proud to note that while high school football on Friday nights is #1 on WPTL, Papertown Roots Radio comes in just behind them.

You can find out more about the show, see links to listen live, and even pick up branded show merchandise on the official Papertown Roots Radio web site.

Well done, Tim Surrett!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.