WSVS celebrates 77 years of bluegrass and “pure country” in Crewe, VA

This report is a contribution from Tasker Fleming, host of the Front Porch Bluegrass Show which airs on WSPC (Albemarle, NC), WIZS (Henderson, NC), and WSVS (Crewe, VA), plus live streaming on It celebrates the long history of WSVS in Crewe, and its importance in the furtherance of bluegrass music.

The sounds of bluegrass and country music have been on the air in southeast Virginia for 77 years thanks to WSVS radio (97.1 FM / 800 AM) in Crewe, Virginia. Located about sixty miles south of Richmond, the station’s historical presence in the early days of country music and bluegrass was recognized on April 6, 2024, with the unveiling of a historical marker by the National Registry of Historic Places of the United States Department of the Interior. The station is also listed on the Historical Register for the state of Virginia.

On April 6, 1947, WSVS officially signed on as 650 AM. Although WSM radio in Nashville comes to mind, the connection between the two stations is much deeper. It was the friendship of an original Foggy Mountain Boy to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs that contributed the most to the station’s legacy.  

 In 1948, Charles Edward Johnson, whose stage name was Little Jody Rainwater, was a member of the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys. When they were asked to play during the intermission of a Bill Monroe show in Lexington, NC, Jody met Blue Grass Boy, Lester Flatt. An immediate friendship began. When Lester Flatt left Bill Monroe a few months later, he called Jody Rainwater who quickly became one of the original Foggy Mountain Boys. For most of the next three years, he served as the booking agent and bass player for the group. He was part of their final recordings on Mercury Records that included Rolling in My Sweet Baby’s Arms as well as the first Columbia album for Flatt & Scruggs which featured Rainwater’s original I’m Waiting to Hear You Call Me Darling. He played both bass and mandolin as well as singing bass on their gospel quartet numbers.

For medical reasons, Jody left the Foggy Mountain Boys and on June 7, 1952 accepted a job with WSVS as a DJ. That relationship with the station would last twenty years. During his early years at the station, he continued to promote and bring artists into the studio, and with his connection to Flatt and Scruggs, he continued to book them in the greater Richmond area. 

The Old Dominion Barn Dance was a weekly broadcast by WRVA in Richmond that had been going strong since 1946. It was part of the CBS national network on Saturday nights with a program called Country Style. Jody booked a guest visit for Lester and Earl on the Jamboree in June of 1954.  They joined the Barn Dance as regulars in August and decided to make Blackstone, Virginia their home for a while.  

Earl Scruggs was quoted in Foggy Mountain Troubadour – The Life and Music of Curly Seckler (written by Penny Parsons) about their time there. “We taped a daily program on WRVA in Richmond and did two daily shows at WSVS in nearby Crewe.  We taped the Martha White shows in Crewe and sent them to Nashville, producing four fifteen-minute shows a day.  We joined the WRVA Saturday night Barn Dance and continued to make personal appearances.” If only the walls could talk. The WSVS studio is now affectionately called the Flatt and Scruggs Studio.

The station won the Douglass Southhall Freeman Award in Journalism in 1955 for its courage in covering hurricanes Connie, Diane, and Hazel.  It maintained a solid voice in country music as well with studio visits from Johnny Cash and June Carter, Jim & Jesse McReynolds, Jim Ed Brown, Roy Drusky, Mel Tillis, and Jerry Clower during its first 25 years.  Many small rural stations have not survived the changing market in music delivery. WSVS is a beacon. It embraces a proud history while looking to remain a vital resource in the region.

The unveiling on Saturday was spearheaded by the current (second generation) owner, Bruce Gee. He credits the notable efforts of Jody Rainwater for the historical recognition by the Department of the Interior.  Gee said, “My father took over the station in 2005, and he owned a station in Richmond. When he changed the format there from country to sports radio, he caught a lot of flak. He bought this station and immediately began to promote older artists doing local shows. The music is timeless – Brandon Adams (station manager) has brought back Coffee Time and the traditions of local live radio…but we try to link the old to the new for generations to come. We want to keep it fresh. We upped it a generation. When my father was here, we played ’60s and ’70s country music. I am more of an ’80s and ’90s guy. Brandon Adams, our station manager, plays a mixture of the new, but we never forget our roots and that is why we were honored today.”

The crowd from the unveiling came from a radius larger than the station’s broadcasting limits. From as far away as Richmond, Virginia to Louisburg, North Carolina, they came to celebrate the past. They came to remember a man who honorably served in WW II as a Marine, Jody Rainwater.

The guests enjoyed hotdogs, hamburgers, and oysters served with a smile by the staff of the station. They toured the station’s interior and the Flatt and Scruggs Studio.  Live music was provided by Dan Nicholls, but if only for a moment, they went back to a simpler time. A time before the days of the Beverly Hillbillies fame. As bluegrass was played over the speakers outside; they could imagine it was 1954. They could hear Lester Flatt singing with Curley Seckler as Earl Scruggs joined in harmony… and as everyone left for home, the new marker out front was left to remind the next generation of the proud heritage of the past blended with the love that continues to come from WSVS.