Alleghany County's community radio station died today at 2pm. It received a near lethal blow 20 years ago when it was bought away from the people who made it a good community station and turned into a seriously lame version of FM Country. The yoyos working the station only played what they wanted to hear--nucountry--without regard for listeners. It was up to the listeners to accept what they played, not for them to play what the listeners wanted to hear. Indifference to the listeners, indifference to the county made for less and less advertising until management quit actively selling ads and went along by ads called in. Management abandoned the station to the yoyos who then took everything nucountry that had come in over the last 20 years, leaving only bluegrass, gospel and older country, all of which they hated. All of which the listeners loved. When they left and Sue was put in to pick the station up from down and out, off the air for 2 days, they'd left for Sue what the listeners wanted, and took everything that nobody ever wanted to hear again. Alleghany County is burned out on Dolly Parton. The yoyos, believing the station would die when they left, having choked it down to the last molecule of air, left it for dead.
Sue called yesterday to tell me I don't have a radio show anymore, and she had to be out of the station by 2 today. Sue had been told convincingly the station would not be sold to this deceiving preacher intending to buy it, and if he sold it to anybody, she would have a 2 week notice. Instead, she got the 2 o'clock notice. She was going about in tears this morning saying she feels like the rug had been pulled out from under her, her foundation yanked away. She needs work. Now she has to find work in a time when that's not easy. She was building his station up, advertising picked up, picked way up to where the station was paying its own expenses. She was involved heart and soul, made it into a personal station again, a service to its county. She had been misled such that her belief in what she'd been told on various occasions had her believing it mattered that she was helping the station. She was happy bringing his station back for him, like she'd done something worthwhile. Then one day she's told to be out by 2 next day. Sue's head is hanging in sorrow today. It's a deep sorrow of the heart. She had come to love her listeners. She repeated his conviction over the air that this Surry County preacher would not buy the station, as the preacher had been spreading rumor he would. She feels sorrow that she misled her listeners, she loves her listeners, wouldn't mislead them for the world. The answer she was given for why, was he had the money.
All the way along seeing Sue on Saturday mornings, she'd tell me from time to time something that would make me have to say, Don't believe everything you hear. Just because somebody said it does not make it so. I figured some day something would happen to pop her bubble. It did. Like a baseball bat in the back of the head. I felt sorrow for her. She was limp from heartbreak, a Mike Tyson jab to the stomach, a sharp stick in the eye, a learning that what she believed before turned out not to be so. Now she has to adjust her thinking in a major way. Sue is feeling betrayed and the grief of losing a close friend. She's losing the people of Alleghany County she has come to love. You might say she got her Sparta learning. It wipes smiles off faces. It's a learning that you better carry a shield on your left arm round here. It's like an initiation. If you can take it, you're ok. If you can't, it's later for you, gator.
Sonya is broken hearted, too, after several years of involvement with WCOK, the only voice on the station with a personal regard for the people she was talking to at the other end of the mic. A lot of people listened to Sonya's show because she played music they liked. She mostly played from her own collection. Sonya enjoyed her one morning a week show from 7:15 to 1. It was her time of playing good music to the people of the county she loves. She was devastated today. At 10 til 1, we who played music gathered to say good-bye to listeners. Sonya's eyes were dampened by the telling. Mine too, and Sue's. It was an emotional time until 1 when the station was to go off the air. BE OUTTA THERE BY 2. It felt in a minor way something like a corporate hostile takeover. Hostile in a whole lot of ways. Corporate in the indifference to all concerned.
The news when Sue told me on the phone last night was not surprising. I felt nothing but anger. I wrote last night in anger. It was not nice. When I clicked for it to go online, it vanished, deleted. I couldn't find it anyplace. This morning I felt sorrow mixed with the anger. That it's me playing the mountain music is neither here nor there, it's that my listeners have no one to play it for them now. We had 7 years of good Saturday mornings together. I loved that I had the opportunity to play mountain music for mountain people. I liked to call it music from home. That was one of the great joys of my life. I can go on from here seeing it the way DeWitt Hanes taught me, to have done something is the same as doing it now.
The sorrow I carry in my heart is the people of the county have lost their home town radio station. They've lost the music they love. WPAQ is still there for the ones who can receive it. In my car I get half static, half sound. If it gave good sound I'd listen to WPAQ all the time. It's the same at the house. Mostly static. I've always loved living in a county adjoining WPAQ's county, Surry. I never met Ralph Epperson, but have respect way up high for his devotion to mountain music. I felt like I was giving Alleghany an hour a week of what Ralph Epperson gave Surry all day every day. A little mountain music is better than none. That's why I started doing the radio show, because every county around us had a Saturday morning mountain music show, but not here. I believed the county needed one, so I jumped in and swam. I am very happy I've had the opportunity to play this music to the people of the county that wanted to hear it. One of the aspects of the show I loved best was that I knew the people listening loved the music they were hearing in a big way. I loved playing musicians from this county, friends and neighbors.