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History of WNCW 88.7 FM in Spindale, NC

WNCW lightning bolt logo
Vicki Dameron

“It Was a Simple Idea”

By Celtic Winds Music Host Richard Beard

Credit By Vicki Dameron
Richard Beard 2017

I was as surprised as anyone when I heard that the North Carolina Legislature, in the late 1980s, had mandated that citizens within our state should, and would, receive a National Public Radio signal generated within the state boundaries. I had been listening to NPR, and especially Morning Edition, for decades on the WEPR affiliate of the South Carolina ETV network. Since no such network existed in North Carolina, both the far Eastern and Western portions of our state had no NPR representation.  All of that was about to change.

It was through a series of events, some that now seem providential, that WNCW came into being, and was established on the campus of Isothermal Community College.  We all take for granted, some almost three decades later, of the impact WNCW has had, not only in our region, but also on the public radio landscape nationwide, and in the new era of cyber broadcasting, on the International scene as well. Where and how did this odd, precocious, and innovative radio station come to be? Here is the story of how all that happened:

View a PDF of Richard Beard's Recollections of the birth of WNCW


                                                                WNCW Staff Members 1989

Black and white image of WNCW Staff Members Circa 1989
WNCW Staff 1989

Burr Beard, Billie Jordan, Bill Buchynski, Roger Crawford, STANDING: Charles Benedict, John Sciacca, Peggy Fry, Greg Hils, Jim Liverett.

                                                                  Memories in a Podcast

image of man in hat smiling wearing sunglasses
Credit Vicki Dameron
WNCW Program Director Joe Kendrick

WNCW's Program Director Joe Kendrick recently found some recordings of a show he hosted more than a decade ago titled "What It Is." The podcast below shines some light on the history of WNCW with fun-filled recollections from staff members. Check it out on the link below.

Joe Kendrick Podcast Interviewing WNCW Staffers celebrating 20th Anniversary

                                               WNCW Staff in Studio B at Fundraiser in Early 1990s

Image of a bunch of WNCW Staff Members Laughing
Credit Vicki Dameron Collection
WNCW Staff With David Dye of World Cafe - Early 1990's

Wanda Lu Greene-Paxton, Tara Waits Manjarres, Bill Buchynski, Vicki Morgan Dameron, David Dye, Billie Jordan, Greg Hils. BACK ROW: George Scheibner, Burr Beard.


                                       WNCW Staff in Studio B - Spring Fundraiser April 2018

Staff members posing and smiling for staff photo
Credit Staff Member Vicki Dameron
WNCW Staff 2018

Bill Buchynski, Terri Frashier, Roland Dierauf, Stephanie Webb, Kim Henson, Joe Kendrick, Brenda Craig, Scotty Robertson, Paul Foster, Martin Anderson, Dave Kester, Sean Rubin.

                                                                         Our First Footprint

1986 - As early as 1986, Isothermal Community College received support from the State of NC and the federal government to begin the process of planning and starting a public radio station in Western North Carolina including the communities it would be serving.

The station's call letters WNCW stand for Western North Carolina's Window - a name that the creators of the station hoped would represent the way listeners would use the station – as a window to look through and see things they my not otherwise see.

1989 - October 13, 1989 WNCW 88.7 signed on to the airwaves from the tower at Clingman's Peak near Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina. The earliest description of WNCW's original programming was called Triple A Format - Adult Album Alternative Music. WNCW featured NPR News followed by a weekday program titled Crossroads, a program featuring a broad range of music genres, similar to today. In the evenings listeners could hear classic radio dramas like the Lone Ranger and Sherlock Holmes followed by classical music.  Other shows that debuted our first year include This Old PorchCeltic Winds, Goin' Across The Mountain, and Saturday Night House Party. 

Billie Jordan is the first "Goin' Across The Mountain" host. It's not an all bluegrass show yet. It's a mixture of Celtic, bluegrass and traditional music and airs for just a few hours each week. Jordan prefers working in the background as Community Affairs Director and suggests they give the show to her husband Russ Jordan. He becomes the host keeps that position for years as a beloved WNCW bluegrass host.

1990 - WNCW's First Top 100 list of the year's favorite new releases is compiled. Bob's Dylan's Oh Mercy was voted #1. Our "list of lists" can be viewed here: Top 100 Link

1991 - Joe Kendrick and Vicki Dameron begin volunteering, then working at WNCW - Kendrick as a Music Host and then as Alternative Radio Coalition Host/Organizer -  and Dameron as a News Producer, News Host and Jazz At Dawn Host. Dameron was Vicki Morgan in those days. WNCW is one of five stations to begin broadcasting, The World Cafe, from WXPN in Philadelphia, PA. David Dye is the host, and the guest artist on the first show was Bruce Cockburn. It aired October 14, 1991.

1992 - The Alternative Radio Coalition, originally a group of Charlotte area music writers, fans and musicians, approached WNCW about a new programming idea for WNCW's airwaves. The idea was accepted and the ARC DJs came on board in July 1992. The name of the show: ARC Overnight.

1993 - In 1993 Frank Zappa dies. In tribute, WNCW's Marshall Ballew, founder of Frank On Friday, plays a set of Zappa tunes everyday around lunchtime. It begins airing weekly on Fridays and becomes known as Frank on Friday. WNCW increases coverage to Greenville, SC by adding a translator at 97.3 and provides low power coverage of Knoxville, TN with a translator at 97.7 FM.

1995 - WNCW installs a translator in Boone, NC in 1995.

1996 - WNCW 88.7 is voted the Best Radio Station in Western North Carolina by readers of Mountain Xpress. WNCW has won this recognition many times. It has also won multiple recognitions, since 1994, among readers of Creative Loafing in Charlotte, NC and Mountain Xpress in Asheville for Best Radio DJ.  Kim Clark joins in November as an Alternative Radio Coalition, or ARC, Overnight Volunteer Host. She quickly adds News Host, and Weekday Music Host, then Underwriting Assistant, Assistant Program Director, and finally Program Director (in 2004). 

1997 - WNCW produces its first Crowd Around the Mic in 1997. Crowd Around The Mic CDs are compilation discs of music performed and recorded in Studio B at WNCW and at times at various locations where WNCW broadcasts live sessions by remote. 

1998 - WNCW's Warren Haynes Christmas Pre-Jam tradition began when Warren performed live in Studio B with Little Milton, Derek Trucks, and Susan Tedeschi. Rumor has it Trucks and Tedeschi, who later married, first met at this session! Amy Jones joins WNCW and becomes the Weekday Afternoon Host until 2003.

1999 - On October 13, 1999, WNCW celebrates its 10th Anniversary and begins streaming its programming on the World Wide Web.

2000 - Roland Dierauf begins volunteering and then working at WNCW as an ARC Overnight Music Host. He eventually begins working as a popular host for Jazz & Beyond and WNCW's Daytime Music Mix.

2004 - Rob Daves  joins The Alternative Radio Coalition - ARC Overnight team. WNCW moves down the dial from 100.7 FM in Charlotte to 100.3. Local Color, a weekly spotlight on musicians hailing from within the WNCW air signal coverage area, debuts with Lee Miller as the first host. Subsequent hosts include Kim Clark, Laura Blackley, Mary Hughes and Renee Denton.

2006 - Spencer Jones comes to WNCW as Music Host and a Part-time Sales Representative. The first Mountain Song Festival is held in Brevard, NC. The event benefits The Cindy Platt Boys and Girls Club in Brevard. WNCW DJs emcee at the event and the WNCW tent, located at the front gate of the festival, is always filled with volunteers, listeners and WNCW fans.

2007 - What It Is, a weekday morning music talk segment, makes it debut on October 22, 2007 with Host Joe Kendrick. Brad Watson begins volunteering and then working at WNCW as a Music Host on the Music Mix, Thursday and Friday nights, as well as hosting Goin' Across The Mountain.

2008 - Kim Henson and Stephanie Webb join WNCW on the same day. Henson began as Membership Assistant and then becomes Membership Coordinator. Webb starts as Membership Services Coordinator and then becomes Marketing Coordinator.

2009 - Cosmic American Music Show comes to the airwaves via WNCW. It's created by Host Brad Watson, who noticed folks really liked it when he played Waylon Jennings on the air. He submitted a demo show to his General Manager. It included  "Outlaw Country" and the "Cosmic American" sound. It was approved and the show was an instant success. The term "Cosmic American Music" was coined by Gram Parsons, which was a moniker Parsons came up when describing his process of  "embracing and combining country music with rock 'n roll." Watson follows that philosophy to this day and begins every show with a Grams Parsons tune.

In 2009, The North Carolina General Assembly votes to eliminate state funding for all public radio stations that receive the funding. There was much restructuring during this time as WNCW staff members scrambled to make up the 20% loss in their budget. An emergency fundraiser is held and many members and underwriters increase their support to WNCW and help keep Grassroots Radio alive and well. Despite the financial uncertainty, staff members celebrate being on the air for 20 years. More than 1000 listeners vote for WNCW's Top Artists - Bob Dylan is voted number one followed by The Avett Brothers, Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia, Alison Krauss, Johnny Cash, Acoustic Syndicate, The Beatles. Doc Watson, Neil Young, and The Allman Brothers Band.

2010 - WNCW adds a new "repeater" frequency 90.9 WSIF FM in Wilkesboro, NC.

2012 - WNCW Music Director Martin Anderson begins playing a set of Doc Watson songs every Monday morning, after the much beloved Native North Carolinian and musician passes away. It's titled Ten O'clock Doc and still airs every Monday at 10am in honor of Arthel "Doc" Watson. Fans love it.

2013 - Country Gold makes it debut on Sunday mornings with Host Tom Pittman. It becomes a big success and its popularity warranted expanding it an hour to a total of three hours on Sunday mornings.

2014 - The award winning show featuring iconic music from the sixties, DIG! with Kim Clark, makes its debut as does Rhythm Theorem, a funky, gritty, soulful, groovy show created by Scotty Robertson. Both are hugely popular shows. In May, WNCW's original Program Director Greg Hils passes away. Paul Foster, a life long radio and television journalist,  joins the WNCW Staff as Senior New Producer.

2017 - The WNCW Charlotte frequency changes to 101.3. Program Director Joe Kendrick creates a podcast called On The Way Up which features new music that is "on its way up" as well as insights on behind the scenes action at the station, and a DJ of the day segment where WNCW DJs, staffers, musicians and others chat with Kendrick about their jobs and life in radio.

2018 - WNCW's 29 year-old antenna is replaced with a state-of-the-art antenna. WNCW hires a new Audio Engineer, Sean Rubin. WNCW's first DJ to play a song on air, Bill Buchynski, passes away in the fall of 2018.

Two men under WNCW tent smiling
Credit Vicki Dameron
Volunteers Penn Dameron and Doug Crowell working tent at Mountain Song 2017

                                                       Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

                                         Check Out Our Staff Photo Album Collections

Link to Joe Kendrick Image Collection Album

Link to Vicki Dameron Image Collection 1991-1995

Link to Martin Anderson Vintage WNCW Photo Collection

Two women smiling looking out of window
Credit Vicki Dameron
WNCW Staff Members Stephanie Webb and Kim Henson at Orange Peel in Asheville, NC - 2016 PreJam