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Burlington’s bitchin’ brings beach and bluegrass back

by Ogi Overman

I hate to gloat, I really do. It’s such poor form to rub it in that I try to avoid it at all costs. It’s just’… well, tacky, and nine times out of ten it will come back to haunt you.

Still, even though ‘“I told you so’” is a phrase that should be used sparingly, there are rare occasions when it is justified. This is one of them.

A handful of you (seventeen, to be exact) may remember the ill-fated Greater Greensboro Observer for which I toiled (and foolishly invested in) for 11 grueling months. During that span I penned no fewer than three columns on the same subject, which, unless the subject is George ‘“Duh’” Bush, is a rarity. While my vitriol toward Bush obviously had negligible effect, it’s marginally possible that my incessant rantings on this subject did. No, I take zero credit, but taken as part of the combined whole of a large group of folk with similar beliefs, we may have actually had an impact.

Yup, we tried to tell ’em but they wouldn’t listen. They were the corporate honchos, the big dogs, the power brokers, and we were nothing but a bunch of beach-blanket bozos from Burlington; what the hell could we know?

Well, for starters we knew about the three B’s ‘— Beach, Bluegrass and Burlington (Bush doesn’t count in this world). We told ’em if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but they fixed it anyway. And now they’ve had to unfix it. After 11 months (coincidentally, the same time it took me to admit defeat) they’ve learned the truth of the axiom: ‘“Hell hath no fury like a shagger scorned.’”

It all started when the Curtis Media Group, a mid-sized player from Raleigh, bought Burlington’s WKXU (101.1 FM) and its AM counterpart, WPCM (920 AM). The plan was to change WKXU’s format from country to news/talk, which was fine and dandy, since there are only a million country stations around here, and all of them are WTQR. They brought in Brad Krantz and Britt Whitmire to do mornings, which also seemed like a good decision, even though Brad was writing for me at the GGO at the time and had to resign. Their syndication package seemed strong and somewhat balanced, save for Michael Savage, who needs to be set on fire and beat out with Rush ‘OxyContin’ Limbaugh.

But then they went too far. Twice. First, they decided to simulcast the new format, renamed WZTK, on their AM sister station, which meant they’d have to kill off WPCM’s beach and oldies format. They killed off DJs Charlie Brown and Byron Tucker. Killed off General Johnson and Miss Grace and Big John and Willie T and Johnny Dollar and Dr. Hook and Fat Harold and every shagger this side of Shad Alberty. And in the process they managed to kill off their audience.

But if that weren’t sad enough, they went completely off the deep end and killed off Buddy Michaels, who’d hosted a Sunday morning bluegrass show for 25 solid years. Not realizing that the Bud Man is a nationally known figure in bluegrass circles, now they had more than a group of bitching beach buffs on their hands. Now they had a double whammy of bluegrass fanatics raising hell, some of whom are known to drink rotgut liquor out of dirty cups. My source in Burlington tells me that the radio station received over 400 e-mails, an endless stream of angry phone calls, and what I suspect really got their attention ‘— a passel of advertisers who decided to spend their money elsewhere.

Now, if any two groups of music fans are loyal to their niche, it’s got to be beach and bluegrass. And, being a native Burlingtonian myself, I was right dead amongst ’em. I fired off one, then another, then still another angry screed denouncing their decisions. The Burlington Times-News even reprinted one of my columns, fanning the flames even further.

So life went on, even with the gaping hole on my radio dial. I presumed it was a lost cause until last week, when Andy Durham, Voice of the Grasshoppers (WPET, 950 AM) and member of the Sizzling Seventeen, informed me that WPCM had resurrected its beach format. Sure enough, I raced to my car and there were the Globetrotters crooning ‘“Rainy Day Bells.’”

Ah, life was good again and about to get better. I also learned that the Bud Man has resurfaced on two stations, neither of which is owned by the Curtis Human Genome Project. Bluegrass rules on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m.to noon on WBAG (1150 AM) and Monday evenings at 7 p.m. on WKRX (96.7 FM).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, ‘“Summertime’s Calling Me.’”

Ogi can be reached at ogi@yesweekly.com and heard each Tuesday from 9:30’–10 a.m. on WGOS 1070 AM.

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