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WPAQ, Surry Community College to offer Intro to Radio

It was Groundhog Day 1948. Folks in and around Mount Airy and through the Hollows, across the river and up the mountain were all gathered round their radios, carefully tuned to 740 on the AM dial.

“Seemed everybody knew about it,” area resident Ruth Phillips, 87, remembers. “I was listening.” The Mount Airy News had got the word out that the Granite City would have its very own station, and Groundhog Day would be the day Ralph Epperson’s beloved brainchild would officially take its first breath.

With a program log filled with local advertisers, and newly constructed studios brimming with eager musicians, “good ol’ WPAQ” was on the air. Seventy-two years later the same fiddle and banjo sounds emanate from the tall tower on Kudzu Hill off of Springs Road, and via online streaming “The Voice of the Blue Ridge” now has a worldwide audience listening to the stirring string melodies and folksy community tidbits of “America’s Hometown Radio.”

Throughout its history, the iconic station has certainly had colorful characters in the control room. “Uncle Joe” Johnson, and “Uncle Henry Taylor,” Bill Belton and Clyde Johnson were some of the early favorites and most familiar. Lots of luminaries got their start behind the WPAQ mic, including Mac Wiseman, Lee Moore, Paul Brown, and Lou Bode.

Now teaming with the Personal Enrichment program of Surry Community College, WPAQ is offering the opportunity to learn the basics of broadcasting in an “Intro to Radio” class this spring. Running from March 9 to April 20 for seven straight Mondays, 6 to 8 p.m. each week, Intro to Radio will be an interactive hands-on class. Leading the sessions will be veteran announcers Kelly Epperson, Todd Jessup, Jennie Lowry, and Brent Carrick.

“If you’ve ever had the DJ bug, this is your chance,” Carrick said. “You’ll learn how to cue albums on the turntable, run the board, and plan your musical selections at a station that is truly the living history museum of radio.”

Kelly Epperson will teach sports casting and share the history and operation of his father’s dream.

“This class will benefit anyone wanting to get better at public speaking in general as well,” adds Jennie Lowry, host of WPAQ’s Merry Go Round show. Todd Jessup, “TJ the DJ,” and Brack Llewellyn, founder of the Nonesuch Players, both on-air personalities, will entertain and instruct participants from their decades of experience.

“It’s going to fun,” Lowry said.

Classes will be held both at the Surry Community College Center for Public Safety, 1220 State St, Mount Airy, and at the station, 2147 Springs Road. The cost is $71. For more information, go to, or call Brent Carrick at 276-733-9385.

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Brack Llewellyn in the control room at WPAQ while a band plays live in famous “Studio A.” Brack Llewellyn in the control room at WPAQ while a band plays live in famous “Studio A.” Llewellyn in the control room at WPAQ while a band plays live in famous “Studio A.” Brack Llewellyn in the control room at WPAQ while a band plays live in famous “Studio A.” Submitted photo Submitted photo



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