Local radio station WPAQ 740 AM will mark its 70th anniversary with a free concert Saturday at the Historic Earle Theatre & Old Time Music Heritage Hall in Downtown Mount Airy.
Beginning at 5:15 p.m., the concert will feature traditional bluegrass and old-time music with live performances from The Zephyr Lightning Bolts, Rich In Tradition, Mickey Galyean & Cullen’s Bridge, The Slate Mountain Ramblers, The Country Boys, Narrow Road, and The Nunn Brothers.
Partnerships with area businesses and Surry Arts Council enable the concert to be presented without charge as a celebration of seventy years in the radio business.
WPAQ, Mount Airy’s first radio station, was founded in 1948 by the late Ralph Epperson, a native of Patrick County, who desired to provide a “stage” for local musicians to promote the area’s talent and traditional music.
Since the beginning, there was a desire for the radio listening audience to actually see the performances live. Productions such as the “Merry Go Round,” a program first launched in 1948, still showcase local and regional traditional musical acts weekly. The program ranks second only to the Grand Ole Opry as the nations’ longest continuously running live radio show.
The “Merry Go Round” broadcasts live from the Earle Theatre in partnership with the Surry Arts Council, and airs each Saturday from 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Attendees at Saturday night’s WPAQ 70th Birthday Celebration event can expect a night full of traditional music, opportunities to flatfoot, and meet some of the air personalities in person. The event is considered 100-percent family friendly.
Numerous technological advances have occurred since WPAQ 740 AM first signed on the air, on Groundhog Day seventy years ago. In an era of social and digital media, internet and IHeart Radio, the existence of a small town am radio station like WPAQ can seem precarious, but WPAQ, known as the “Voice of the Blue Ridge,” continues to prove itself relevant in 2018.
With much of the same traditional musical programming that the station has always touted, it now reaches new audiences outside the local listening area through daily live streaming over the internet.
Regional listeners in Mount Airy, and the surrounding areas, will soon be able to tune in to “The Voice of the Blue Ridge” at 106.7 FM as the station adds an fm channel. This will also allow WPAQ to remain on the air beyond it’s current “sunrise to sunset” air time format.
At that time, 106.7 and www.wpaq740.com will be 24-hour channels that will continue to broadcast after 740 AM goes off the air at sunset. Listeners can hear vintage old time and bluegrass music as well as current hits from national acts in the traditional music genre, as well as local news, weather, and community events, including snow closures and lost pets. Not only known for its music, but also as the Bears Radio Network, WPAQ broadcasts local sports, featuring Mount Airy Granite Bears’ football, baseball and basketball.
The annual WPAQ Anniversary concert is presented in partnership with the Surry Arts Council and will be broadcast live on the air at WPAQ 740AM, and online at www.wpaq740.com with the help of many local business partners.