Friday, September 9, 2016


On Tuesday we reported about WMOT, Nashville’s switch from NPR News, Classical and Jazz programming to 24/7 Americana Roots Radio 89.5 FM [link]. When we said that WMOT might be the flagship station for Americana and a potentially powerful new player in Nashville, people listened. Our post attracted several hundred readers and was reposted on several Americana music blogs.

I wondered aloud how many other broadcast stations have made similar commitments to Americana music and asked readers to send me their suggestions.  Several folks did, thank you.

What constitutes Americana is in the ear of the beholder. Americana certainly includes traditional country, newish alternative country, bluegrass, rockabilly and folk. Some stations broaden the category with blues, progressive rock or various types of ethnic music.  Some stations (like WMOT) embrace Nashville and others avoid Music City in every way possible.

When I track stations, I look for shops that have made a significant commitment to a particularly format. Typically this means they are “in format” at least 12 hours a day. This the best way to make apples-to-apples comparisons between stations and get a sense of the national impact of the format.

From the reader suggestions and my own research I found six noncommercial Americana stations that I consider “cousins” of WMOT. There are also Triple A stations that dip into Americana and a few commercial stations of note.  Let me introduce you to these noncom stations:

1. Sun Radio KDRP, Austin [link]

The first station mentioned by every reader who responded was Sun Radio, KDRP in Austin. Sun Radio is an amalgamation of six (soon to be seven) FM stations that together serve Austin and Hill Country communities. Think of Sun Radio as an alternative to Nashville and WMOT but with the same passion for the music.

Sun Radio calls itself Roots Rock n Roll and that is an apt description. Most hours of the week are live DJ shifts. Specialty programs, many produced in Austin, air during early evenings and one weekends. One of the syndicated shows heard on KDRP is Music City Roots from the same folks who are programming WMOT.

KDRP occasionally subscribes to Nielsen Audio’s PPM ratings. In Fall 2015, Sun Radio had an estimated 44,500 weekly cumulative listeners. What impresses me most about KDRP is their intense involvement in Austin’s music scene.  Almost every night of the week, Sun Radio hosts events in clubs and concert halls. Some events – such as Texas Radio Live – are broadcast to the faithful.

2. FM 89.9 WEVL, Memphis [link]

WEVL is celebrating 40 years of broadcasting with The Ultimate Mix Tape Party Saturday, October 8th at Loflin Yard, a popular music club. At least five bands will be appearing including The Wevls, a local super-group based on music heard on WEVL.

The call letters W-E-V-L capture the essence of the station: "WE VoLunteer." The station operates with three paid staffers and several dozen volunteers. There are approximately 60 different programs each week on WEVL offering a full menu of Americana genres. Overall, WEVL emphasizes blues shows.

3. FM 89.9 WDVX, Knoxville [link]

WDVX first became nationally known in the late 1990s when it was broadcasting from a 14-foot camping trailer, parked at a campground off I-75.  Since then they moved to solid ground and now serve counties in the Cumberland Mountains and the Great Valley of East Tennessee.

According to the station’s webite, WDVX was started by a grassroots effort of passionate, like-minded people who wanted a radio station that represented the culture of the mountains and celebrated its music. WDVX was inspired by the songs that came from generations of people swapping tunes and picking on the porch.

WDVX’s air sound is mainly acoustic music but the station’s most popular program – The Blue Plate Special – heard at Noon on weekdays, is rocking boogie blues from then and now.

4. FM 88.7 WOBO, Cincinnati [link]

Each day WOBO lives up to its motto: The Station That Has Something For Everyone. The only thing consistent about WOBO is the diversity of programming ranging from bluegrass to jazz to ethnic music.

WOBO’s success story started in 1986 when it rescued WCNE, a high school station on the verge of oblivion.   WCNE’s license was obtained by a new 501c3 organization and became WOBO. The new owners moved transmissions to a 442’tower on land donated by a fan of bluegrass.

5. Radio Bristol WBCM, Bristol, VA [link]

WBCM is a LPFM station  that is part of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in historic downtown Bristol. It concentrates on American roots music, history and live performances such as The Radio Bristol Sessions and Farm and Fun Time.

6. 1063radiolafayette WIEE, Lafayette, LA [link]

1063radiolafayette is like to gumbo served at eateries around the bayou: spicy, hot and often surprising. The music mix ranges from zydeco to blues to the latest Triple A hit tracks. WIEE is comfortable playing Maria McBride next to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The vibe is a college party.

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