Nashville’s airwaves lose a friend

“Those are the bluegrass announcements,” Traci Todd told her listeners every Sunday about 3:30 p.m. “Now it’s time for the theme song of George, The Bluegrass Show. Here are Bill Monroe and Jimmy Martin with ‘The Little Girl and the Awful, Dreadful Snake.’”
After another half-hour of bluegrass, sometimes featuring in-studio appearances by the likes of Del McCoury and other greats, a rollicking accordion or Cajun fiddle would open Sounds of the Bayou, hosted by D.J. Cajun Mitch Porcello. Two hours of New Orleans-, Cajun- and Zydeco music would then follow.

And it was all right there for Nashville to tune into every week on WRVU FM, the Vanderbilt University station sold this week to Nashville Public Radio. The broadcast station will now program classical music while the eclectic WRVU (which will retain its call letters) will only be accessible online.

As a listener, I will really miss the station. While Traci signed George, The Bluegrass Show off for the last time a few years ago, WRVU has still been an outlet for bluegrass, old-time, mountain and traditional hillbilly music.

My first memory of hearing Cajun and Zydeco music regularly on the radio in Nashville goes back to the late 1980s, when Casey Lutton started his “91 Chank-a-Chank” show that followed a blues show he also hosted.

DJ Cajun Mitch has hosted Sounds of the Bayou since the mid-90s when he was a student. Now a successful attorney, he has continued to bring a little bit of Louisiana to Nashville. I am fortunate to have been a guest on his show many times and to have become his friend, as well. When I joined Mitch on the air to talk about New Orleans music or Mardi Gras, without fail we always drifted into football. The New Orleans Saints, The Tennessee Titans, Ole Miss, other SEC teams. No matter what time of year it was, it was natural for us to talk football, as well as Zydeco.

Listeners have also been treated to a variety of other music on WRVU, including Gregorian chants, Middle Eastern music, disco and jump music of the 1950s. Big band and music of the 1920s and 1930s have rolled out of radio speakers like “boe-doe-dee-oh-doe” through a megaphone thanks to Ken Berryhill, who bills himself as “The World’s Oldest Living Disc Jockey.”

And then there was Paul McLean’s “Art Radio,” a show devoted to visual art. Think about that. A show about art. On the radio. Things generally thought of as “visual,” don’t always have to be seen to be appreciated.

I also enjoyed “Mad Pad,” hosted by a young woman named Corinne. On the day Shel Silverstein died, she devoted her show to his music, including a request I called in for his own version, in his own odd voice, of “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout (Wouldn’t Take The Garbage Out).”

Not only have listeners lost an outlet for unusual and entertaining programming, but independent musicians have also lost another opportunity to have their music on somebody’s air. Many of my fellow songwriters and performers and I have been in-studio guests on WRVU. Our music was played not because it fit a certain format or was promoted by a record company, but because the announcers (and the public) thought it was worth a listen.

WRVU will still be accessible online but I hardly ever listen to my computer while I’m driving. The station was founded in the early fifties long before the internet and when television was still not in every home.

With DJ Cajun Mitch (WRVU) & Kim Kramer (Radio Free Nashville)

Independent radio still holds forth with WRFN FM aka Radio Free Nashville, another station I truly admire and listen to frequently on the air and online. Turtle’s Boogie on the Bayou, River Jordan’s Clearstory, Mando Blues, Drew Laney’s Turtle Radio, The Music Hall with Darrel D. & Kim Kramer, Peggy Elam’s Health at Every Size and others are all great shows on Radio Free Nashville.

But I’ll miss being able to tune into WRVU in my car and in my home. Thanks to all at the station who have broadened the horizons and opened many minds to different styles of music over the years. Not to mention the non-music show hosts. That’s another story, in itself.

And to those who have done their best to keep it on the air recently, it appears that, as with the one who fell victim to the “awful, dreadful snake,” every week on George, The Bluegrass Show, “we reached our darling girl too late.”

Thanks to the hosts of the following WRVU shows who have had me on as a guest and played my music over the last two decades:
DJ Cajun Mitch Porcello – Sounds of the Bayou
Ken Berryhill – The Old Record Shop
Casey Lutton – 91 Chank-a-Chank
Paul McLean – Artradio
The New Music Show and That’s All Folk

Text and photo ©2011 Les Kerr
For music, books, photos and More about Les, visit www.leskerr.com

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About Les Kerr

Les Kerr is a songwriter, recording artist, journalist and author originally from the Gulf Coast now based in Nashville, Tennessee. Learn More about Les at www.leskerr.com
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