Wednesday, January 16, 2008

WLSC Radio - Loris, South Carolina

“Banana” Jack Murphy is a youthful looking 43, but his young looks belie the twenty-five years he’s spent as a broadcaster. He began on the radio a few weeks after graduating from high school and has been at it ever since. He’s worked as a dj in hard rock, classic rock, country, and bluegrass as well as doing radio and TV interviewing, selling advertising, and doing general promotion. With this broad experience, it’s little wonder that when he got the chance he purchased a small radio station and started developing the sort of programming best representing his interests and enthusiasm. WLSC (AM 1240) in Loris, South Carolina is the result.

Jack became “Banana” Jack about twenty years ago when he moved to Myrtle Beach and was broadcasting the morning program with a partner named O.J. (no…not THAT O.J.). The station wanted listeners to have something with their O.J., so they figured bananas went well and Jack was named. He’s been “Banana” Jack ever since. A slight man, Jack seems larger than his size as his enthusiasm for his present effort is so great. As we drove to Loris from our campsite at Ocean Lakes, we came into WLSC’s listening area and heard some God and Country country music, Jack’s enthusiastic presentation of upcoming events and possibilities, some classic country with Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and a few ads. We came into Loris, a small, neat southern town which expects to benefit from the expansion westward of the Grand Strand as land, even in these slow times, has become ever less available and more expensive near the beach. WLSC is located in a brick storefront on the corner of SC 9 and Main Street, an ideal location for local folks to stop in and chew the fat, listen to music, or perform live.

The WLSC studios are still a work in progress, having only recently moved to town from a dilapidated mobile home a few miles out of town where the transmitter is still located. The storefront window looks right in on the broadcast studio where Jack is working. He’s been doing live radio, but as we come in he pushes a few buttons and steps out to greet us while the technology takes over. For the next hour the music plays, the ads run, and the show goes on without Jack’s having to take the mic again. We sit together on a beige leather sectional and talk about his career in radio, his love of country and bluegrass music, and his hope and dreams for this small radio station. We’re interrupted briefly as a young musician gives Jack a call to seek air time and they arrange an in-studio interview and later as workmen come in to install insulation - a work in progress.

At present, the station is programming bluegrass mostly on Saturday with some additional tunes interspersed with the country and gospel offerings. At noon on Saturdays WLSC carries Cindy Baucom’s syndicated Knee Deep in Bluegrass program, an IBMA award winning show heard nationwide,. After Baucom’s program, Jack spins three hours of bluegrass programming from 2:00 until 5:00 PM on Saturday afternoons. Plans are afoot for increasing the amount of bluegrass played at the station, and, since there is no other bluegrass outlet in the region, Jack expects to be able to draw an audience for it. For listeners not within WLSC’s signal range, the station streams audio here.

The studio has sufficient space to permit live programming. At present most of the live offerings are local gospel singers who perform and preach from the studio on Sundays and Monday evenings. His plans, however, include a couple of programs which will include live bluegrass programming. “Bluegrass on the Corner” and “Live from Loris” are both in the plan and will be coming soon. Jack is also programming two syndicated segments of western music on Saturdays. Clear out West features Andy and Jim Nelson telling stories and spinning western tunes. Spirit of the West celebrates cowboy life.

Just as we’re preparing to return home, we sight a small space toward the back lined from floor to ceiling with old 45 rpm and 33 1/3 recordings of classic rock, country, and bluegrass. The albums and records are in pristine condition and will provide listeners with hundreds of hours of pleasure re-experiencing music too little played on the radio these days. Original albums by Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Kitty Wells, Flatt & Scruggs and more are there. Jack pulls out albums and records while he excitedly shares his memories of these performers and his love for the music. The décor of his station will feature his collection of recording and radio memorabilia. All in all, Banana Jack Murphy has shown remarkable ambition and ability as he takes a station which had seen better days and prepares it to fill niches where a need exists in his broadcasting area. Bluegrass and country music fans could do much worse than check in on this station as it develops.