Monday, April 6, 2015

On Air with Dennis Jones at WNCW-FMS

On Saturday, a bright, chilly morning of Easter weekend, we drove from our campsite in Shelby, NC a few miles west to Spindale, a wonderfully emblematic name for the home of WNCW, the primary radio choice for music lovers in Western North Carolina. From its transmitter atop Mt. Mitchell, the highest point on the east coast, and from translators in Wilkesboro, Charlotte, and Boone in North Carolina and Greenville in South Carolina, the station can be heard. The station can be heard in portions of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee and Georgia, and is streamed live on the Internet. WNCW carries an enormous range of contemporary and roots music, a range perhaps not available in broadcast form anywhere else. In its Studio B the station hosts live performances by a host of bands from a range of contemporary and traditional genres. 

Dennis Jones

Dennis Jones came to WNCW in 1993 as a volunteer after many years on the road as a sound man and engineer for major bands. Born and raised in Boiling Springs, NC, working for WNCW seemed a natural for him. Soon WNCW hired him as audio engineer mixing live performance/interview programs as well as coordinating other special projects. Dennis became host/producer/programmer for the Sunday gospel music program "The Gospel Truth," which runs from 6:00 until 10:00 AM on Sunday mornings. He added production responsibilities for the Saturday morning bluegrass program "Going Across the Mountain," an eight hour bluegrass program, which he also hosts for a three hour block. He now also serves as the station's  Technical Director/Chief Operator overseeing engineering at the studios in Spindale and at the transmitter/translator sites. Dennis invited us to appear on Going Across the Mountain during the 1:00 to 2:oo PM time period. 

We arrived early at the station to find the campus of Isothermal Community College nearly empty and all the doors to building 14 where WNCW is housed, locked. After a couple of quick texts brought us to the correct door, Dennis rolled out to let us in. We chatted for a while as he quickly and skillfully fed CDs into their slots, pushed buttons, adjusted sound levels, announced the names of songs and performers, and read public service announcements from organizations providing support for the station. He warned me of a couple of FCC regulations to observe, especially the "call to action," that is, saying things like "visit my blog" or "come to my You Tube channel." By the time he introduced me, I was completely at ease and ready to have a chat with him, all anxiety about "being interviewed" on the radio, talking to perhaps 100,000 people had disappeared. It was just the three of us in the studio. 

Our conversation ranged over how I had come to bluegrass music and we had become "Bluegrass Vagabonds," as he referred to us. Dennis asked about our current travels, where we were headed next, what events we particularly enjoyed and which band, in all the history of bluegrass, we thought we'd like to see live. It was a wide-open, unrehearsed conversation...lots of fun, I hope for both of us. Irene chimed in, quietly, from the side, when I had trouble remembering a person's name or a place. She also took the pictures in this post. The hour went by all too quickly, and it was over.

The WNCW CD Library

Dennis Jones & Me

We've known Dennis Jones for some years, but have not seen him much recently. This visit gave us a wonderful opportunity to spend time with him in one of his native habitats. Studio B, which we visited a few years ago, and bluegrass festivals, where he often serves as a highly sought after emcee, are two others. We look forward to our next meeting with him.