PineCone Bluegrass Radio Show Celebrates 25 Years on Air, Partnership with WQDR

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This year (2014) marks the PineCone Bluegrass Radio Show's 25th anniversary - the show has been airing weekly on 94.7 WQDR since Jan. 29, 1989!

Logo for radio station 94.7 QDR - Today's Best CountryThe show's co-hosts, Larry Nixon and Tim Woodall, started spinning bluegrass on QDR at the station's request. PineCone, a fledgling organization at the time, was becoming well known for its concert series at the Raleigh Little Theatre. "At that time, we were the only organization in the area promoting acoustic and traditional music," Nixon said in an article published in Bluegrass Unlimited in 2001*. "WQDR had been getting requests for bluegrass but didn't know much about it, so their management came to us to see ifwe had any ideas. Bill Willis, who was then PineCone president, was in the band Patchwork with Tim Woodall. He knew of Tim's interest in radio and introduced us. I knew I wouldn't be able to do a show every week so Woodall and I talked it over and decided we could alternate. WQDR was and is the top country station in the market and we were very excited to have the opportunity to start a bluegrass program which would reach such a large audience."

A quarter-century later, Nixon and Woodall are still co-hosting the popular program, which has been #1 in its timeslot, according to ratings agency Arbitron, since its very early days. The first broadcast was on January 29, 1989, and the show quickly gained a loyal following. Soon, the show was expanded from two to three hours and claimed the top position in the ratings for its time slot. It has been there ever since.

"PineCone Bluegrass Radio Show always makes my Sundays, & reminds me of NC (mountains) no matter how far away I am," wrote Cattie Grace, a Raleigh resident and listener (via Twitter).

Getting the show up and running took some time and outside assistance. Penny Parsons and Barry Poss of Sugar Hill Records donated many records, as did Record Bar (which later became part of Wherehouse Music). Between those two labels, Nixon and Woodall were able to establish the core of their library.

Today, QDR livestreams the PineCone Bluegrass Show live on their website, 947qdr.com, in addition to its terrestrial broadcast, so listeners around the world can tune in to the PineCone Bluegrass Show live every Sunday night from 6-9 p.m. EST, no matter where they are, and bluegrass musicians from around the world submit their CDs, seeking airplay on the ever-popular program.

In the show's early days, QDR had a board operator to run things while Nixon and Woodall announced, answered the phone, and decided what records to play. It was that way for about a year, and then the volunteer deejays started handling everything themselves. And both Nixon and Woodall continue to take requests during the live show at 919-860-9470 between 6 and 9 p.m. EST.

"The PineCone Bluegrass Show on QDR--it's a fun celebration--25 years of playing the music that makes our country great. It's one of my favorite Sunday night traditions!" said Lisa McKay, VP of Programming with Curtis Media."I do love the texture three hours of bluegrass brings to QDR."

For those who can't tune in on Sundays, PineCone staff compiles a weekly Spotify playlist of music from each week's show. This playlist includes all the songs from the show that were available in the Spotify database when the playlist was created. (Unfortunately, not all the songs played on the show are available on Spotify. If the album listed is not available on Spotify, but another version of the song by the same band is, that particular song will be included.) The most recent playlist is listed in full on both the QDR website and the PineCone website. PineCone also maintains a playlist archive going back six months.

In the 2001 Bluegrass Unlimited article about the show, Woodall explained why having two hosts sharing one program gives the PineCone Bluegrass Show its own special kind of spin. "Nixon and I have different tastes in bluegrass--there are things he likes to play which I don't and vice versa so I'm convinced that between the two of us some music gets on the air which wouldn't otherwise. If you listen every week you're bound to hear something you like." Nixon has a couple of his own unique theme shows, as well. After tabulating all the requests from his programs, he presents the results in a Top 10 Requests countdown and a Top Ten Bluegrass Unlimited (BU) countdown at the end of each year. The PineCone Bluegrass show is a charter voting participant in both the Bluegrass Unlimited (BU) and the Bluegrass Today (BT) national polls, which rank the popularity of new bluegrass song releases.

Nixon has received multiple nominations in the Bluegrass Deejay of the Year category by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA), most recently in 2012. That same year, WQDR was nominated for Bluegrass Radio Station of the Year by the SPBGMA.

Both deejays are also pickers. Woodall began learning guitar at age 10 but later, through the influence of the Flatt & Scruggs and Porter Wagoner TV shows, found himself drawn to the banjo and pedal steel guitar. He now plays banjo with the popular bluegrass group The Grass Cats and is co-writer of "Together We Can't Go Wrong" sung by Rhonda Vincent on Mark Newton's CD Follow Me Back to the Fold. After starting on banjo at 12, Nixon played guitar in several folk and beach music groups through college and is now singer and guitarist with his country/folk trio Nixon, Blevins, & Gage. However, adhering to the maxim of bluegrassers everywhere, the two have not given up their day jobs.

Woodall and Nixon concur, "It has been a pleasure working with PineCone and WQDR for the past 25 years, playing, promoting and presenting Bluegrass Music to the people of North Carolina. It's not every day you have the opportunity to help create a radio show such as 'The PineCone Bluegrass Show,' especially on a 100,000 watt FM station...much less for it to last 25 years! Thanks to all of the hard work of the countless people of PineCone, past and present, the staff, members and volunteers, and everybody at Curtis Media over the years for helping make the radio show possible. We want to personally thank Lisa McKay for all she has done at WQDR to promote the show and Don Curtis for supporting us all these years. Thank you big time to the listeners that tune in every week. We have enjoyed sharing the microphone every other Sunday evening at 6:00PM for the last 25 years! Please join PineCone to help this tradition continue for many years to come!"

*Excerpts from the article "The PineCone Bluegrass Show", published in Bluegrass Unlimited, May 2001. Ben Runkle joined PineCone in 1985 and has been a member ever since. He was President of PineCone's Board of Directors from 1996 to 1998.

Learn more about the PineCone Bluegrass Radio Show