Since 1948, Ralph Epperson's WPAQ radio station in Mount Airy, N.C., has kept old-time gospel, mountain music and bluegrass alive.
Megan Morr/Winston-Salem Journal photo
Radio station owner Ralph Epperson kept the twangy sound of live bluegrass, old-time gospel and mountain music cruising over the airwaves from his North Carolina radio station WPAQ long after other broadcasters had stopped.
Listen to a 1998 'Morning Edition' story on Ralph Epperson and WPAQ
Epperson died Wednesday at age 85. He had fallen in his driveway and suffered a brain injury on May 12.
He was on the air with his regular Saturday program, Blue Ridge Spotlight, less than a week before.
Music from WPAQ
In 1999, Rounder Records released a collection of WPAQ recordings from 1947 to 1950.
'Ole Joe Clark' by the Gurney Thomas Band
'I'm Living Down Here on Borrowed Land' by the Silverton Gospel Harmonizers
'Whoa Mule' by John Will Vipperman and Johnny Vipperman
Ralph Epperson built his station in Mt. Airy, N.C., using bricks and locally hewn beams.
When the station went on the air in 1948, Epperson pledged to feature local talent and to preserve local music. He never broke that pledge.
Today, WPAQ continues broadcasting the traditional music of its community and local news.
NPR newscaster and reporter Paul Brown worked for Epperson and WPAQ in the early and mid-1980s. He shares an appreciation of Epperson, a man he describes as "one of those people with incredible, obsessive focus, someone who believed in service, and believed very deeply in the community of people around him."