Ralph Epperson: Beloved Voice of the Blue Ridge

Since 1948, Ralph Epperson's WPAQ radio station has kept old-time music alive i i

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 hide caption

itoggle caption Megan Morr/Winston-Salem Journal photo
Since 1948, Ralph Epperson's WPAQ radio station has kept old-time music alive

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.

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.

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."

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