Dunmore, WV – Allegheny Mountain Radio staff, volunteers and board members held their annual dinner at the Dunmore Community Center on a recent Sunday afternoon. Following a sumptuous supper, the board recognized an exceptional volunteer for his contributions to the radio network.
The board presented the 2011 STAR award to Willie Smith for outstanding service to the AMR network and his community. The STAR award is the Steve Terry Area Resource award, named for the late Steve Terry who was a devoted volunteer at AMR. It’s given to an individual each year in recognition of their contribution to the community radio stations.
Smith, aka DJ Willie, hosts two Monday evening programs on AMR – the Rockin’ Country Show and The Bluegrass Hour. He also takes turns with Uncle Norris hosting a TGIF Bluegrass show on Friday afternoons at 2pm. Smith coordinates the annual AMR Bath Bluegrass Jamboree and has assisted with several AMR projects for more than 12 years. Smith says he volunteers at AMR to make good things happen.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I’m honored to get it and appreciate everybody thinking about me. I try to make good things happen and I think that’s what that award’s all about.”
DJ Willie, who plays bass, began performing with his father and the Valley Hayriders 30 years ago at the Dunmore Community Center, where he received the award on Sunday. During his acceptance speech, Smith spoke with emotion about his late father and the good times they had while performing. Smith recalls that WVMR DJ Gibbs Kinderman broadcast Valley Hayrider performances.
“There at Dunmore, at the Community Center, is a special place,” he said. “Gibbs used to come up there with a recorder and tape the square dances and actually used to put them on the air, back in ’81, and my dad was a part of them square dances with the Valley Hayriders. It’s a great place to receive the award.”
DJ Willie says he was long-time listener before becoming a DJ.
“We listened to the station in the early days, when I grew up in Highland – the AM side,” he said. “In ’99, I got interested – because I was listening to the radio station – interested in being a DJ. So, I went to Allegheny Mountain Radio and, in January 2000, I started on the air.”
Following his father’s death, Smith continued to perform country music and was inspired when he listened to a bluegrass CD.
“I played for square dances, but we had a round-dance band, old country, some new country, at that time,” he said. “A whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on – some rock, too. We had a drummer in the band. I never really had a bluegrass band. But they sent me a choicest picks CD and it actually introduced me to bluegrass.”
“I was going to do an all-country show and, just as soon as I heard that, I said, ‘I gotta do a bluegrass show’ and within a couple, three weeks, I started The Bluegrass Hour and I actually formed the band, 22 South.”
220 South became a popular regional band and released their Highway of Tradition CD in 2005. The group broke up in 2007 and DJ Willie formed a new group – Southern Rail Express. Smith says the future looks bright for AMR, especially if it can expand its broadcast capabilities.
“The future looks great for Allegheny Mountain Radio,” he said. “I think we need to take care of what we got, right now, because times are pretty tough. There’s a lot of people asking for the streaming, out here, where they can listen to the radio.”
“A lot of people have moved away from the area. I’m a big Facebook person. I met back up with some people I graduated with – friends that are in Florida, Texas, even California. They said, ‘man, we’d love to listen to the radio station online.’ I’d really love to see that happen.”
The DJ says he looks forward to many more years with AMR.
“I do enjoy being with Allegheny Mountain Radio,” he said. “I’ve been there for 12 years and hope to continue on for many more years.”
DJ Willie and Southern Rail Express will be performing during the Highland Maple Festival on Saturday, March 17, from 2-3:30 p.m, at the Highland Center in Monterey. The group will also perform at the Bath Bluegrass Jamboree on Saturday, April 21 at 6 p.m. at the Bath County High School Auditorium. For more information, call WCHG at 540-839-5400.