EGG: What led you to create WDVX?
Interview with Tony Lawson
Tony Lawson: WDVX definitely has been a dream of mine for quite some time. When my son was born back in the mid-80s, I wanted to move back home to east Tennessee. And I moved back and it just felt like something was missing here. It just didn't feel right. I was just talking with some friends of mine and they said why not? And it was a little scary at first but we managed to put a plan together and have since been on the air now for four years.
EGG: What was the east Tennessee radio scene like before WDVX?
TL: Well, we were living in east Tennessee but we could have been living anywhere. I mean if you turned the radio on, you really couldn't get a feel of any kind of regionalism at all. The commercial stations were all just programmed basically by consultants outside the market, not reflecting the region. The public radio station here was mainly classical music, hardly any of the roots music that came from Appalachia. And it just felt like we were living in east Tennessee but we could have been anywhere at the time. It seemed like for a long time, we ran away from our heritage here in east Tennessee. That was just the feeling that I got when I moved back.
EGG: How has that changed now?
TL: It seemed that way in the 80s and even in the 90s -- everything got to be so generic. You had your big super center department store and the smaller hardware stores were leaving towns and drugstores and lots of things were losing their character. And I think that it was tough to see that regionalism coming out of folks. But you can go out now to east Tennessee on any given weekend, and go to a Bluegrass Festival, go to a live music show, go to a craft show, and you know you're in east Tennessee and it's a great thing. And I think the culture of east Tennessee is very attractive. A lot of folks travel for miles and miles to come to see some of the things that are native to this area.
EGG: How did you wind up using a camper as the home of your radio station?
TL: We were looking for a place to put the radio station -- for a studio. We didn't have any money. I'd done some things with the campground a few years previous with the Bluegrass Festival. I went to Bob Moore, the campground director and said, "Bob, have you ever thought of having thought of having a radio station in this campground." And he said," No, I don't think I have." And I said, "Well, we have a radio station and I really need a place to put it. It needs to reach this mountaintop over here and from here we can do that." And he said, "Well, do you have a camper? No. And then he says, "Well, I've one down here, I don't know whether it's going to be big enough or not, but I'll show it to you." And he took me down and showed me the camper, and I said, "This is plenty big enough. And the next day he pulled it up and we put the radio station in the camper. And that was a great launching point for WDVX. I can't say enough about it. It's great to have a nice little cozy place to feel secure.
EGG: Do you ever think about moving to another location -- maybe a bigger place to call home?
TL: We've had offers to go to other places. I want to go somewhere that feels right and to me the main thing is our autonomy -- to be able to do things that we do, and continue to do them well. We know the day's coming when it's going to bust wide open. We're going to have to find another place. My vision for the camper is maybe taking it to some of these festivals and using it as a remote broadcast unit where we can because it's very recognizable now. And using it in that form but, yes, we are looking for a bigger place to call home and a place where we can operate more efficiently.
EGG: How did you make your dream of having this station become a reality?
TL: I had always dreamed about starting a radio station like WDVX. Having no money to start with was a problem, but finding people who share the same vision really it's a thing of strength in numbers, and being able to have a wonderful team to do that, that's what's brought this thing about. The things we do today, something of the things I never envisioned, like the web-casts and being able to reach the entire world. Being able to go out to festivals and broadcast live -- that's been a great thing. Don Burggraf is our engineer and he does such an incredible job donating his time and talent to help make those kinds of things possible. Having musicians come by and play at the studio at the camper is just a wonderful treat. And the staff we have working together -- it's beautiful. It didn't happen overnight. It's happened in time. But it's definitely a dream come true now, and everything takes on its own life. So, it's a beautiful thing right now.
EGG: Who is your main audience?
TL: A very important thing with WDVX and how we approach east Tennessee is the balance and that is the balance between rural and urban. We have a lot of folks that we reach in the country, and folks we reach in the city, and that's where we've always tried to strike a balance with our programming. We have a lot of lawyers and doctors that listen to us that work in the city, and we have a lot of farmers who listen to us in the country and a lot of just folks that live in the country out here in east Tennessee; it's a beautiful place. The balance to us is the most striking thing, what we try to keep in mind.
EGG: How does WDVX compare to other places you've worked and the other stations available today?
TL: I had to make a living, so I had to work in stations that were basically corporate stations and there's really hardly any input from announcers as far as the creativity goes. It was mainly from consultants outside the area. Now, as radio stations are growing, they've gotten even more corporate. We have three corporations, in some instances, owning all the commercial radio stations in a market. WDVX is the only outlet really for the region without the corporate radio or without the large university radio station. I believe we're the only grassroots radio station in east Tennessee that has a door open to the people and I feel very, very good about that.