WVSP were the call letters. Voices Serving the People was its philosophy. For ten years, from 1976-1986 Warrenton, North Carolina’s hometown radio station, WVSP broadcast a community’s voice, its interests, and its concerns.
As Joshua Davis reported on the University of North Carolina’s Media and the Movement website:
The station devoted its programming to progressive reporting on political and social issues and a wide range of musics, most prominently African American genres like jazz and blues, which rarely received airtime on commercial radio in the 1970s and 1980s South. In addition, WVSP embraced a thoroughly democratic approach to programming by giving any local volunteers willing to put in the requisite time and work the chance to host their own programs.”
Listeners tuned to 90.9 FM, to hear local voices delivering news and music of local and national significance. In this episode, Jeriann King Johnson talks about the significance of this independent, community radio station.
Produced by Joseph O’Connell, with Evan Hatch and Joy Salyers. Underwritten by Resourceful Communities and the North Carolina Folklife Institute
Interview with Jereann King Johnson by Mike Taylor (NC Folk, 2009)
WVSP broadcast recordings courtesy of Media and the Movement, a project at UNC-Chapel Hill documenting journalism, civil rights, and black power in the American South.
Photograph of WVSP DJ from North Carolina Humanities Council.
University of North Carolina’s Media and the Movement
NCHC: New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music
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Sonny Johnson says
I discovered WVSP one Sunday evening in the late 70s, returning to Greenville on 64 East just outside of Spring Hope NC. The signal was fleeting, but I constantly tweaked my tuner to listen to Willie “C” play 50s, 60s and 70s soul (and some blues), most of which was unfamiliar to me and for an ardent (yet exposed primarily to only white chart soul) I was blown away.
At the time, I was an ECU Grad Student, and in the process of building a Recording Studio (eventually to become Audio Arts Recording). I immediately sought the assistance of some VOA buddies who assisted me with construction of a tuned reception tower for the sole purpose of garnishing a decent signal from WVSP (especially for listening to their Blues, Jazz, Soul, and Reggae programming. On Sunday evenings it was not unusual to have 100 plus guests hanging out, dancing and partying while Willie “C” spun discs from his own collection and accepting our requests. On occasion programs were archived (all be it I don’t admit by whom) and as Audio Arts moved forward Lightnin Wells and myself visited the station, and organized blues concerts for the station featuring traditional NC artists Big Boy Henry, and Algia Mae Hinton. In the early 80s Tom Haines, owner of Greenville’s ATTIC club staged a benefit for the fledging station. We produced a four hour program for WVSP and excerpts from this concert can be heard on youtube on the audiomez channel. The impact of this tiny station reached the East Carolina Audience, and was sorely missed when it’s presence faded.
Kenny Foscue says
WVSP was an incredible community radio station that served rural northeastern North Carolina, and for me living in Roanoke Rapids in the late 70’s, a lifeline to great music and politics. The station provided support for black and brown movements in NC. The station was key in getting the word out about the massive PCB road contamination and subsequent organizing to stop the landfill – often cited as the birthplace of the environmental justice movement. As a native to eastern North Carolina, I was honored to be on the station Board, and held down the Sunday jazz program for some time. I have lived in Connecticut now for over 30 years, but will never forget Jim, Valeria, Walter, Jerryann, Cynthia and others who worked there! Also my friend Eddie Davis, a Board member!