Anyone interested in learning about Warren County’s musical culture would do well to talk to Sherman Johnson. A longtime DJ with an encyclopedic knowledge of music, Johnson explains that his life and work in the region were “predestined.” Following his graduation in the mid-1970s from the Carolina School of Broadcasting in Charlotte––the city where he was raised–– Johnson interviewed for a position at Warrenton’s WARR 1520 AM. Arriving in the small community in 1977, he explains, “was a culture shock.”
Johnson was offered the morning slot on WARR and moved to Warrenton. There, he found a vibrant musical scene, with both WARR and Warrenton’s WVSP catering to a diverse public hungry for traditional gospel, country, blues, R&B, and the contemporary sounds of the day. Warren County also boasted a number of clubs—including the Starlite Palace and Club 43—where young people could gather, listen to music, and dance. Eventually, Johnson began to think of Warren County as home and became one of the most prominent advocates for the cultural life of the region. “I was coming here to hone my skills and then move on to ‘bigger and better,’” he explains. Johnson has now been in Warren County for more than 30 years.
After some time away from the microphone at WARR, Johnson was lured back to host “The Show,” a community-based, socially conscious talk radio program that he developed to celebrate Warren County. “This is ours,” he explains. “The community is who owns the radio waves.”
“I decided to accentuate the positive. We go out and we find people who are from here who have done great things; we bring them on and we talk about how they became successful. We want to let our kids know that there is hope out there. There are opportunities here. Sometimes you have to make your own.”
Johnson remains, first and foremost, an enthusiastic fan of music. “There are times when I feel like nobody knows me, and I can hear songs that express what I'm feeling,” he explains. “I can see and feel myself in music in a way that you can only hope that somebody else would see what it is that you're feeling or going through.”