On this day in 1952: Collier’s magazine profiles Grady Cole as “Mr. Dixie.” Cole, a homespun announcer who wakes up the Piedmont every morning on WBT, has been Charlotte’s premier celebrity since 1929.
“Cole says he’s still not a professional radio man,” Collier’s notes. “But he snows under all rivals, and his droll news and weather reports bring him $100,000 a year.” His share of the Charlotte audience: 71 percent.
Gov. Kerr Scott is credited with the state’s massive rural road-building program in the early ’50s, but it was Cole who generated popular support with his long-running “Get Farmers Out of the Mud” campaign.
“In my opinion, the way I see it, and I heard it all back then, there was bluegrass before Bill Monroe ever got into bluegrass. There are several tunes we recorded where the banjo sounds like bluegrass. The Morris Brothers also were playin’ like that.
“Bill Monroe wasn’t doin’ any good, let me tell you, until he added a banjo into his group. Then his name was ‘Blue Grass Boys,’ and the name stuck for his music. I give credit to Bill. He probably was the man who made the music faster. But some people say he started it, and some people say we started it.”
— Wade Mainer in a 2000 interview with Tom and Lucy Warlick, authors of “The WBT Briarhoppers: Eight Decades of a Bluegrass Band Made for Radio” (2008)
Mainer, a Weaverville native who recorded prolifically during Charlotte’s heyday as a hub of country music, died Monday at age 104.
On this day in 1956: Bob Raiford, a disc jockey on Charlotte’s WBT, is fired for denouncing on the air the racial beating of Nat King Cole during a concert two days earlier in Birmingham, Ala.