Julie Brown, bassist with Bluegrass Experience and Hindsight Bluegrass, is the new host for eastern North Carolina Bluegrass Saturday Night on Sanford’s WLHC and Sharpsburg’s WLQC Life 103.1 FM stations. Airing every Saturday night from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET, Brown took the helm to continue the radio show’s 16-year legacy. Brown’s host and longtime friend, Tommy Edwards, a talented musician, songwriter, and bluegrass historian from Siler City, NC, passed away on May 22, 2021. After nearly a year of repeating Edwards’ classic weekend shows, was it approached Brown to host the show. She reluctantly worked as an innkeeper, but after some persuasion, she recently agreed to take the two-hour-weekly position on a permanent basis.
Julie, wife of noted banjo picker Stan Brown, recalled her relationship with her predecessor as a radio host. “I first met Tommy around 1996. Stan and I were dating and we often saw Tommy and his wife Cindy. We talked about music and became good friends but never picked together. Then, on a Thursday, Tommy wanted me to step in and play bass with his band, The Bluegrass Experience, that weekend. I agreed but had never met any of the other guys in his band. By the time the night was over I felt like I’d known her forever. After that gig, I was called up to play bass many more times.”
Julie is from Angier and grew up attending bluegrass festivals. Banjo became her first bluegrass instrument.
“I got back into bluegrass right out of college when Dad was learning the banjo. I knew music, so I thought I could help him. That I sparked my interest in gaming. I played in a band with Stan’s father Odell for several years before I met Stan. His dad is the first one that got me interested in bass.”
In 1998, Julie switched to bass when she married Stan.
“We didn’t need two banjo players in the house, and he was a lot better than me, so the bass became my main instrument.”
Two years later, her husband became a full-time member of the Bluegrass Experience when Edwards’ banjo player Donald Beane passed away. Stan has remained in that position ever since. Julie became the band’s bassist after their bassist Snuffy Smith retired following the death of Edwards. Making music came first for Julie, and working as a disc jockey came much later.
“I remember when Tommy took the radio job (for WLHC/WLQC). We were on our way to a gig when he told us about it. It would never have occurred to me to do such a thing! I hadn’t thought about it the day he died.”
But Julie had the credentials to be a radio personality.
“I like to talk and have never met a stranger. After Tommy died, Buddy Michaels (Hometown Festival radio host) called and asked if I could do the show.”
After interviewing friends who absolutely believed in his idea, she agreed to become an innkeeper Bluegrass Saturday Night to test the water.
“I thought Julie would do a great job,” Michaels said. “She knows what she’s talking about. I had to push her, but now the bug bit her. She is unstoppable. She plans her shows.”
Julie enjoyed the challenge. “After two months, I got a permanent job. I choose all the music.”
The new DJ then had an epiphany.
“I realized that I never learned the titles of many songs! I know the first line, the melody or the theme, but not the right title. I could tell you the color of the CD and the number of the song on the album, but I didn’t know the title of the CD or the song. This made it difficult to find the songs I was looking for to play on the show!”
She also had to get acquainted with some technologies of the radio station.
“First I had to learn what was in their database and how to search everything. I added a lot of music. I love putting together my own playlist.”
A talented musician in her own right, Julie has an eclectic taste in bluegrass tunes.
“I like playing traditional songs, but I love a lot of the newer songs and also go ‘out of the box’. I keep it messed up.”
Julie also involves the bluegrass music community in her weekly shows, interviewing key players like Tim Stafford, promoting local shows and performing tunes by regional artists, including the show’s popular namesake Tommy Edwards. He would be happy about their format.
Bluegrass Saturday Night can be heard every Saturday from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET on WLHC (and WLQC) 103.1 FM. You can also listen online via live stream.