DALLAS––Gaston College radio station WSGE is celebrating turning the big four-oh.
That’s the word this week from college spokeswoman Stephanie Michael Pickett. And as The Herald’s own noted journalist Wayne Howard recently recalled, he was himself there at WSGE’s beginnings. A veteran disc jockey at WLON in Lincolnton, Howard was crucial to getting WSGE started.
“It was 1979,” he revealed, “when Ken Quick and I wrote the license application for WSGE. Ken had worked at WBTV in Charlotte. When I was asked to help get the college a radio station and create a broadcasting course, which was considered a help if not a prerequisite, I was happy working at WLON at the time, so I declined. But I suggested that Ken might be interested. He and I wrote the license app, and I was, aside from him, the first instructor in the broadcasting course––although not necessarily a very good one! We actually envisioned the station more as a possible local news outlet than as an entertainment source. But that never quite developed. The call letters, WSGE, stood for ‘we serve Gaston educationally.’”
Howard continued that among those who succeeded Quick as department head was Hattie Leeper, better known as “Chatty Hattie” from her days at the now-defunct Charlotte station WGIV 1600-AM.
“I had worked with her there briefly before moving to another Charlotte station and then to Lincolnton,” Howard said.
And as Pickett informed, it was Oct. 27, 1980, when WSGE began broadcasting from its studio on the Dallas Campus. Originally part of Gaston College’s broadcast production and technology department, the now-24-hour, volunteer-based station provided practical training opportunities for students interested in the broadcast industry. The FM station is now known as “your independent music source,” and it covers an area encompassing more than 1.3 million residents. Its signal can be heard in 10 counties. Internet streaming reaches listeners throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Taiwan and many other nations.
WSGE has evolved over its 40 years from a 3,000-watt station that aired blues, rock, big band and even classical music to a 7,500-watt station that features blues and rock as well as alternative country, folk, rhythm and blues, gospel, world music, jazz and original programming in its line-up, as Pickett informed. It’s perhaps best known for its strong commitment to beach and shag music. By last year, WSGE had been recognized six times as the Carolinas Beach Music Awards FM Station of the Year.
In 2011, WSGE received a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This enabled it to add news and information programming from NPR.
Giving back to the community is vital to WSGE’s mission. The station has worked in partnership with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina’s backpack program; has served as an annual media sponsor of the House of Mercy’s Walk for AIDS; and has participated in area festivals, concerts and other non-profit events. And WSGE’s annual “Socks for Seniors” drive collects new socks, gloves and toiletries for people in need during the Christmas season, according to station manager Cathis Hall.
“Thanks to our listeners’ generosity in supporting our ‘Socks for Seniors’ drives over the past seven years,” said Hall, “WSGE has been able to bring a little warmth, comfort and holiday cheer to those who need it the most. We look forward to doing the same this year.”
Listener support is crucial to the success of WSGE’s operations. The station’s current autumn fundraiser has a goal of $70,000 to help WSGE continue to produce and present high-quality, commercial-free programming. Listeners who pledge at levels of $40 and above are eligible for thank-you gifts commemorating WSGE’s 40th anniversary. To donate to WSGE, check out the Website at www.wsge.org and click on “support.”
“WSGE’s commitment to music is unparalleled,” said Hall. “Our mix of music is eclectic, and we are proud to play more Carolina artists than any station in the area. The quality programming we provide would not be possible without our wonderful volunteers and financial contributions from our loyal listeners. In these turbulent times, we appreciate their support more than ever.”