Washington resident launches Broadcast Legends series

Published 8:01 pm Tuesday, July 7, 2020

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For the Washington Daily News


They were the stuff of legend — the people and the stories that made North Carolina media memorable.

The day in 1959 that Charlie Gaddy reached into his pocket for a dry marker during a groundbreaking interview and got wrestled to the ground by KGB bodyguards who thought he was about to assassinate Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

The early versions of yard sale broadcasts from which listeners could buy almost anything,  including replacement parts for their backyard stills.

The days when a radio or television station’s call letters were all acronym which meant something specific to the hearts, minds and goals of their owners but were often misinterpreted by out-of-state media groups for whom those acronyms reflected lifestyles very different from the stations’ staff and management.

The fledgling media programming decisions that favored local wrestling shows and aired them in more favorable time slots than those assigned to the Wide World of Sports.

The early days of minority business lending programs for North Carolinians, which became a new start for one African-American recipient who built a single radio station into one of the state’s largest media enterprises.

Now a Washington man is documenting them all for the NC Broadcast Legends project.

“I’ve heard these stories for years. You can’t make these up. It wouldn’t do any good for me to sit down and try to tell their stories. I just had to record them,” said North Carolina broadcasting veteran Mike Weeks, whose 13-part documentary about the beginnings, trials and successes of North Carolina’s broadcast legends premiers Thursday on UNC-TV.

The series took four years to conceive, fund and create. Described as an “intimate, first-person look at North Carolina’s radio and television pioneers,” the series is produced and hosted by Weeks, who spent 15 years in executive management with WITN-TV in Greenville before forming his own marketing and advertising firm in Washington. Weeks said the series explores how 13 “bold, visionary media leaders pushed broadcasting’s boundaries to serve their communities” across the state.

The shows will run weekly from July 9 through Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. on WUNC channels. Also included will be two round-table discussions featuring several of the broadcasters documented in the series. Those pioneers include Jim Goodmon, Don Curtis, Jim Heavner, Carl Venters Jr., Robert Murray “Bob” Horner, Wade Hargrove, Charlie Gaddy, Cullie Tarleton, Bob Harper, Dr. James Carson, Jim Babb, Bill Rollins and George Beasley.

Weeks said the effort is more than simply a series designed for media geeks, but to anyone interested in discovering the role that North Carolina media pioneers have played in their communities, state and nation. He said the broadcasts and on-demand, online streaming built into the format are also supported by a web page at unctv.org/ncbl and a digital archive at ncbroadcastlegends.com — available at no cost to the public.