Stayin’ live: Wayne Bledsoe follows new road

Betsy PickleOpinion, Our Town Arts

Change is hard, except when it isn’t.

On Nov. 6, we passed the 13th anniversary of the day I was liberated from the job I’d had all of my adult life to that point. I wasn’t consulted about it, and unfortunately I had a lot of company as Knoxville’s daily newspaper began divesting itself of journalists and headed into the brave new world of content producers.

Two days earlier, the United States had elected its first biracial president, so the timing by “my” media corporation felt decidedly like a “nyah, nyah” from a sore loser. I felt immediately that a weight had been lifted from my shoulders as I escaped the burden of a newsroom with horrible morale. Out-of-work journalists were a sign of the times.

Yesterday, I saw a Facebook post by my dear friend and former colleague Wayne Bledsoe, who was trapped at the News Sentinel for a few more years than I, valued (not enough) as he was for his coverage of the local music scene. He is about to make a big change of his own. After 18 years of hosting the popular “All Over the Road” show on WDVX, Bledsoe (or as inept publicists once dubbed him, “Wayne Bloodcell”) is leaving to form a new relationship with

RealKnoxvilleMusic is an internet radio station that focuses on musicians and bands based in Knoxville and the surrounding area. You won’t find it on your radio dial, but there is an app, of course.

RKM is the baby of Chris Lamb, a local-music enthusiast and Army veteran who was frustrated that he couldn’t find Knoxville-generated music on terrestrial radio. Since streaming is the way most people listen to music nowadays, he decided to jump on the internet train. RKM was established as a nonprofit in September 2020, playing local music 24/7.

Wayne will be joining a host lineup that already includes Brandon Fulson’s “Serious Honk” at 8 p.m. Tuesdays and “Bass Jam with Will Ross” at 8 p.m. Wednesdays.

Wayne is calling his new show “Miles to Go” (a reference to Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”), but he’s sticking with the “All Over the Road” time slot of midnight Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday.

“I wanted those people who were dedicated listeners to be able to follow me at the same time,” says Wayne, who has a day job at the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee. (Oh, and he was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Liner Notes category with Bradley Reeves for their work on “Arthur Q. Smith: The Trouble With the Truth” in 2018.)

The last “All Over the Road” show will be this Saturday, Nov. 20. “Miles To Go” will debut Saturday, Nov. 27. Wayne also will continue to host “The 6 O’Clock Swerve,” 6 p.m. Thursdays at Barley’s in the Old City, beginning Dec. 2 with Trisha Gene Brady performing. He started that show as a weekly live-music program broadcast on WDVX, but the station had cut it back to 15 minutes of live and the rest available in archives. Barley’s will continue to sponsor, and the Swerve will return to an hourlong program on RKM.

Wayne actually was the second host of “All Over the Road.” Another beloved News Sentinel colleague, Mike Flannagan, created the show in 1998 and built a solid audience before his untimely death in June 2003. Wayne, who had visited “AOR” as a guest when the station had its home in a camper in Norris, was asked to pick up the reins.

“We shared a lot of the same musical taste, and he turned me on to a lot of people,” Wayne says of Mike, a reporter for the News Sentinel who also sometimes contributed music reviews and features. “He turned me on to the Drive-by Truckers before they were big. Same thing with the Replacements.”

Mike Flannagan in front of the old WDVX trailer in Norris (Undated photo by Dan Proctor)

Mike brought a love of music but no radio expertise to “AOR,” and it was appealing, Wayne says.

“I would go up there to be on the show and bring music he had trouble pronouncing,” he says, laughing. “Especially Hawaiian music. One of the things I appreciated was when Mike was on the air and he’d screw up and he’d laugh about it. That’s one of the reasons you loved him so much on the air.”

Wayne was an inexperienced volunteer when he began hosting, as well, but he says flubs are part of the “magic” of live radio.

“I don’t know who said it, but perfection is the enemy of greatness. You just have to not worry about it being perfect, and mess up and have fun.”

Betsy Pickle is a veteran reporter and editor who occasionally likes to share her opinions with KnoxTNToday readers.

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