In Knoxville, WDVX is bluegrass.
WDVX began broadcasting in 1997 from a trailer in a campground in Norris, Tennessee, about 18 miles northeast of Knoxville. In an interview with PBS during the station’s early years, manager Tony Lawson reminisced about the station’s humble start: “We were looking for a place to put the radio station–for a studio. We didn’t have any money.”
Lawson said he approached a friend who ran a campground in Norris, and the conversation went something like this: “‘Bob, have you ever thought of having a radio station in this campground?’ And he said, ‘No I don’t think I have.’ And I said, ‘Well, we have a radio station and I really need a place to put it. It needs to reach this mountaintop over here and from here we can do that.’ And he said, ‘Well, do you have a camper?’ ‘No,’ I said. And then he said, ‘Well, I’ve got one down here. I don’t know whether it’s going to be big enough or not, but I’ll show it to you.’ And he took me down and showed me the camper, and I said, ‘This is plenty big enough.’”
In 2004 the station set up shop in the Knoxville Visitor’s Center at the corner of Gay Street and Summit Hill. The Blue Plate lunchtime concerts began soon after.
In the February 23, 2006, issue of Metro Pulse, Jack Neely wrote, “The live music show broadcast locally on the air and internationally on the Web is also free to downtowners on their lunch breaks. Some bring their lunches; others buy $6 box lunches prepared by Calhoun’s. The lineup is different every day, sometimes a local unknown, sometimes a major recording star accustomed to playing large auditoriums, but the music usually involves a fiddle or a guitar or both.
“The lunchtime broadcast is barely a year-and-a-half old, but as a uniquely Knoxvillian institution known far and wide, it’s beginning to rival the Body Farm. There are rumors that there may be two or three radio stations elsewhere that still broadcast live performers before a live audience, but it’s safe to say there’s nothing very much like the Blue Plate anywhere in the world.” The station has a growing list of accolades:
- WDVX was named Bluegrass Radio Station of the Year in 2003, 2005, and 2007.
- Knoxville Tourism Alliance recognized the Blue Plate Special as the Attraction of the Year at its annual awards luncheon in 2006.
- In August 2005, the Oxford American, a journal of Southern culture, called WDVX “probably the best radio station in the world.”