Buddy Michaels, a 40-year Friend of Bluegrass

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Buddy Michaels, Longtime Friend of Bluegrass

by Shelby C. Berry

Specific memories in life center around music, moments listening to the radio with family, or hearing a favorite artist for the first time. But alongside the artists who made lasting impressions in our lives were the deejays playing those artists on our favorite radio stations. Deejay Buddy Michaels stands out among them.

Based in North Carolina, Buddy Michaels has radio broadcasted for 45 years, working with genres from rock and country to gospel and bluegrass. Thirty-five of those years, he focused on bluegrass. 

“Around 7 or 8, I remember seeing Flatt & Scruggs on TV. I’ve been hooked on bluegrass ever since. I remember they had a really unique sound,” said Buddy.

“I started deejaying at 19 years old, and now I’m 66. All I’ve ever done is radio,” said Buddy.

Currently, Buddy hosts his syndicated bluegrass show Hometown Festival on four networks—WBAG in Burlington, WKRX in Roxboro, WLJC Life 103.1, and WLQC—featuring traditional and contemporary bluegrass music, including local North Carolina talent. He blends folk with bluegrass to create an enjoyable radio experience for his listeners. In February, he’s adding a fifth radio show of classic country music on WPTF every weekend in Raleigh.

In addition to his deejay duties, Buddy emcees local festivals such as MerleFest, Bass Mountain Festival, and PreddyFest. Buddy loves the bluegrass scene, but that love surpasses the music.

In 1973, he made his deejay debut and in 1978 steered into bluegrass on Burlington’s WPCM-FM.

In addition to his deejay duties, Buddy emcees local festivals such as MerleFest, Bass Mountain Festival, and PreddyFest. Buddy loves the bluegrass scene, but that love surpasses the music.

“It’s more than just a job,” said Buddy. “It’s the friendships that I really value.”

He has worked with Bill Monroe, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, Larry Sparks, The Seldom Scene, and Sonny and Bobby Osborne, as well as Ricky Skaggs, Doyle Lawson, Alison Krauss, and Third Tyme Out. Recently, he was nominated for Bluegrass DJ of the Year for the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Awards.

Enjoy more of this Bluegrass Standard chat with Buddy.

The Bluegrass Standard (BGS): What drew you to deejaying and bluegrass?

Buddy Michaels (BM): When I was about 10 years old, I listened to my small radio, and I’d take it to bed with me. I’d listen to the big AM stations like WSM for the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry got me excited about radio. I heard this cat named Bill Monroe, and I got really excited about bluegrass music. I’ve always liked all types of music. My dad got me a job out of high school working as a watchman, so I listened to the radio all night long, and I would call up the deejays. I’d talk to them and thought it was such a neat job. Every deejay told me the same thing – don’t do it! They said there was no money in it, but I still did it because it’s what I wanted to do!

With Jamie Dailey

BGS: How have things changed since COVID-19?

BM: I had started working from home prior to COVID because of health issues. I have my studio at home. I even know deejays that record from their laptops at festivals. I never have to leave my home if I don’t want to. Technology really helps. But I do usually emcee festivals every year that I didn’t get to do. Now with the vaccine, hopefully, that will work and there is hope for festivals to maybe begin again.

BGS: What’s yet to come for you as a deejay?

BM: I’ve done so much, so I just want to continue doing what I’m doing. I don’t know if I’d want to do more than four or five shows a week. I’m pretty excited about the new country show! I haven’t played that music in a long time. It will focus on people that have done country but also bluegrass like Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs.

You can’t forget the legends, but you have to introduce the listener to the new artists.

With The Bankesters

BGS: As a deejay, what drives you most about bluegrass?

BM: Well, bluegrass is totally different than country or rock. The artists are accessible. There are artists in this business that I’ve known and been friends with for 40 years. It makes a difference when you can call up your friend and chat. There’s a personal touch to it. And bluegrass artists don’t live and die by the charts. Pat Enright, one of the lead vocalists for the Nashville Bluegrass Band, asked me if I play the chart or if the chart plays me. If I don’t feel like a song is that great, I may not play it. If it’s in the Top 10, I’ll definitely play it though. I need to play what the listeners want to hear. I may pick something different than IBMA picks.

BGS: Tell us about a favorite artist you interviewed.

BM: There are so many artists that I love and love to talk with. Blue Highway, Lonesome River Band, The Seldom Scene, Becky Buller, Valerie Smith, and Steve Dilling with Sideline and formerly Third Tyme Out. I’ve probably interviewed Steve more than anyone. He lives just up the road from me. Some of these people, I don’t just interview – we become friends. We talk and text, and we get to be real friends.

With The SteelDrivers

I’ve always said this – I enjoy the new groups as much as the legends. I put an emphasis on the new acts because they are the future. 

Find Buddy on his new radio show reaching from Maine to Miami, Florida on WPTF in Raleigh, North Carolina beginning in February every Saturday and Sunday night from 6 pm to midnight.

(Header: Buddy Michaels with Ashlee Blankenship)