Star power leads to WCU radio series, special prize for Valley Ballyhoo

Above: Kyle McCurry, general manager of WCU’s WWCU-FM, shows off an electric guitar autographed by rock ‘n’ roll star Tommy James. The radio station will give away the guitar during Valley Ballyhoo, the annual welcome-back event for students, scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 19.

Above: Kyle McCurry, general manager of WCU’s WWCU-FM, shows off an electric guitar autographed by rock ‘n’ roll star Tommy James. The radio station will give away the guitar during Valley Ballyhoo, the annual welcome-back event for students, scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 19.

Listeners who enjoy the classic rock ‘n’ roll hits featured on Western Carolina University’s Power 90.5 WWCU-FM radio station are getting a special treat these days, thanks to the persuasive powers of Student General Manager Kyle McCurry.

McCurry, who graduated earlier this year with a degree in communication, returned to Western for a master’s degree in business administration and also hosts a mid-day program on the radio station. He says he got a “wild hair” one day and decided to contact some of the artists whose music he plays to see if they would talk with him and let him share their comments.

They would, and he is. The result is a series of interviews and music airing on the FM station based at Western and serving listeners from Sylva to Asheville.

“One of my all-time favorite artists is Jimmy Hall, founding member and original lead singer of the Wet Willie band,” McCurry said, so that’s where he started calling. Eventually, he set up his first two interviews, one with himself and Hall chatting about classic rock; another with Power 90.5’s C.B. Roy talking with Hall about his new blues album, “Build Your Own Fire.” With a combination of Hall’s remarks and music, McCurry launched his new series and continued his quest for comments from classic-rock stars.

“You’ve got to make it professional. You don’t let your ‘fan’ emotions overwhelm you. It’s got to be conversational, informative, something your listeners will want to hear,” McCurry said.

Next, McCurry shared a conversation with Tommy James, a songwriter who earned 23 gold singles and nine platinum and gold albums through the 1980s. James became the first artist to have two of his songs, performed by different singers, compete for the No. 1 spot on the Billboard chart and then follow each other to the top, McCurry said.

Not only did James agree to be interviewed, but, through his publicist, he also donated an autographed guitar for the radio station to give away as a promotional item during Valley Ballyhoo, the annual welcome-back event for students, scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 19.

Next on McCurry’s list are Eddie Money, an ’80s rocker, and Roger Earl of rock group Foghat.

This is not the first time McCurry has reached out to touch famous people. Back at North Buncombe High School, faced with a history assignment and a tip that the school in Weaverville had been built on the site of an old speedway, McCurry tracked down drivers who had raced there, including Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson and Richard Petty.

“Nobody believed I could get access to those people without press credentials or anything,” McCurry said. He kept calling until he got both access and videotaped interviews with all three. After that, for a different project, he talked by phone with ABC White House correspondent Ann Compton and MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski. “I got an A on those assignments,” McCurry said, with a laugh.

The secret of his success? Some would call it a combination of enthusiasm and good luck. Some would call it chutzpah. Veteran artist Hall says it’s the result of McCurry’s initiative and hard work.

“You’re always on the money, and you do your homework. That means a lot to us to talk to somebody who knows what they’re talking about,” Hall said to McCurry after several conversations.

To hear the rest of Hall’s comments and interviews with McCurry’s other guests, go to WWCU-FM, the broadcast service of Western, at www.wwcufm.com.