Host Profile: Don Harrison

Name: Don Harrison

Radio Name: DJ A. Larry Bethesda, Uncle Beatdown

Show: Radio Wowsville, Sundays, 11 p.m. – 1 a.m.

Day Job: Writer, Journalist. I also host a  news-talk show on Richmond’s WRIR 97.3 FM called Open Source RVA.

How long have you been a host at WTJU? Since 1995 (or 1996)

Why did you become a WTJU host?
I fell in love with the station while visiting my future wife, Tina, who got a job in Charlottesville. After we got married, and I moved to town from Hampton Roads, the Virginian Pilot newspaper published an article that announced my imminent departure from that area. One of my quotes was that I hoped to get a music show on WTJU. So I basically loved the station so much that I stalked it.

Why should someone tune into your show in particular?
The objective is to take late night listeners on a journey through all kinds of sound. One never knows what to expect and that’s part of the fun.

Tell us about one of your biggest gaffs while in the studio:
When WTJU moved to its new studio, and I had yet to learn the ins and outs of our new board and equipment, my first show was an unmitigated disaster of dead air, flustered announcing and missed cues. I’ve never felt more helpless, on or off the air (I got better).

Favorite moments in the air studio?
It’s been terrific to have my daughter Olivia co-host with me from time to time––she’s 19 now and has been sitting in since she was eight. I’ve also been blessed with incredible collaborators and co-hosts over the years: Tyler Broadcasting System, Dan “Front” Poarch, Colin “Brother Breakdown” Powell, Davis Salisbury and my first co-host, Chuck Adcock. I currently do the show with the talented Rick Clark, who keeps me on my toes by setting a very high bar every time he programs a set. It’s nice when you can be a fan of your own radio show.

If you could interview anyone on air, dead or alive, who would it be?
As a journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to interview many famous musicians, from Dolly Parton to Alice Cooper to Ralph Stanley to Chuck D. But I’m one of many to question those legends. I’d love to talk to figures  never properly interviewed during their lifetime––like Stephen Foster, Charlie Poole or Robert Johnson.

What are your guilty pleasures?
Radio Wowsville is like an aggressive defense attorney. We feel that our so-called guilty pleasures are completely innocent and have been unduly charged.

How has it felt being a radio host during this pandemic?
I’ve never felt more of a connection with our listeners, who seem grateful to have us as a resource during these challenging times.

What are your passions outside of music?
Too many to list. But BBQ, basketball and the beach would just about cover my “B”s.

Why does WTJU matter?
In this time of algorithms and narrowcasting, it’s like an oasis in a barren desert.

How have you seen WTJU change in your time here? 
In my view, the old WTJU seemed reticent to shine a spotlight on itself––perhaps out of self preservation. There’s more outreach now, more promotion, and more community connection. We have the podcast network, sister station WXTJ, increased live performances and community events. WTJU is so much more than a single radio station now.

Would you rather be trapped in an elevator with a banjo player, a bagpipes player, or an accordion player? Can’t I have all three? I can join in on kazoo.

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