Congratulations to WHRV’s host Barry Graham — he recently celebrated his 35th anniversary with WHRO Public Media! Barry hosts Pickin’ on WHRV and Acoustic Highway. He can also often be found at community events where he represents the stations and enjoys meeting listeners.

We recently caught up with him to chat about his years in the radio business — and he shared some incredible behind-the-scenes stories.

What changes have you seen through the years?

The major changes really deal with the advancement of technology in the job. Gone are the cart machines, turntables, reel-to-reels, vinyl and CDs. I can even recall one program we ran each week off of a cassette that was mailed to us by the producer! Also, the tremendous growth in the popularity of public radio. When I began (the actual start date was 1984 for me though it got interrupted with graduate school for a time, but it has been continuous for the past 35 years) — not a lot of people knew about public radio. It was in its infancy, but widely respected by those who had discovered it. Today, public radio is a major player in media.

What do you enjoy most about working in radio?

The best part of my job is knowing that I am continuing in my passion for teaching and educating people about public policy, and important news and events. I taught government in the VB City Public Schools for 30 years and always felt good knowing that I helped kids understand the importance of civics and politics. Here, due to the wealth of news and public affairs programs that I help air each day, I feel like I am still teaching and educating.

What have been the most memorable moments or highlights of your career so far?

Definitely the excitement of launching the second radio station under the leadership of Vianne Webb in 1990 — it was an incredible experience in the years leading up to the launch and helping to craft the new programming and format. Also, working with legends of radio — people I had listened to as a kid. Rollie Bristol, who I remembered from WOWI and WGH, was my all-time favorite announcer and he became a friend. Bill Massie, who had the most incredible announcer voice and delivery I have ever heard, and I continue to work with the greats of radio who never cease to amaze me with their work.

Can you share any behind-the-scenes stories or anecdotes from your time in radio that our listeners might find interesting?

I can share a few! I once stood with an engineer in 75 MPH winds on the roof of the building at 1 a.m. in the middle of a hurricane helping to secure a satellite dish.

Vianne Webb once cajoled me into wearing a Winnie the Pooh costume and appearing at a “Pooh Party” we had here with about 200 kids.

Raymond Jones and I were building shelves in the record library when they started to collapse on us. While I held them up, he ran around the building finding 2x4s to brace them.

Jordan Christie, who is an audio engineer here and has hosted All Things Considered and Morning Edition, and helped to produce the series we aired on Lake Gaston, is a former student of mine from the final year I taught at Kempsville High.

The summer before we launched the new station we had to move the entire vinyl record library upstairs. It numbered in the thousands, and we did it the day the AC went out and the building flooded due to a pipe rupture.

My doctoral dissertation traced the history of WHRO and the role of the station and public media in shaping the arts, education, and policy initiatives of the region. I started at WHRO barely a year after finishing my bachelor’s degree at ODU, 17 years later, I finished my Ph.D., still here.

What role do you believe radio plays in today's media landscape, and how do you see its future?

Radio remains a mainstay in the way we get information and news. People just get it differently today through podcasts and downloads, but people still tune in and still deeply depend on radio. Radio has been able to adapt to a changing dynamic. People want to be informed. They want and need critical news and information, and radio is there to provide it. I see nothing but growth in radio news services in the future.

How do you connect with your audience and build a loyal listener base over the years?

I’m a rarity in Hampton Roads. I am a local - graduated Norview High School and stayed close to home for college at ODU, then I taught locally for three decades. I know the area and I know the feel for the region. I take to heart what people tell me about my music shows and also about the station in general. I also adhere to the concept that public radio truly is a reflection of the local community and is there to serve that constituency. Its programming and outreach always has to have that at the very forefront of its mission.

Congratulations, Barry! And thank you for your 35 years of service!

Barry Graham is the host of Pickin' on WHRV and Acoustic Highway. Read more about him.