A Brief History of The Backyard Barbecue
Hey WXYC Tumblr readers, this is Julianna. I coordinate WXYC’s weekly local music show, The Backyard Barbecue. One thing that my guests always ask is “What’s the deal with your radio show’s name?” — and until pretty recently, I didn’t know how to answer that question. So, I did some interviewing off the air and this is what I found out:
The first person I contacted was Bill Burton (natch), WXYC’s first station manager. He told me that The Backyard Barbecue was started in 1988 or 1989, which makes this show about 24 years old! I also contacted a former Backyard Barbecue coordinator, Kevin Wetter, who intermittently hosted the show between 1997 and 2000. He said I should talk to Glenn Boothe, who now owns Local 506 in Chapel Hill:
Me: I’m curious about why this show is named “The Backyard Barbecue” — whenever guests come on, they always ask about the name, but I never know what to say!
Glenn: In honesty, I don’t exactly remember although I know I did initially suggest Aunt Bea’s Backyard Barbecue (in honor of The Andy Griffith Show) but something else probably inspired that… but I think when I tossed that out, someone else just said “What about The Backyard Barbecue?”
Although the show was my idea, I did wrangle in Frank Heath (who owns the Cradle) and Steve Balcom (who had been the Music Director at WXYC before me and was then working at Mammoth Records) to co-host and so the three of us did it until I moved out of town. I think the three of us were actually having a brainstorming session for a name (and I think we had a deadline of that day!) and someone probably suggested “Backyard” as I think we were just trying to find words that emphasized local (in the sense that these bands were all in our collective backyard).
So, unfortunately, it doesn’t have any grandiose meaning… just emphasizing a celebration of something that is local.
In the 20+ years that The Backyard Barbecue has been on the air, there have been periods when the DJ only played local records, or when it was primarily live, in-studio sets by bands, or — more recently — a mix of both. We also used to have (and are now trying to revive!) in-venue Backyard Barbecue shows, featuring all local bills at clubs around town or on campus. WXYC DemoListen, an awesome local music compilation series, was released in the late 1980s/early 1990s:
A lot of Backyard Barbecue coordinators, as well as WXYC alums, have gone on to further support the music community after their time here. Glenn and Frank own Local 506 and Cat’s Cradle, respectively; ‘Uncle’ Woody Sullender (‘98-‘99) runs Dead CEO, is a “pre-eminent experimental banjo improvisor,” and hosts a radio show on WFMU; Jason Perlmutter released the Carolina Funk compilation and co-founded local label Paradise of Bachelors; Will Hackney co-founded Trekky Records; Montgomery Morris (who preceded me as show coordinator) now plays in Last Year’s Men and Flesh Wounds, and is WXYC’s music director.
If you know any other details about the history of this show, or how other WXYC alums have gone on to do awesome things, please comment below! And as I wrote earlier, we’re trying to revive in-venue Backyard Barbecue shows — the first one is this Sunday at Chapel Hill Underground, featuring Boykiller and Flesh Wounds. Please come out, we’d love to see you there!