On a recent spring afternoon, a mariachi-like arrangement from Bob Dylan eased into gentle, propulsive ragtime blues from the Kentucky guitarist Bayless Rose. It was followed by accordion music from Madagascar, traditional music from the Irish musician Séamus Egan, and a song from the Sling Blade soundtrack. 

It was another Wednesday on-air at downtown Hillsborough radio station WHUP, and Jake Xerxes Fussell was slinging tunes on his weekly “Fall Line Radio” program. 

Springtime is a key time of year for WHUP and other independent radio stations across the country: It’s fundraising time. 

Twice a year, WHUP—which sits atop Dual Supply hardware store on King Street—holds week-long “Begathon.” It’s an irreverent fundraiser with just a “little bit of attitude,” as WHUP president Bob Burtman puts it, that helps pay the station’s rent and bills.

This year, that effort is being retooled as “WHUP 50-50,” which will take place Sunday, May 3 through Saturday, May 9.

The WHUP fundraiser will split all proceeds from the week with out-of-work Hillsborough service workers via the World’s Biggest Tip Jar campaign, which is jointly organized by The Wooden Nickel and the Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce. Funds will be distributed to displaced employees of local businesses. As of April 29, the Tip Jar has raised $15,500. 

“A lot of our volunteer base is in Hillsborough, and we trade a lot in town,” Burtman says. “We see the direct impact that this has had on the people in our immediate orbit. We have more listeners in Durham, for example, than we do in Hillsborough, just because it’s so much bigger. But [Hillsborough] is where we live. And so we wanted to do something that was hyper-local, as far as benefiting people that we actually know and that deal with on a day-to-day basis.”

WHUP also still needs money: that much hasn’t changed. About two-thirds of the station’s annual revenue comes from listeners, and it only has two major fundraising drives a year. But Burtman says that during a crisis, it felt right to make sure that the fundraiser was as community-facing as it could be. 

These days, WHUP’s live radio schedule is limited, but it’s still going, pandemic-style. Many DJs prerecord their shows and send them to Burtman; for those who can’t keep up with their shows during the crisis, WHUP pulls from its archives to fill the gaps. Burtman himself comes into the station every morning to sanitize the equipment and record the morning news show. 

This April, WHUP has even managed to unroll new programming, including King Street Soul, a soul hour with “crate-digger Brian Burns;” WHUP’s first-ever metal show, Darkwaves; and Radio Unfriendly, a hip-hop show. 

“We have a lot of really talented people from all over the Triangle who just have a passion for what they do, and that comes across,” Burtman says. “Some of our veterans have been doing it for years. And this is really the place where they get to do it without any limitations or restrictions, they just get to be the best DJ that they can. It’s hard to find that anymore.”

Contact deputy arts and culture editor Sarah Edwards at sedwards@indyweek.com.

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