Founder outage

Mike Friend, who founded the alternative WNRN 91.9FM, is not currently in charge of day-to-day operations at the station. Reached by phone, the station’s assistant general manager Anne Williams confirmed that she is currently Acting General Manager.

Friend, a former Operations Manager at WTJU, incorporated STU-COMM, Inc., in 1993 “as a Virginia non-profit corporation with the purpose of building a non-commercial FM radio station for the Charlottesville-Albemarle area.” WNRN went on the air in 1996. Today the commercial-free, nonprofit station broadcasts a variety of programs in markets including Charlottesville, Harrisonburg and Staunton, and is working to expand its signal in Lynchburg.She and other employees deferred further questions to Maynard Sipe, chair of the station’s Board of Directors. “Any changes are the result of the growth and success of the station,” says Sipe, who confirmed that Williams has been in charge of WNRN’s day-to-day operations for a couple of months. “Mike is still a valued employee,” and is in charge of a large, new project at the station, he says.

One employee said that Friend—who had no comment on advice of counsel—was “stripped of his duties” but still at the station. The source said Friend was also considering filing a wrongful termination lawsuit, although Friend’s name was not involved in any civil suits pending in Charlottesville or Albemarle courts last week.

Sipe said he would be surprised if Friend were planning to sue. WNRN’s board was hoping to issue a release concerning the nature of the large project by the end of last week. The release was not available by press time.

In the press Friend has been known for a thorny public persona, banning the phrase “the corner” from WNRN when competing station WCNR “The Corner” went live in 2007. During last year’s uproar over programming at WTJU, his former employer, he seems to have posted a long comment on The Hook’s website criticizing the station and its volunteers.

The blues

Jesse Winchester, the songwriter’s songwriter who collaborated with members of The Band and Todd Rundgren as a young draft-dodger in Canada, settling down locally in recent years, announced on his website that he has cancer of the esophagus. Shows for July and August have been canceled.

“I’m sorry to announce that I’m canceling my shows for July and August,” reads the note. “I have been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, and will have to undergo treatment for the next couple of months. I’m very sorry if any plans have been disrupted; I do hope to see you again soon, and we’ll pick up where we left off.”

Winchester could not immediately be reached for comment, although a representative at his booking agency, Keith Case and Associates, said that the cancer had been caught early, and they are hopeful for a swift recovery. Dates are still posted on his website beyond September, including one at The Mockingbird in Staunton scheduled for late October.

For 40 years Winchester’s albums have lingered at the bottom end of the charts, if they made it at all. (He did have one top-40 hit with “Say What,” in 1981.) His influence has mostly trickled down through more famous admirers like Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, Elvis Costello and the Everly Brothers, all of whom have covered Winchester’s songs. His latest album was 2009’s Love Filling Station, his first in a decade.

Here’s hoping Winchester will get well soon.

The undead

Look at a list of our local festivals: You’ve got opera, chamber music, film and photo festivals. What’s missing? Horror, say the organizers behind Blue Ridge Bloodfest, announced for August 6-7 at Random Row Books. Planned events include an independent film festival (seen Super 8 yet?), a zombie/monster walk, make-up and, of course, a performance by Waynesboro’s Alice Creeper (yes, an Alice Cooper cover band).

Y’know, they may be right. Between Evil Dead: The Musical, which was cast last week at Play On!, Zombie Prom opening this week at Live Arts, one performance of which is followed by local zombie flick Danger.Zombies.Run., all this decomposition/competition is making 2011 stink. Why not celebrate it? Visit www.blueridgebloodfest.webs.com for info.

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