Dennis Batson, a key founder of commercial-free Memphis community radio station WEVL-FM 89.9, an innovative music promoter and a beloved bartender and raconteur at the P&H Cafe, died January 6. Batson was a major force in the chartering of WEVL, which went on the air as a tiny 10-watt enterprise in 1976. The volunteer, listener-supported “alternative radio” station remains dedicated to community programming and music rarely heard elsewhere on the dial, including rockabilly, zydeco, vintage blues, and Celtic music. At the time of WEVL’s founding Batson was a state social worker who plowed his earnings into the station. Batson stayed with WEVL about five years.He was a founder of the
Memphis Dulcimer Festival in 1988, he also founded and promoted a concert series
that brought such diverse folk and acoustic performers as Scotland’s Tannahill
Weavers and Cajun great D. L. Menard to town. A founding member of the North
American Folk Music and Dance Alliance he co-chaired the local committee for the
10th annual International Folk Alliance conference, held in Memphis.
Born in St. Louis, Batson
lived most of his life in Memphis where he earned a degree in anthropology at
the University of Memphis. In recent years he was most familiar for his nightly
role as bartender at the P&H Cafe where his sense of humor and easy manner made
him a favorite of writers, punk rockers, college students, trivia quizzers and
other regulars Batson appeared in two films, Craig Brewer’s "The Poor & Hungry"
(the title itself is an homage to the P&H), and John Michael McCarthy cast him
as the Colonel Parker figure in his short "Elvis Meets the Beatles."
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