Progressive talk show hits drive time

Two old Asheville friends and collaborators, Blake Butler and Lesley Groetsch, have always had a lot to say to each other. “For the longest time, we’d call each other every other day and spend at least a half hour talking about politics,” remembers Butler, a former chair of the Buncombe County Democratic Party who now works in construction and marketing. “Eventually, we realized that we could be having the same conversations on the radio.”

Left of the dial: Lesley Groetsch (left) and Blake Butler, co-hosts of Local Edge on 880 The Revolution. Photo by Jonathan Welch

Thus was conceived Local Edge, a weekly progressive talk-radio program on 880 AM The Revolution. The show started last fall, with a Saturday time slot. But as it picked up steam, earlier this year the pair of talkers convinced Clear Channel Communications, which owns the station, to give Local Edge a prime weekday spot: from 3 to 6 p.m. every Friday afternoon.

“The show is progressive, which means making progress, bucking the status quo and thinking about things in new ways; I don’t know if that’s necessarily ‘liberal,’” Groetsch says. “We’re fortunate, in that people in our community really care about politics, and while there’s some extreme views out there, a lot of these people understand compromise and middle ground, so we’re able to talk about finding real solutions.”

The topics discussed and debated on the show range from local matters like the state of the area economy and Asheville’s graffiti problem to statewide and national legislative disputes (with a heaping helping of critiques of conservative Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower, who the hosts hope to have on the show soon). It’s mostly serious stuff, but the Butler and Groetsch are determined not to get too wonky.

“Because we’re not journalists and we’re not radio personalities, we really bring an everyman’s perspective to the issues,” Groetsch asserts. “We are by no means George Stephanopoulos.”

That said, Local Edge has had some success is snagging high-profile figures from the world of serious politics. Guests have included Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagen, and then-Lt. Gov. (and now Gov.) Beverly Perdue. Filling out the shows have been local artists, authors, business people and staff from other local media outlets (Mountain Xpress among them).

And there’s more to the show than policy debates. “Live music is a big deal for us,” says Groetsch, a former co-owner of the Orange Peel who now works as a public relations and marketing consultant. “Not a lot of AM radio talk shows feature live music.” Musical acts that have performed in the studio include Now You See Them, Chris Scruggs, Cat Williams and Eliza Lynn. (Note: This Friday, March 27, the show hosts its biggest musical acts yet—Florida’s renowned The Lee Boys.)

Given that they’re still relatively new to talk radio, do the hosts ever find themselves groping for something to say amidst periods of dead air? Groetsch doesn’t hesitate to answer that: “No! We could talk forever.”

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About Jon Elliston
Former Mountain Xpress managing editor Jon Elliston is the senior editor at WNC magazine.

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One thought on “Progressive talk show hits drive time

  1. James Fisher

    Glad to see the show doing so well! Kudos to Clear Channel for giving them a better slot – long live Local Edge!

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