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WYEP Remembers: Wade Goodwyn

Terry O'Reilly

Veteran NPR Journalist Wade Goodwyn passed away on June 8th, 2023 at the age of 63. We were fortunate to have had Wade Goodwin as our guest here in Pittsburgh in 2017. He spoke at an event at the Heinz History Center for our sister station, WESA. Earlier that day, Rosemary Welsch had Goodwyn on her show as a Guest DJ.

This conversation may be lightly edited for content, clarity, or length.

Rosemary Welsch 91.3 WYEP – Pittsburgh: It’s the station where the music matters. I’m Rosemary, and it’s not every day that I think Wade Goodwyn gets to be on a station where the music matters. You might know the name, but I know that you’ll recognize the voice if you’re an NPR listener. He is a general assignment reporter for NPR, but I always think of you, Wade, when I hear your name, I think Texas.

Wade Goodwyn: That’s right. I’m based in Texas.

Rosemary Welsch: Born and raised?

Wade Goodwyn: Born and raised. Austin. Now, I’m based in Dallas and lived much of my life there.

Rosemary Welsch: Well, you know, Austin is the ultimate music town in America, so it makes sense that you could be on the station where the music matters. How old were you when you left Austin?

Wade Goodwyn: First time I was 11 years old. That was 1971. I’m afraid I’m dating myself here. And I don’t think it was – it was not yet the music capital of Texas. I think that really started with artists like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, who had gotten frustrated with Nashville and had not been the success they had hoped for, and they came home to Texas and they came back to Austin and started playing there. They called it Outlaw Country because they were outlaws when it came to Nashville’s way of seeing them. And it, you know, began what we now know as the Austin Music Scene.

Rosemary Welsch: Well, I’m sure there’s a lot of people thinking, well, what is Wade Goodwyn doing in Pittsburgh? Well, why is he on WYEP? But you’ve been here for several days now. First time in Pittsburgh, too, right?

Wade Goodwyn: Yeah. I like this city. And there’s a genuineness about it that I find very appealing. And, so my first time here, I’m a big fan and I’m here doing some promotional work for WESA.

Rosemary Welsch: And you’re going to see the city from the heights. I understand on Monday that things cleared just enough for the moon to come out over the city.

Wade Goodwyn: They took me up to Coal Hill, and I was stunned at how high this was. It really should be Washington Mountain.

Rosemary Welsch: Yeah.

Wade Goodwyn: It’s very high up. It was I was very impressed. It has certain, you know, Los Angeles – je ne sais quoi, I must say.

Rosemary Welsch: I’m going to have to remember that. So, the next time somebody says anything negative about Pittsburgh, I’m going to quote you on that.

Wade Goodwyn: It’s beautiful.

Rosemary Welsch: Hey, you know, you’re here on the station where the music matters. So, I asked if you would maybe choose an artist that you really like, a Texas artist since you’re a Texas man.

Wade Goodwyn: Well, I’m a big fan of James McMurtry, Larry McMurtry’s son, the author, and he has become an amazing musician and songwriter. And, of course, Stevie Ray Vaughan, who Austin claims as its own. He’s really from Dallas, but he made his mark and cut his teeth in Austin, Texas. And that guitar, you know, that sound will live on in Austin for forever.

Rosemary Welsch: Well, I’m going to play Stevie Ray Vaughan, and then we’re going to come back and we’ll hear James McMurtry. You’re listening to 91.3 WYEP and I guess I can call you a guest D.J. Wade Goodwyn. I don’t know how often you get that chance, but you’re getting it here today.

Wade Goodwyn: Thanks so much.

Rosemary Welsch: Stevie Ray Vaughan. 91.3 WYEP. I’m Rosemary. Wade Goodwyn of NPR is in town, and he has stopped by to do a little guest DJ thing here. And, you know, you’re the Texas man, but you report outside of Texas, now. I always think of you doing Texas stories, but I think you’re beyond that at this point.

Wade Goodwyn: Well, I mostly do Texas stories, but I’m going to be doing more stories from other states as we move forward. I’m going to try to look at what state legislatures across the country are doing when it comes to some of the key political aspects that we’re looking at nationally. You know, we’re looking at completely redoing the tax code. Other states have gone before us on that. So I’m going to very soon be turning to see what their experiments were and how they played out, to see if we can learn anything from that.

Rosemary Welsch: Yeah, and you can always check out these stories on our sister station, WESA. Since we’re talking a little bit about Texas here, we’re going to have another Texas songwriter coming up. When you talk about Pennsylvania, if somebody says, “Oh, you know, Philadelphia.” You know that sort of like, “You must know people in Philadelphia.” And I’m thinking, “No, I’m all the way over here, on the other side. It’s Pittsburgh.” There’s a real differential depending on where you are in the state. And people think of Texas as one big lump sum, but there are really distinct parts of that state. My guess is, is that you don’t make the mistake of if you’re from the panhandle, assuming it’s the same thing, if you’re from, say, northern Texas.

Wade Goodwyn: Right, I mean, there’s the state is so big that there are different Texas accents. I’m from Austin, and people from Austin tend not to have a very heavy Texas accent. People from East Texas have accents that are much more southern and lyrical. “Hey, Wade, how are you?” West Texas is much more clipped and flat. “Hi, I’m Wade Goodwyn.” You know, “I don’t smoke, but that still don’t mean I can’t enjoy tobacco like Skoal here. Just a pinch in between your cheek and gum.” And if you’re a native, you learn, you know, you can tell when someone speaks, what part of the state they’re from. Here in Pennsylvania, I think there’s a similar divide between rural and urban that’s going on in Texas. The cities in Texas are increasingly blue and the rural parts of the state are increasingly red. And it’s creating a lot of political tension.

Rosemary Welsch: I’m sure that is going to make for a lively next couple of years. And since you’re going to be leaving here, we’re going to have a James McMurtry tune coming up next. Is there any movie that you think captures Texas best? If we wanted to really learn something. I’m thinking there’s a Clint Eastwood film that starred Kevin Costner. It’s a travel movie where he’s going across the state, and I always think of that, but I don’t know that that’s really accurate.

Wade Goodwyn: Yeah, I don’t. Is there a movie that I think really captures the state? I’d have to think about that. There’s a… there’s so… I don’t know how you really capture Texas. I mean, there’s the myth that, you know, it’s all scrub brush and desert and cowboys and longhorns, or that you know, it’s oil gushers. The state is so diverse now, and the experiences of the state are so wide, widely different that I don’t know that one movie- I mean, a movie could capture one of those kind of mythical elements. I’m not sure there’s a movie that captures the state that stands out to me.

Rosemary Welsch: I also think of the movie Lone Star by John Sayles, which it’s another element of that state. Yeah, so… But I guess there’s a lot of things to discover in Texas. I’ve been to a couple of the cities there. It’s a great fine state and they produce some pretty fine people like Wade Goodwyn, who is here visiting Pittsburgh. And I hope you have a really wonderful time, and I want to thank you for dropping in and picking a James McMurtry tune for us.

Wade Goodwyn: It’s been my pleasure.