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Radio personality Justin Reed brings back music of a bygone era

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

By Brinley Hineman, Studio M staff //

Each Thursday morning on WMTS, the sweet, vintage sounds of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline fill the airwaves. Since “bro-country” has become an overnight sensation to most country fans, many would assume an old-timer had taken over the station; they certainly don’t picture the man behind the curtain to be a young, recent college graduate. But that’s exactly who’s pushing the buttons for “The Justin Reed Show.”

“I’m not used to talking about myself,” said Reed, a 24-year-old graduate from Middle Tennessee State University. Instead, Reed is used to asking the questions. Since 2012, Reed has been the host of “The Justin Reed Show,” a weekly three-hour country music radio show that plays on Thursdays from 7-10 a.m. Since its inception, the show has never strayed from its country roots.

Reed, a 2014 graduate, has maintained his radio show on MTSU’s college station WMTS despite graduating, something rare to the station.

“Justin is a unique case, because Justin has this drive to have consistency and to keep piling on episodes,” said Val Hoeppner, both the Director of the Center for Innovation and Media and the Executive Director for WMOT, a National Public Radio affiliate station that calls MTSU’s campus its home.  Reed just celebrated his 200th episode, a feat that most hosts — even alumni — rarely achieve.

“My parents raised me on country music,” Reed said. “Sometime in middle school, I realized that country music did not start in 1990. … I dug in there and realized there were 50 years of music I hadn’t tapped into.”

The best part of the job, according to Reed, is connecting with people. In the last five years, he has welcomed more than 300 guests and countless requests and listener call-ins.

In 2012, Bill Anderson — one of the voices of the weekly Grand Ole Opry radio program — graced the WMTS studio as Reed’s first celebrity interview. Since then, “The Justin Reed Show” has connected him with people of all walks of life, from up-and-comers to established artists, including the matriarch of country music herself: Dolly Parton.

“(Interviewing Parton) was a dream come true,” Reed said of his 2016 chat with the star. “I held my composure until I got to the car; then I lost it.”

“The first words out of my mouth were, ‘I love you.’ And she said, ‘I love you, too.’” He grins. “And I’ve got it recorded.”

That interview snagged Reed a Golden Microphone Award from the Intercollegiate Broadcasting Service for Best Celebrity Interview. He won that award in 2015, too, along with the IBS’ award for Best Live Music that year. He received the same award in 2014. In 2015, MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment named Reed the Outstanding Student of the Year for his work with The Justin Reed Show. Currently, Reed has been nominated for Radio Personality of the Year by the Union of Professional Entertainers.

“I think that’s what drives him: the passion for the music,” Hoepnner said.  “He’s a true fan of the music he plays. It’s really his passion in life.”  

When he’s not in the studio, you can find Reed preaching every Sunday morning at the Woodbury Church of Christ in Woodbury, Tennessee, or working as an in-demand balloon animal artist.

He adds, “I don’t care what I’m doing: If  I’m preaching, if I’m making balloon animals or if I’m hosting a radio show … I want to do the best that I can do.”

Brinley Hineman is a senior majoring in journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and the editor of MTSU Sidelines.

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

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