FORGET about "Hon man." Pretty soon, they'll...


FORGET about "Hon man." Pretty soon, they'll have to change the sign up on the parkway to "Welcome to Baltimore. . . Howdy." That is, if this town gets any more country.

Our congratulations to WPOC disc jockey Laurie DeYoung, who was honored as the "large market radio personality of the year" at this month's Country Music Association Awards in Nashville. It is thought to be the first time a woman who performs a solo show has won the large market award. Ms. DeYoung, 38, also hosts the "New Country Video" show on Maryland Public Television.

Her station has twice won the honor for "top large market station" in the past few years. It's always a treat to have the announcer hand awards to the Baltimore outlet alongside broadcasters from places like Biloxi and Corpus Christi.

In fact, WPOC has been riding high in the ratings ever since country music began winning over converts around the country. One measure of country's appeal: Whereas commercials for pick-up trucks and car parts once dominated the station, you're now as apt to hear an ad from "Sutton Place Gourmet."

Another measure has been the success of the annual Rocky Gap Music Festival in Cumberland, which last August drew 45,000 fans to hear the likes of Merle Haggard and Wynonna Judd, and is considered a multi-million dollar boon for the economy of Western Maryland.

Frankly, we can understand why country music would be received well here -- and it's not just because all those yuppies in their four-wheel drive toys want to play "urban cowboy." Country music speaks about the trials and tribulations in the lives of real people -- like the folks who live in and around Baltimore, hon. . . we mean "pardner."

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WOLB-AM radio station owner and talk show host Cathy Hughes recently was miffed over the Clintons' holding a Soul Train-style dance line to the accompaniment of Motown rhythm and blues at the end of the recent state dinner for South African President Nelson Mandela. During her afternoon show, Ms. Hughes fumed over the airwaves that the White House should have engaged the services of some of the well-known black classical performers such as diva Jessye Norman or world-renowned pianist Andre Watts instead of pop songstress Whitney Houston, who was accompanied to the dinner by her husband, singer Bobby Brown.

It was unseemly, Ms. Hughes said, for a rare gathering of the nation's black elite at the White House to take on the trappings of a house party.

Ms. Hughes contended that when other ethnic groups are invited to the White House for a state dinner for foreign dignitaries that the entertainment is very high brow -- classical music, ballroom dancing, etc. "No polkas were danced for Lech Walesa," she said.

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