As early as 1986, Isothermal Community College received support of the State of NC and the federal government to begin the process of planning and starting a public radio station for Western North Carolina along with the communities it would be serving.
October 13, 1989 WNCW 88.7 signed on to its airwaves from the tower at Mt. Mitchell. The earliest description of WNCW's original program said that the station weekday program was Crossroads, a program featuring a broad range of music genres, similar to today; in the evenings listeners could hear classic radio dramas like the Lone Ranger and Sherlock Holmes followed by classical music. The first edition of Goin' Across the Mountain bluegrass showcase aired on October 14, 1989, the day after WNCW signed onto the air. Other shows that debuted on our first year include This Old Porch and Celtic Winds.
The station's call letters WNCW stand for Western North Carolina Window, a name that station originators hoped would represent the way listeners would use the station – as a window to look through and see things they my not otherwise see.
The Alternative Radio Coalition, originally a group of music writers, fans and musicians, approached WNCW about a new programming idea for WNCW's airwaves. The idea was accepted and the ARC DJs came on board in July 1992.
In 1993 Frank Zappa died. In tribute, WNCW played a set of Zappa everyday around lunchtime. It began airing weekly on Fridays and became more regularly known as "Frank on Friday" and continues to be broadcast to a dedicated audience.
WNCW increases coverage to Greenville by adding a translator at 97.3 in 1993 and provided low power coverage of Knoxville with a translator at 97.7 FM in 1993.
WNCW installed a translator in Boone in 1995.
WNCW 88.7 was voted the Best Radio Station in Western North Carolina by readers of Mountain Xpress. WNCW has won this recognition every year since. It has also won multiple recognitions among readers of Creative Loafing in Charlotte and Mountain Xpress in Asheville for Best Radio DJ since 1994.
WNCW produced its first Crowd Around the Mic in 1997.
On October 13, 1999, WNCW celebrated its 10th Anniversary and began streaming its programming on the World Wide Web.
WNCW's Warren Haynes Christmas Pre-Jam tradition began when Warren performed live in Studio B with Little Milton, Derek Trucks, and Susan Tedeschi. (Rumor has it Trucks and Tedeschi, who later married, first met at this session!)
WNCW moved down on the dial from 100.7 FM in Charlotte to 100.3.
What It Is debuted on October 22, 2007.