Monday, November 3, 2008

Rockabilly, radio days, & something else that starts with /R/

Right! So I'm putting my time in on Crackbook, trying to not be boring when I notice that my bud, Tyler Nelson, is going to be playing rockabilly on WRAS tonight from 8 - 10 p.m. So, it's time to take the dog for a walk and rock out to some rockabilly.

Little did I know that Tyler would be shredding the air waves with an unbelievable mix of new, old, rare & obscure stuff. "Little Miss Prissy" from Built for Speed, which I found out that Tyler has on vinyl, like myself. Tyler being so much younger than I probably did not have the joy of buying it at Turtles Records & Tapes when he was in 7th grade, though. Jerry Lee Lewis doing "Playing in a Traveling Band". Southern Culture on the Skids doing a Spanish version of "Double Shot of My Baby's Love"! Finally, Tyler sealed the deal because someone requested Danny Gatton, and Tyler gave them a tip of the hat for that. Not a lot of people know about Danny Gatton, and if you're one of those not a lot of people you totally need to check him out. As a matter of fact, you should check it out right now -

Tyler is on the air regularly on WRAS, 88.5 on the fm dial Mondays from 6 - 8 p.m. for his regular rotation show, and you should check him out. And next semester, I think he's going to be getting his own show where he can continue to entertain and enlighten the Atlanta area listeners with his Rockabilly/Psychobilly shows.

Radio Days

Back when I was at UGA I got involved with the radio station, WUOG, 90.5 fm, because I was starting at UGA as a junior, I didn't know anyone really, I wasn't living in a dorm, and I grew up loving music, and the thought of being able to play music for a large (relative term) audience was super fantastic. Plus, I wanted to be in a band, and I thought working at the radio station would be a good way to find one or make one. It wasn't. Nonetheless, I did get to play music that I loved, music I tolerated, and music that I came to despise. College radio is way more relaxed in their formatting, at least WUOG was (is?), so we had free reign to play stuff from all over the place. Now, we had artists that we were supposed to play on a regular rotation, but we had our choice of songs from those albums or cds to play. We also had local music on these cartridges, kind of like what 8 track tapes were like.

My first shift was the 6 - 9 a.m. show. WUOG didn't operate 24 hours in the early 90s, so I was the start off shift for Thursday mornings. I would set my alarm for 5:30, race down the road, stopping to get a honeybun and 2% milk for my breakfast, park illegally, and then climb the ridiculous flight of stairs to get to the top of Memorial Hall where the station was. No elevator, just lots and lots of stairs. Turn on all the equipment, give the top of the hour call name and number - some thing the FCC has radio stations do to show their legitimacy I guess, and the first song I would play would usually be Sun Ra or a live Allman Brothers song because they would inevitably be more than 11 minutes long, and that would give me enough time to pull some things from the library, find some good things from the current rotation, and inhale my honeybun and milk. Sometimes Sun Ra and his Orchestra would go on for a LONG time. I would then get a call or two saying, "Enough with this. Play some real music." I couldn't argue. I can't stand Sun Ra, it was just something that bought me some time. I love the Allman Bros, but the college music community is not as forgiving to some southern hippies as they are to an Alien playing his music.

After a quarter or two at that shift I somehow inherited Blue Laws from Manfred Jones, singer of the Woggles, on Sunday evenings from 7 - 9 p.m. Some of the music Dad played for me and my brother (my brother & I, sorry) was the blues. John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, B.B. King, & Jimmy Reed. I was so excited to get to do this show! I was introduced to Lightnin' Hopkins, Howling Wolf, and Willie Dixon . I got to know Muddy Waters better and was amazed at how much 70s Rock acts took from him. I was able to play Stevie Ray Vaughn, some select Eric Clapton, and so many more. They were some great nights. I remember getting calls from older listeners asking for songs. This one lady Manfred said would call and ask for "Fan It" by Lightnin' Hopkins, I can't remember if that was the real name or the name she called the song, but whatever it was Manfred told me to be prepared and sure enough on my first night she did.

The last regular show I had was called Industry Standards. I shared the show with the station manager. Every other week I got to come in from 10 - midnight and play music from the late 60s to late 70s. Hot damn! I took this position to be the opportunity to make a classic rock station as it should be, not the canon of 80 songs that most classic rock stations are. My partner was more into the progressive music of that era - King Crimson and the like, but man oh man, I played some GREAT stuff that never saw the light of day on regular radio stations. Sometimes on a radio show you get into a zone and the song selection you pick is just incredible. College radio DJs probably don't get a lot of calls requesting stuff, but when we did(they do), we'd try to accommodate. This one time in particular stands out. I had a set list going and it was so good. I don't even remember who I had on it, I just remember that it was really good. This listener called and requested a band and I said such and such song. Turns out that was what he was going to request. So, we went back and forth picking out songs that I would play next, taking turns naming the band or artist and letting the other one pick the song. It sounds cheesy now, but to a 20 year old college kid it was about as cool as it could get.

One of the other great things about working at the radio station was getting into shows for free. Each show would have 3 slots for two people a slot. Usually you could get into anything because people weren't always interested, but when a really well known band would come to the 40 Watt or the GA Theater, you had to make sure that you got to the station early enough to beat out the Sports Talk chuckleheads because they would ALWAYS try to get them. It was kind of funny the animosity that occured between the DJs and the Sports Talk people. It's kind of like listening to WRFG and knowing what must go on behind the scenes when the classic country DJs are switching shifts with the reggae DJs. Opposite worlds doing similar things. I also got to interview some cool artists - Mojo Nixon, The Young Fresh Fellows are two. River Pheonix did an interview at the station because his band Aleca's Attic was playing in town. They were pretty good actually, and the band that opened up for them, I can't remember their name, but they played an AWESOME version of the Beatles' song "Flying" as well as Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music".

Wow. That was so cool. It was so much fun, and I know there were mornings when I didn't want to get up or weekends that I didn't want to leave my girlfriend in Atlanta to come back and play the blues, but I did and I would love to be able to do it again.

Another R Thing

Reading. I'm reading two things right now. One is the sequel to Peter & the Starcatchers, Peter & the Shadow Thief. The Starcatchers book is a prequel to how Peter Pan becomes Peter Pan. It's a good read and this one, Shadow Thief is proving to be just as enjoyable. They're by Dave Barry (comic writer) & Ridley Pearson. The other book I'm reading is Steve Martin's autobiography Born Standing Up. It's about his years as a stand up comedian and what shaped him into the comic that he was then, as well as the writer, actor, and man that he is today. I've loved Steve Martin since he put out "King Tut" back in the mid 70s. My dad actually bought my brother and I (happy now?) his album for Christmas one year, the one with "King Tut" on it. It was great! Mom wasn't so happy about some of the other material on it, but come on, it had "King Tut". Steve Martin had the white suit long before David Byrne did. Martin's comedy is so smart and that is what I like most about him. Now, you may argue, justifiably that The Jerk isn't the smartest comedy, but so much of his other stuff is. Plus, PLUS he wore the fake arrow through his head. The story of how he started doing that is in Born Standing Up. Okay last thing. I think all of you (all six of you) should go out and buy this book as soon as you get off the computer and get in your car - The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It is, without a doubt, one of the greatest stories that I have read. I loaned it to this girl two years ago and when I see her she tells me that she has it, she just doesn't carry it around with her. Well, why not?

Okay, love to you all. Vote tomorrow and be okay with the results, whether they are the way you want or not, because in the grand scheme of things, the grand scheme of we're just passing through, these things don't matter all that much. What matters is how we treat others, and that can be consistent regardless of whether the left or the right is in power.