15 Years Ago Today

Early in December 1995 I was unemployed, after having been laid off at WCIL-FM.  I was weeks from leaving southern Illinois and going who-knows-where, when I spotted a help-wanted ad in the Daily Egyptian that said, “Radio Station Manager Needed.”  Well, what’s this? I thought to myself.   I had 10 years of professional broadcast experience and a couple of years of management experience under my belt.  I called the number and made an appointment for an interview.

When the day came for my interview my car wasn’t working.  I live south of Murphysboro and so I rode my bicycle the 10 miles to Carbondale and made it just in time.  I learned about this community radio station to be started in town and the plans for it.  All of a sudden, during the interview, my leg began to cramp up due to the exertion of the bike ride.  I was in excruciating pain but did my best to hide it and stretch my leg out under the table.  Somehow I managed to get through without revealing my agony.

A week later I was offered the job.  I got a tour of the facility, which only consisted of the transmitter, one small mixing board and a couple of CD players.  There was as yet no furniture in the building.  For the next few weeks I would come in most every day around 4pm and play music over the air for a couple of hours, then shut down and go home.  No one knew we were there yet.  On February 6, 1996 we held our first public meetings at Longbranch Coffeehouse inviting anyone interested in joining up to attend.  Over 100 folks came to the two meetings held that day.  The mayor was there as well as other city officials, myself and our founders.  Speeches were given and then a tour of the station was held.  Of the 100 people at the meeting, about 40 began training sessions with me and in about two weeks WDBX signed on the air with our first volunteer staff.  At the start, the station was on the air from 4-10pm daily.

The first DJ to sign on was Bob Dunn, a delightful elderly gentleman from Harrisburg, over an hour’s drive away.  You couldn’t even pick up WDBX in Harrisburg, but this man would commute each week to play music from his extensive collection of bluegrass.  Bob did his show, “Nuttin’ But Bluegrass” until April of 2006.  He passed away that June.

Another of the original DJs was Tom Connelley, another bluegrass aficionado.  Tom already had a show on WSIU and was worried he’d get fired there if it became known he was also on WDBX.  So for his show, “Back To Bluegrass” he created the persona of “Foghorn”.  He’d use a “southern-hick” drawl which he’d frequently lose when he wasn’t concentrating on it and along with his buddy Brian Kennedy (a.k.a. Johnny Mango) created one of the most popular shows in WDBX history.  It’s the only show that has aired without interruption in our nearly 15 years of operation.

Over 600 others have followed in their footsteps.  And it all started 15 years ago today.

BRP

Bob Dunn at the 2005 Ball

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2 comments on “15 Years Ago Today

  1. XXXXX says:

    I am a listener of your station… and what troubles me the most is the diversity that your station preaches…. when in fact it is not… Yes u have a touch of diversity,, a little bit of this, a little bit of that…. But a whole lot of… bluegrass,country and rock… out of the 168 hours you guys are on the air I do believe that only 10-12 hrs. is dedicated to HipHop & R&B and basically no pop or reggaeton club and maybe 2hrs of Latin Flavor….168 hours and less than 20… I’ll give you 20hrs.. are dedicated to to the genres mentioned above….And the few HipHop & R&B shows are scattered throughout the week… 2hrs on mon.. maybe 2hrs.. on wed.. 2 on friday….. and those are usaully 5am or 2-4am on a tues… REALLY??? I love your station But Diverse it is not!!!

  2. Ricc–

    My name is DaveX. I remember your name, as we once shared a page in the Nightlife for reviews of our self-produced albums, way back in 2000 or 2001.

    I appreciate your opinion about WDBX’s diversity, but feel that I have to remind you that our diversity is always going to be representative of our volunteers themselves. You’ve had a show before, so you’re aware that our volunteer DJs are individually in charge of their own programming– if they want to play hip-hop for two hours, that’s their choice. If they don’t, that’s also their choice. Perhaps you don’t remember some of the fine shows featuring these sorts of music we’ve had in the past– I remember at least a year of coming in to find the DJ ahead of me had 30 or 40 people freestyling in the booth, to the extent that I often had to struggle to get the mic back by the time my own show came on, haha. Michelle’s “Legendary Mastermind” sets were always excellent, too. There seems to be no shortage of reggae music getting played on-air, have you looked at our schedule?

    I’ve seen you described more than once (and perhaps in that same review) as a “godfather” of the Southern Illinois hip-hop scene. If that’s true, then put your clout to work and send someone over to WDBX as soon as you can. There’s a 2-4am slot right in front of my own show, and I’d love to hear something better than a Bob Dylan mp3, believe me.

    All the best,

    –DaveX

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