Townsend on Peel

I saw this quote in an otherwise dull BBC article featuring Pete Townsend:

The guitarist praised John Peel, who died in 2004, for his dedication to listening to the music he was sent by up-and-coming acts.

“Sometimes he played some records that no-one else would ever have played, and that would never be played on radio again,” he said.

“But he listened, and he played a selection of records in the course of each week that his listeners knew – partly because the selection was sometimes so insane – proved he was genuinely engaged in his work as an almost unconditional conduit between creative musicians like me to the radio audience.”

John Peel is a big hero to me– and certainly not just for his awesome barn full of vinyl! I listen to a tremendous amount of new music each week, and air anything I think is worthwhile. Sometimes this means 180g vinyl from famous bands and artists, other times, it’s a battered cassette tape from a complete unknown. Providing this opportunity to musicians and listeners means a lot to me. Hopefully, you’ll check out my show next week, Saturday at 4am.


My Funny Valentine (WPC Radio Playlist: Mixed Plate Fill-In)


Melia, Kiri & Emily 2000 in Joseph, OR


Whirled Peas Café Radio {WPC Radio} filled in for DJ Melia’s Mixed Plate Tuesday, February 8th. Her birthday party that she had planned for the coming weekend got moved up. Melia’s Uncle Semika’s succumbed to cancer almost as soon as he was diagnosed. Melia will be representing our branch of the family in the tradition of fa’alavelave. Much hugging, eating and comforting will be done. Melia will represent us well on that front.

Melia’s birthday is February 14th. For the past 26 years, my Valentine’s Day has never quite been the same! That was the inspiration for tonight’s playlist. Belleruche prompted quite a few callers. One of my favorite finds this year. And quite danceable. Melia doesn’t need too much of  an excuse to dance.

We will miss her at the 15th Anniversary Ball this Saturday. I hope we won’t miss you. Tickets still available at selected locations. Visit our main website for more information.

Steady Roll Hazmat Modine
My Funny Valentine Whirimako Black
Prisoner of a Dream Walter Trout
Trouble in Mind Janis Joplin
Minor Swing Belleruche
Tightrope Janelle Monae

Let’s Dance David Bowie
My Funny Valentine Etta James
Happy Valentines Day Shemekia Copeland
Son of a Preacher Man Joan Osborn
Tutuki Te Vaka

My Funny Valentine Chaka Khan
Imagination Lizz Wright
Cold War Janelle Monae
I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass Nick Lowe
You’re Listening to the Worlds Belleruche
Strong Enough Shemekia Copeland
Don’t Let Me Down Stereophonics

Don’t Let Your Memories Janiva Magness
Aurora en Pekin Marc Ribot
Anything You Want (Not That) Belleruche
Many Moons Janelle Monae

Bonus Track:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Rez Rockin’ Reggae

KILI LogoBONGO’s      BIO   “WORD, SOUNDS AND POWER FROM THE TOP OF KILi TOWER, A HUNDRED THOUSAND WATTS OF VICIOUS LAKOTA POWER”, opened the REZ ROCKIN REGGAE SHOW from Porcupine South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation over the hill from Wounded Knee, one of the most infamous locations in American history.  Rasta themes of unity in struggle for survival and resistance to the Babylon system of oppression were well received in four states by the American Indian Movement and grandmas who have been resisting the shitstem their entire lives, praying in the old ways even when it was against the law.

To keep the show relevant I would visit among family and friends in Oglala, Pine Ridge and Slim Buttes practicing monologues.  When I said loudly ,YOUTMON YOU KNOW YOU BEEN DRINKING SO GIVE UP DE K.EYS AND DON’T SCRASH DE CYA AND MAKE THE GRANDMAS CRY!  Grandma Celene Not Help Him, a descendant of the Wounded Knee massacre said, “Yes.  Yes, say it, I’ll be listening, and so were thousands of Indians in rezes spread out over four states.

I know you want to hear more Indian radio stories because not to many of us washichu* know what Indians are like, what they do and how they think and I am the conduit for you.

In my first radio days I only had tapes recorded in Jamaica to work with, so it took nearly two hours to cue up the show.  So I pulled into the station and Buzzy Two Lance said,  Bongo, I’m glad you’re here.  I been here since dark, the relief dj never showed and I’m tired and hungry.  Start your show two hours early.  It was ten minutes to twelve and he had a reel to reel large tape playing, told me to turn it off play the promos and begin with de reggae ryddims

The transmitter was an old   US surplus army job from WW2 with huge knobs, and my training was non existent.  When I turned off the reel to reel, opened the show with the words at the beginning of this blog, hit the button on the small tape machine, nuttin happened.  In a panic of dead air, I tried to get the reel to reel back on, failed, so alls I had to work width was my small boom box and two mikes.  I swung mike two over to the boom box and said”Hey KILI djays, Bongo needs help Me cyant get the Bomboclat mac\hine to work, and by the time two songs played I could hear the roar of a Chevy 350sliding up the icy hill  to the station.  A long hair Indian youth ran in, clicked some switches and turned some huge knobs, and heavy like lead, AND DREADER THAN DREAD Reggae recorded in Jamaica rocked the speakers of Skins all over South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming

So gentle readers, please mention the Blogapus to your friends and I promise weekly true stories of early radio days.

*Lakota, “stealer of the fat”

Snow Day {Whirled Peas Café Radio}

Mondays 7a-9a

WPC Radio: Musical Comfort Food with a World of Spice

I won’t lie to you. This morning was a test of character. I brewed a cup of coffee, and I pondered the icy sidewalks at 6am this morning. The temperature was in the single digits, and the gusty wind made it feel as if it was -9 degrees. But I knew once I made it past the railroad tracks, it wouldn’t be long before I was sufficiently warmed. That transmitter puts out!

I knew we had some extra folks in the audience. The list of school closings was pretty impressive. I read through that thing only once. I figured if you thought your school might be closed, it should be. Made me a bit nostalgic for the days when my girls were little. So when I got home from the station, I replayed my show as I cut the last of my greens from this year’s garden, built a curried vegetable stew, and baked off some buttermilk cornbread in an ancient caste iron skillet.

If this had been 15-20 years earlier, I would be making home-made playdough for stocking stuffers and baking off batches of holiday cookies or mini-loafs for holiday gifting. We’d be finding seasonal specials on TV. I’d make up some fresh popped corn…for real, not that microwaved stuff. And whisking up a pot of milk, cocoa, chocolate pieces and other secret goodnesses into a dark brown froth. A little bit of effort, money spent on the ingredients that matter…and however humble, my home would feel both cozy and opulent. Ah, those are the things that memories are made of.

I’m still pulling out the holiday music for the December playlists. This week is no exception. I find that with the right arrangements and quality performances, I can feel both nurtured and nourished. I’ve worked in restaurants and done seasonal retail enough to groan at the muzak versions that play endlessly through the loops. I hope my selections are a good antidote for all that jades us to the magic of the season.

Last Thursday, I saw Carbondale Morning Etude Club. How wonderful to see and hear such wonderful live performances. I searched the WDBX library on two separate occasions to find Wil Maring‘s album containing some of her Christmas tunes, but came up empty. She sent me the files for them, so I promise an airing for next week. Her songs were a terrific counterpoint to the more formal arrangements. But with total humility…(I cannot sing a lick)..the best part of the program was the end where they invited the audience to sing carols that were so familiar. With all of those talented voices bolstering my own feeble croaks, it felt so amazing to be grounded in that much tradition and be part of such a beautiful community. My special thanks to Martha Ellert for her beautiful soprano voice, and her ability to bring the community out in others.

Zenith Do
Zydeco Christmas C.J. Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band
Let It Snow Rosemary Clooney

Song For A Winter Night Erica Wheeler
Light Upon Light Do’a, Randy Armstrong, Ken La Roche
White Christmas Louis Armstrong
Christmas Snow Michael Burks
Christmas Waltz Frank Sinatra
The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot Nat King Cole
Klezmer Medley #1 New Klezmer Quintet
Librescu Tango Klezmer Juice
Christmas Time Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials
Christmas Carol Nerissa & Katryna Nields
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town Lena Horne
Jingle Bells Maynard Ferguson
Mists of Ennistymon Dannsair
Peace Lisa Fenstermacher
Scheherezade L’Andalous The Ikhwani Safaa Musical Club
I Wonder As I Wander Brooks Williams
Zephyr Monique DiMattina
Zomba House of Bamba
You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch Pete Nelson
Bahamut Hazmat Modine

Black Ice One Fell Swoop
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Judy Garland

My first time on-air at WDBX

After reading Jason’s post yesterday, I was similarly inspired to share a bit of my own show’s history with readers here at The Blogapus. As I usually say, if it’s not in the liner notes of an album, I’ll forget it– but since I’ve got my original “New Volunteer Application” handy, I can definitely say our story starts in mid-October, 2000.

At the time, I was hosting a program called “Radio Show For Resume” at WIDB, the student radio station at Southern Illinois University. “RSFR” was my early attempt at something like “It’s Too Damn Early” is now, a program featuring experimental music of all sorts. It doesn’t sound too difficult, but it should be noted that my only radio experience up until this time had been about two years worth of co-hosting a live, freeform program of improvisation.

Our broadcasts were influenced by radio drama, vaudeville, and the radio art broadcasts of KPFA’s “Over the Edge”. We were just as likely to create a program about beverages featuring hundreds of audio samples as we were to let someone play a Tibetan singing bowl for an hour. In other words, sitting down to play other people’s CDs was sort of strange. Another downside was that WIDB wasn’t actually broadcasting to anyone but kids in the dorms, the Student Center, and a handful of online listeners… and I wanted to be on the radio!

Naturally, I had been keeping my eye on WDBX as a possible place to transfer a version of the show.

One day, I was driving around in Carbondale while listening to WDBX. I must not have had anything too important going on, because when I heard a DJ mention that he’d been keeping the controls warm for another DJ who was long overdue to arrive, I turned the car around and headed over there. My big plan was to take whatever CDs I had in the car, pose as the tardy DJ’s stand-in, and get on the air.

I don’t recall exactly what I said, but it worked. Perhaps Lonesome Roy was in an especially generous mood that day, or perhaps he was just sick of waiting for the next guy. Whatever, I don’t recall feeling that I fooled him– he just gave me a quizzical look, and a drawn out “okaaaaaay.”

Although I applied to join WDBX shortly thereafter, Brian’s initial offer of a 2-4 a.m. slot didn’t work for me at the time, due to a work conflict. A little over a year passed before I was able to start at WDBX in January of 2002. Following my earlier naming convention of keeping things ridiculously obvious (“Sounds Like Radio,” and “Startling Moniker” are also good examples) I quickly named my show “It’s Too Damn Early.”

If for some strange reason, you’re still awake after reading this entry, you can read more about my thoughts on radio and blogging in a couple different interviews here and here, and about my earlier show with WIDB here.


New show name (again)-A brief(?) history

With all the line-up changes at the station, I thought it proper to officially announce  the change in my show name.

When I (briefly) took over the Jazz Buffet in 2000, little did I know that I would still be here over 10 years later.

Shortly after joining WDBX, I got what would be my last full time job working for someone other than myself.  In the meantime, my wife Sarah took over the Buffet so that we could hold that spot.  When I resumed life among the self-employed (that took all of two months,) I knew I wanted my show back.

That was the easy part.

Little did I know how strong of a claim Sarah had staked to the show.  So, upon talking with our station manager, BRP, I decided to pick up another show.  BRP encouraged me to continue with the jazz format, which lasted  for a few months.  The name of my show became “Take the J Train.”  I slowly began introducing some of my rock into the mix, in addition to some politically and socially driven spoken word and lecture-type material by the likes of Howard Zinn and Greg Palast.  All apologies to one of the greatest American institutions, but I was realizing that a show featuring jazz just wasn’t for me.

Enter “Music For Activists,” inspired by a CD of the same name by my childhood friend, Kevin Casper, who was living in Topenga, CA at the time.  This incarnation continued for some years, and while I got a lot of positive feedback regarding the political nature of my show, I grew wary of the “preaching to the choir” feeling I got on a weekly basis.  This was coupled with the increasing demands on me from my growing family, which seriously impacted the amount of time I had to “produce” each show in advance, an obvious requirement of a show based in any way on current events.

Nonetheless, I kept the name.  Meanwhile, listeners wondered aloud to me why there wasn’t  more of an activist slant to the music.  Apparently, since I wasn’t playing Joan Baez, I wasn’t playing true “activist” music.

So I changed my name again, this time more subtly.  Now i would be “Music and Activists,” which I felt relieved a bit of the stress to play music FOR activists.  And besides, I like to think that all of the musicians I feature are activists, if not in the traditional sense, then in the sense that they are actively creating and influencing listeners.

This name lasted until now, when I feel that a change is once again in order to reflect my new activism–farming.

When I started at the station years ago, I was rather unsure of the career path I had (not) chosen for myself.  I was three years out of school with an English degree, the aforementioned family was growing, and all I really enjoyed was working outside.  So I started a landscaping business.  I was able to work really hard for most of the year, but there was a forced vacation waiting at the end of the season.  Kind of like teaching, which my mom always wanted me to do, but around the holidays when I wanted to spend more time with family and enjoy my cozy home.

Fast forward about 7 years. I found myself still landscaping, but much of the commercial and new construction work on which I had depended started to wain.  We had purchased an old farmhouse (1893) and five acres of land in rural Union Co. in 2005.  Our modest garden was growing, and I had many visions of the homestead that would feed us, literally and spiritually.

Then i found a book that would change the course of my life.  It was called,”The Botany Of Desire,” by Michael Pollan, and it gave me a whole new perspective on plants.  I began to really think about growing food and the positive impact it had on my life.  This led me to another book of his, called “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,”  which focused more on the environmental advantages of local food, and called into question the serious implications of continuing on the same path of ecological destruction through our ag practices.

Within months, Sarah and I began discussing a career change.  Later that year, we formed Frontwards Farm, and began growing food for other folks.  This past summer we began marketing through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), in which members buy into the farm for the season, and receive regular deliveries of produce.  Not only has this led to many new friends and a real connection to them, but it has given us a way to sustain our farm financially while competing with large farms around the world that rely on volume and mass transportation to deliver their food at a very competitive price.

So,what exactly does this have to do with WDBX.  Like many DJs, who I am is who you get on the air.  While I have considered on air monikers and other ideas to “conceal” myself, I have always decided to just be myself.  And this new name is very much about who I am.

The name is “Full Circle,” and it is meant to celebrate not only the days and seasons of nature, but the cyclical elements of all of our lives, elements which I fear are being lost in a wave of technology and a seemingly global desire to be connected via said technology.  Not only do I recognize the knowledge and accomplishments of those who have come before, I embrace them wholeheartedly as an essential part of continued life on this planet.  But as our farm motto (Rooted in the past, growing for the future) suggests, I believe that we must put to use these past accomplishments  in a way that makes sense for the changing world, and accepts the speed at which change is happening.

Life is fragile, youth is fleeting, but if you pay attention and remember the lessons you have learned, you just might be lucky enough to take a few extra trips around the sun.