Airing it Out
by Tom Neal on December 17th, 2007
(Editors Note: When we started the individual blogs, we mentioned pulling some forward to the front page…at random, or because we really dug them. So we are going to start with this post from Tom Neal about WNRB. I have heard of this WNRB thing, and I bet it is fun.)
Thought I’d take this opportunity to promote something I do and where I do it. On Thursday nights, from 7 to 9, I host a radio show (Roundtrip with Neal at the Wheel) on commercial-free WNRB-LP, 93.3 FM. It’s a kick, groove, self-indulgence that allows me to delve into my preoccupation with music.
As a young feller, back in the ’60s, I lived in Milwaukee and, bored with Top 40 Hit radio stations, searched for alternatives. This usually led me to Radio Doctors, a downtown record store where I’d pick up albums by the Seeds, Moby Grape, Animals, Grateful Dead and such. I’d learn about new artists and albums through friends or the local alternative rag The Kaleidoscope. But perhaps my biggest influence was an “underground” radio station from UWM (can’t remember the call letters) that would play anything and everything of an alternative nature. There was a DJ (Bob Reitman) … his show was called “It’s alright Ma, it’s only music.” Here, I had my first taste of Dr. John (the night tripper), the Incredible String Band (who I later saw perform at Woodstock, but that’s another blog), Bob Dylan, the Mothers of Invention, and local acts like the Baroques, the Velvet Whip and the Shag. This show and this station opened up a crazy compendium of delights that “hit radio” could never offer … and I’ve never recovered from the onslaught. In fact, in later years (circum-college), I hosted similar alternative shows at radio stations in Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Had one show called “the lighter side of night” and another “whiz me the frisbee.” Great fun and many chances to meet and shmooz with the rock stars of the day (but that’s yet another blog).
Fast forward to today. Admittedly, the influence of traditional airwave radio is waning. People have other options: the Web, satellite radio, iTunes, MP3-sharing, WalMart. But, today I have an opportunity to re-visit this other-world of mine. In my imagination, there’s a voracious alternative seeker out there whose ears are glued to their speaker (or better yet, headphones) and they’re discovering things, like Robert Johnson’s eerie voice from the distant ’30s, Captain Beefheart’s nasty growl, Peter Green’s hypnotic, plaintive Les Paul guitar, or Chuck Berry singing about teenage lust.
I live for the “perfect segue” … that transition from one tune to the next, where energy is transferred, interrupted or metamorphed; where a beat is cloned; where a theme is continued. And, when there’s a nice segue, I’ll wonder, “Did anyone catch that?” Well, I did mention the self-indulgence element, didn’t I!
Some Thursday night, I hope you’ll tune in. Tonight, I’ll be featuring Keith Richards who’s celebrating his 64th birthday this week. I’ll also acknowledge the 27th anniversary of John Lennon’s forced retirement from life, and this week’s Led Zeppelin reunion concert in London.
And, consider this: if you’re interested, you can look into doing your own weekly show. Leave me a comment here, or send an e-mail to email@example.com to get the ball rolling.