Homegrown Radio




Flashback: Summer, 2019

I jump into the cockpit, immediately feeling in the zone. The Beach Boys come blasting out of the studio speakers and Debby is already reaching for the first phone call. Classic Rock & Roll is a request show, and a group of regulars calls in almost every week asking for the tune they just have to hear. Now! Play it now! We get 15 to 20 calls every Sunday. Callers can be demanding and pissy when they don’t get their way, but that’s all part of the fun. I’m building momentum and sometimes The Carpenters just don’t fit in. Two hours whip by in no time. Debby spends most of the show fielding the calls I don’t have time for when I’m searching for the next three-minute song. The show is a rush, and I feel as if I’ve been on a rollercoaster ride. I take a deep breath and bail out.

Summer, 2020

I’m sitting on my red leatherette futon wannabe couch. It’s not very comfortable, but there’s no chance I’ll get drowsy. On the small table in front of me is my laptop and the StudioLive AR8 I use to record my shows. This will be the forty-fourth show I have done from home. That’s 88 hours of sitting here with my headphones on, pretending I have an audience in front of me and trying to keep up that energy level I have on Sundays when I’m live. 88 Hours. The same number of keys on a piano. There must be some kind of deep meaning there. Therefore, I will start this show with a rocking piano piece, maybe Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis. I can try standing on my futon as Jerry Lee did with his piano, but it will probably collapse.

It’s as smooth and easy as cool jazz to use this equipment now, but it wasn’t always this way. When I did my first homespun show, it took eight hours from the time I started until the program was safely uploaded to the station’s audioshare site. Eight exhausting hours in which I freaked out multiple times, cursing and ranting around my apartment (once with the mic on), starting over too many times to count, and generally just screwing up. I hit the wrong buttons, forgot to set volume levels, sang along to songs with the mic still on, forgot to set a timer for my 59-minute segments. But I learned. I had to. Radio is my therapy. It satisfies my soul. I have to breathe; I have to eat; I have to do my shows. Simple as that. And I still make mistakes. I tend to leave them in my programs, now. Life’s too short to worry about any mistake that isn’t blatantly offensive to my sensitive rock and roll audience. Metaphorically, I went from the chaos of punk music to smooth jazz over the course of 88 hours.

As I finish writing this, I realize I need to do another show now. It’s not at all daunting anymore. On comes the equipment, and I slide the headphones back onto my head. The sun is going down and I have a glass of red wine on the table next to my laptop. I see my audience across the room reflected in the black screen of my television. I smile to myself, crank up the volume to eleven, and start my therapy session.

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