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#40 – How I Adopted a Radio Program

I was flipping around the dials and I hit on a program on Toronto's jazz.fm called bluz.FM with Danny Marks. The first thing that caught my ear was his voice which was deep, resonant and friendly. You felt like this guy could be anybody's friend. I felt like he was talking to me. I later learned that this is the sign of a good radio host. Danny is also a very accomplished guitarist.

More than his voice there was the music taking me back to the 50s and 60s. Back when I was listening to rhythm and blues and when I became enchanted with the blues. There was all that music all over again sounding as new and fresh and wonderful as the day it was made.

I started emailing Danny. He's good because he works with his audience. He writes back to everyone. It's his signature that he does this. We got a little correspondence going which was mildly flirtatious, until he found out how old I actually was. When he did find out there was an awkward pause and, then, I adopted him and I adopted his Show and that's how I became, in his words, the Blues Mama. It all just started with a friendly exchange in email.

I have access to a whole lot of blues music. I was interested in blues history. Danny invited me to be a guest on his Show. That was kind of nervous making but I made a good decision on the way to the interview. I decided I was going to breathe and relax, breathe and relax. I would slow down and just talk about what I knew. He's a very good interviewer. We did some questions and answers, some of which were surprising, and I just relaxed and talked. We had a friendly conversation on air and people seemed to enjoy it.

I've done 23 of those guest spots now, and counting. I've done different perspectives on the blues. We've covered different sections of the country like the Piedmont area of Carolina and New Orleans and Texas and you name it. I've done one called Mama's Picks where I just pick the music I like. No competition with Danny there. Although we like the same kind of music our picks are quite different.

Friends have told me that the conversation is as important to them as the music. They liked the banter between Danny and I. He's a bit of a comedian, more than a bit, which makes it fun.

Doing real radio was new to me. I wasn't accustomed to being in front of a microphone. I had to learn to talk into a microphone, so I wouldn't Pop my Ps.and tangle up my Ts, while I was talking into the mic. I had to learn how close to speak to the mic and how to angle it to get rid of those explosive plosive sounds - the Ps and Ts.

I had thought of a radio station as being a glamorous place. Well, where you do the recording is more like a large closet with different kinds of sound baffles on the walls so that they don't pick up ambient noise and so forth.

I didn't realize how much editing went into doing a Show. We would also do retakes, not too many because I'm pretty much a straight on performer. Danny has a tendency to ramble and he would listen to himself and say, “Well, that's not really important. Let's cut it out.” This helped to get right down to the meat of the matter. He focused on the guest which is good. He has enough ego for two people but he knows how to pull back and focus on the person he's talking to. That comes with experience.

I learned a lot from being a radio guest. I learned how to edit. I got a notion of how a sound board works and the kind of music that worked with the Show and how to talk about things that were of interest to people. When we were talking it was like to people having a private tête-à-tête to which everybody was invited which was fun.

That's my story about adopting a radio Show and its Host. Jazz.FM is financed only partly by advertising. The rest of its operating budget comes from listeners. This help the Station to be a little more open than a commercial radio station. I chip in during fund drives and between times with my body, going in there to do the guest spots. It's been fun. If you need something to do I'd recommend adopting a radio show.

Toronto's Jazz.FM can be reached on the web at http://www.jazz.fm and it's 91.1 on your radio dial.