40 – How I Adopted a Radio Program

Back in 2006 I was flipping around the radio dial 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 he was talking to me. I later learned that this is the sign of a good radio host.

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

I started emailing him. Danny is good because he works with his audience. He writes back to everyone. Doing this is a signature of his. We got a mildly flirtatious correspondence going, until he found out how old I actually was. When he did find that 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 and it all just started with a friendly exchange in email.

I have a large collection of blues music CDs and 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. Danny is 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 did over 30 of those guest spots, with different perspectives on the blues, covering different sections of the country like the Piedmont area of Carolina and New Orleans and Texas and you name it.

Friends have told me that our conversations were 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 actually, which made it fun.

Doing real radio was new to me. I wasn’t accustomed to being in front of a mic. 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 to speak closer 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 but where you do the recording is more like a large closet with different kinds of sound baffles on the walls so ambient noise is not picked up on the mic.

I did not realize how much editing went into doing a Show. We would do some 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 later 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 his guest which is good. Danny 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 which he has a lot of having been a performer for most of his life. Dan is a really good guitarist and singer.

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 two people having a private tête-à-tête where everybody was invited to join in the 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 helps the Station to be a little more open than a commercial radio station. I chip in during fund drives and between times I would go in myself to do the guest spots. It’s been great. 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.