“My radio makes me want to just lose my head.” – Ryan Bingham
My mom was a disc jockey in the 70’s. At a time when they were the pinnacle of cool. Pre-internet, they were the tastemakers. It was the wild, wild west. I love radio. The medium still might be my favorite mode of media. However, I fear it is losing relevance at a newspaper industry like speed. Many stations and entities have been slow to adapt. Millenials don’t listen. Kidd Kraddick age bracket soccer moms drive most of the revenue and ratings (except for our scene!). And corporate consolidations have stolen much of the independent spirit and uniqueness of the realm. It will never go completely away, but it must adapt or it will soon be sitting next to cassettes and cd’s on the relevance chart. I’m far from the first to ring these alarm bells, but radio has always overcome in the past. I fear it may be soon encountering a hill too high to climb on a macro scale.
Yet, on our Texas micro scale we’re doing just fine.
I’m far from an expert on the field and despite sometimes playing radio, it’s a game to which I am admittedly mostly ignorant. That being said, I think I know what makes good radio. It’s not charts. It’s not promoters. It’s the personality and flavor that make it unique. Much like our beloved music scene, the radio scene that is part of it is special because of its own distinctness. These independent stations that play by their own rules and color inside their own lines are just as vital as the songwriters we support that do the same. People don’t listen to Howard Stern to hear the news, they listen to hear his response to it. I don’t listen to the Ticket out of Dallas nonstop to hear generic sports points, I want their specific brand of humor and opinion on the subjects of the day.
Our Texas Music radio is much the same. In a crowded world of music, these ladies and gentlemen are our gatekeepers of taste. Despite its modern flaws, radio is still free, easy to access and widespread. What makes Texas radio special is the aforementioned local flavor.
Each region and town has their own identity. Just like the bands we support, each unique station has something that sets them apart. Mattson Rainer’s Americana acumen has led New Braunfels’ KNBT to be one of the brightest beacons of radio gold in America. It’s a station that perfectly fits its community, and a station that is looked at from a worldwide perspective of excellence within its Texas/Americana genre. Bob Cole, Eric Raines, Rita Ballou and the gang have returned the gonzo call letters of KOKE to Austin prominence. Justin Frazzell, Shayne Hollinger and company have truly turned The Ranch into the sound of Texas. Chuck Taylor has made The Range a Big D tune in. Buddy Logan has cast his ambitious net over east Texas and far beyond. The Rebel owns west Texas. Suzi Q’s Snyder down home spunk supports a brand of radio as special as she is. Radio Free Texas has developed a familial aspect over internet airwaves. The list goes on and on and this is far from comprehensive.
The point being, each of those stations and people create something that is exceptional and extraordinarily relative to their area. When you listen to The Ranch, you’re hearing Ft Worth. When you listen to KNBT, that is Radio New Braunfels. Each of these stations has a music director and program director that has the knowledge and ear to know what is good music and what is bad. If they deem it good and it fits their style…on the playlist it goes.
I’m proud to be a part of this community and the prominent ways we support the music we love. These radio folks have good hearts and love the music more than just about anyone. They fight through a sometimes corrupt and often dirty industry just to play us songs they feel passionate about. We should all respect and appreciate that. Charts will come and go, but the independent streak of radio will live as long as those involved remember why they loved music and radio in the first place. Not because a promoter told them to. Not because they need a paycheck. But, just as a songwriter has to write songs, these guys and gals have to jump on air and let us hear what they believe. In their own words. For that, I’m thankful. Radio may make me, you, and Ryan Bingham want to lose our heads at times…but it’s still cool.
-Greenfest 16: July 23 at River Road Icehouse; July 24 at Lone Star Floathouse. More info soon! Gonna be special!
-Our annual Ultimate LJT Giveaway launches tomorrow!
-Baseball season is finally back. Hopefully it’s as exciting this year as last. Having the Rangers and Astros in the same division now leads to a near Longhorns/Aggies type hatred. Let’s Go Rangers (clap, clap, clapclapclap)
-In the context of 3 days, I’m seeing Ted Nugent and Jason Isbell. Can’t get much further opposite on so many levels.
-Also seeing AC/DC this month. My first big, legit arena concert was AC/DC 20 years ago. Excited to race back in time to the crunch of Angus’ SG.
-Podcasting is going well. Have gotten some cool feedback that people dig the conversational tone. What would you like to hear on it?
-Spotify is Netflix for music…but we gotta fix that pay thing.
–This month’s recommended album: Dub Miller – The Midnight Ambassador. Dub was one of the founding fathers of the modern Texas scene. His Hwy 6 band broke and then recreated the mold for what a Texas road band should, and could be. Dub’s lyrics have always been smart with hints of Prine bouncing alongside the snarl of Earle. There’s definitely some Kent Finlay barstool wisdom in there too. Dub puts all the past in a blender alongside the future to create an album that paints pictures, scenes and landscapes like few other songwriters can.
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain