Do you listen to the radio? Isn’t it great? Without radio working hard to introduce us to new music, there is a very strong possibility that we might still be dressing up in twirly white disco dresses and dancing to the best of the Bee Gees or attending Led Zeppelin tribute band concerts and getting arrested for waving our bic lighters around. Neither of these scenarios is good.
Today, I’d like to share a story about the power of radio.
Fifteen years ago I moved to Rhode Island from Maine. Here are a few good things about Rhode Island:
- Beautiful beaches
- Incredible restaurants
- A vibrant social scene thanks to the 10 or so institutions of higher education
Living in Rhode Island is not a hardship, but there are a couple of drawbacks. Our less than stellar economy is one, but more importantly than that, World, is the utter and complete absence of any good radio stations. We do have radio here. If you like Brittany Spears, 50 cent, or Carrie Underwood, you’re covered. If you like Brittany Spears, 50 cent and Carrie Underwood at least once an hour, even better. If you like to listen to people argue on air about sports, politics, religion and community affairs, we have that. If you like to bang your head, bang away. If you want to put on your white disco dress and twirl away to Disco Inferno, slap on some sparkly eye shadow and go crazy.
But if you want to listen to something new by Shawn Mullins or Louden Wainwright III, you probably won’t find it on the radio in Rhode Island. And this has long been a source of angst for me.
Part of my audio angst is because in Maine I listened to a great adult alternative radio station called WCLZ. I miss this station so much that when I visit home, I know the exact location on I-95 where I will be able to adjust the dial and listen in. I know exactly where, on the way back, I will start to lose reception and be forced to start scanning the airwaves in search of something that doesn’t suck.
Most of you know that I went home to Maine on vacation a few weeks ago. On the way back to our RI home I had the radio tuned to WCLZ and a great song came on that I had never heard before. My listening pleasure was somewhat thwarted by littleb’s back seat diatribe. In our house, littleb is commonly referred to as the “Human Radio” because he emits a pretty steady stream of noise, as often entertaining as he is annoying. At the same time, the Teenager Who Lives in the Basement was complaining loudly about his grumbling stomach, which made littleb talk louder, which made BigB talk really loud. Pretty soon I was bent over double trying to get closer to the radio, which is really funny, now that I think about it, because the speakers are in the back….anyway…
I made a note of what I thought was the artist’s name and vowed to look him up when I got home.
Unfortunately, I was not able to track down the artist. GG advised going on the CLZ website where perhaps they had a playlist I could consult.
You mean radio stations have websites? Radical! (I know. You should feel sorry for me.)
I went to the WCLZ website. I couldn’t find a play list but I did find a great free music download and since they change it up every week that’s one great free song per week on my I-pod, or 52 free songs a year. Take that, I-store! In addition, a cheery guy named Ethan, the program manager at CLZ, walked onto the screen and congratulated me, Chicken, on finding the free music. I was pretty sure that someone who made me feel smart for finding the free music download (loaded under a tag that reads “free music”), would be willing to help me find my mystery song, so I wrote him this letter:
Subject: New song
Last Saturday as we were driving home from Maine you played a song I loved. I think the artist’s name was Michael Fontrane or Fontaine and I thought I would just look him up when I got home, but I can’t find him anywhere.
Does this sound familiar to you at all? Unfortunately, I can’t remember the song or even any of the words. Ridiculous, I know. Happens with two boys in the car when one wants to go to a water park, the other is hungry, and the husband is swerving in and out of traffic one-handed while simultaneously ineffectively swatting at the back seat. Sigh. I was looking forward to listening to it in peace.
On a side note, CLZ is the best music station I’ve ever listened to. Without it I never would have heard of John Hiatt, John Gorka, Cheryl Williams or Dar Williams (hey that was totally weird and unintended…John, John, Williams, Williams). I moved from Maine 15 years ago. I can honestly say CLZ is the only thing I haven’t been able to replace. No…I lied….I also miss Red’s Ice Cream in South Portland. But other than that? Yeah, miss you guys.
Also, read your profile and felt a kinship-I have a three-year-old and a 24-year-old. Guess we are both certifiably crazy.
If you can possibly tell me what that song was, I’d…..I’d…..what would I do? I’m sure you don’t want my kid and buying you ice cream couldn’t possibly express my gratitude. I’ll blog about you. How’s that? That’s awesome, right?
I can feel your excitement.
Have a good day, Ethan from CLZ
btw and ps: husband was not really swatting at anyone in the back seat. I got carried away picturing a 1960s vacation drama that I may or may not have been part of. All the rest is true, though. Scout’s honor.
And two minutes later, this correction:
Now I see my fatal flaw. Cheryl Wheeler, I meant. I knew that was too coincidental to be true.
And then, because I really can’t help myself, one minute later, this one:
Then again, Lucinda Williams? Reaalllly have to go now:-)
And even though Ethan was given plenty of evidence that he was not dealing with a mainstream chicken, he was still nice enough to respond. Then again, WCLZ’s tag line is “Different is Good”, so why wouldn’t they like me, right? Here is his response:
Subject: New Song
Yes, could be Lucinda Williams or Cheryl Wheeler 🙂
Thanks for your kind words about CLZ. I feel very lucky getting to program such a diverse station!
I think that was probably Michael Franti. If you tell me the approximate time I can let you know which song.
And one kid of any age can make you a bit crazy – two about 20 years apart…
I’m glad you’re listening! And especially glad there was no swatting!
I immediately went to YouTube and found not only Michael Franti, but also Bob Schneider, on a tip from GG, who is a fellow CLZ fanatic, and finally, “The Weepies”, who were featured as one of the station’s weekly free downloads. I ended up with about 11 new favorite songs. I wrote Ethan back to express my sincerest thanks:
Subject: New Song
Thanks so much for writing back. Yes, I think Michael Franti is the one-Sound of Sunshine. If that’s not it, I love it anyway.
Thanks again for your help-it is very appreciated. Now that I’ve found CLZ online, I’ll be continuing my musical education and spreading the word to other deprived grown-ups in Rhode Island.
One awesome blog posting coming your way. You can have one of my kids if you want, too. I’m still kind of partial to the little one but a couple of the older ones are getting on my nerves. I’m looking forward to telling the 15-year-old that I’ve found a new home for him and he doesn’t have to go to the pound after all, so let me know about that.
Ethan passed on my offer of an indentured teenage servant but he did email me the website of a very nice home for ownerless pets to keep in the mind for the next time TWLITB earns himself a stay in the doghouse.
I love a DJ with a sense of humor.
As the story ends, I am not positive that even one of the 11 new songs I found and downloaded from I-tunes was the one I originally started looking for, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I found a great new music resource that I can listen to anytime I want and I made a new friend.
If you need a resource for great adult music, check online at WCLZ for their live streaming, free downloads, and new music archives. If you have a question, email Ethan.
Thanks for everything, Ethan. You rock! And not in a tragic, twirly white disco dress way, either.
Click on the Chicken Crossing the road picture to hear my new favorite song. This song is guaranteed to get you dancing in your kitchen. Go ahead and dance like no one is watching.