How I Got to Be a Low-Power DJ

It was because of John Corbett's character on Northern Exposure. Chris Stevens was a total fox, but he was also an intellectual, which is its own kind of sexy. I loved his long long readings from battered paperback classics, his on-air musings, his gently lowering the needle on the record. If I couldn't marry him, I wanted to at least Be Like That--the small-town DJ. Stacks of music. Esoteric themes of my own choosing. Being so close to the community that listeners can hear the same siren both through the radio and through their own window. Poetry and parkas and LPs. That's what I wanted out of radio.

So I joined radio free brattleboro in early 2003. My first show was that February. It was on Thursdays at lunchtime and called the Mixed Tape Revue. I used to pull out tapes that people had made me years before, play some of the songs, throw in segues to other songs, reminisce about my life and the other person's life at the time of the tape. It was a fun show. My most memorable episode (besides the inevitable ex-boyfriend show) was the day before the war started. It was the first day of spring and "we" were getting ready to blow up Baghdad. I'd been reading about Eleanor of Aquitaine all week. I got pretty emotional talking about Louis VII's torment over incinerating a churchful of people in Vitry, and how he then went crusading in the Middle East to somehow make himself feel better. (Will these damn crusades ever be over?) Then I played Non Nobis Domine from the Henry V soundtrack (the Kenneth "No-lips" Branagh version) and felt very gloomy and mortal.

Then I got a full-time job that required me to work on Thursdays at lunchtime. I moved my show to Tuesday nights from 10-midnight, and rechristened it Makin' Candy. Makin' Candy was wicked fun! At rfb, late night (after 10pm) was considered "safe haven" time, so if I played a song or a poem with colorful language in it, it was OK. I didn't like swears on the air, but it's hard to vet every single word in every single song and they sometimes slip in. My favorite f-bomb on that show was Allen Ginsberg reading "America." I played it with a bunch of other poems to celebrate National Poetry Month. ("America when will we end the human war?/ Go f**k yourself with your atom bomb / I don't feel good don't bother me.") Memorable shows from that era were when Bobby Short died (I played 2 hours of him singing Cole Porter), election night 2004 (Beastie Boys back-to-back-to-back) and the Hunter S. Thompson Memorial Show.

My last edition of Makin' Candy, and also the last show ever aired on rfb, was on the first day of summer 2005. I did a summer theme, ending with Vivaldi's "Summer" from The Four Seasons. A little after midnight we drove home down the dark country road. A small bag of something in the middle of the road turned out to be, after we stopped to examine it, a noisy baby raccoon who seemed very determined to stay in the middle of the road. We ushered his squalling little self into a nearby cornfield by shepherding him with a Bananarama album. (Cruel Summer.) The next day we learned the FCC had raided our radio station first thing in the morning and taken the equipment. That was the end of rfb.

But community radio rose again in Brattleboro. Now we have a licensed low-power station, WVEW. My show, Beef Jerky Time, has been on every Wednesday night since September 2006, when WVEW took to the air. I guess that makes it my longest running show. Beef Jerky Time is shorter and rather more tame than Makin' Candy. It's 1 hour instead of 2, and also there is no swearing allowed EVAR. At that hour of the day, I also feel more responsible about providing a quality show rather than free-form Chris Stevens rambling. Lately I've been actually promoting music and artists that I love or find interesting. I guess Prof. Kitty is growing up. I'm honored to have a voice here, even if it's just a small one for a few minutes a week. Thank you Brattleboro for helping with my DJ dream!

Beef Jerky Time "Radio DJ" playlist, 9*30*09
  • cdj: Pizzicato 5
  • FM: Steely Dan
  • Roadrunner: Modern Lovers
  • Great DJ: The Ting Tings
  • Panic: The Smiths
  • On the Radio: Regina Spektor
  • Radio Gaga: Queen
  • Radio: Black Cherry
  • My Radio (AM Mix): Stars
  • On My Radio: The Selecter
  • Video Killed the Radio Star: The Buggles
  • Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: Indeep


ValleyWriter said...

What a great batch of memories! I love the tale about the little racoon. And why, may I ask, was RFB raided by the FTC? Was that all your swearing?!!? Hope not! :-D
Rock on, Prof. Kitty.

"Prof. Kitty" said...

Thanks VW! Good question about the FCC raid--it was because the station wasn't officially licensed to broadcast. However the town of Brattleboro did vote earlier to pass a non-binding resolution giving rfb "community authority to broadcast," per FCC regulations. I miss that station!

Kirsten said...

wonderful entry. i love the bit about listeners hearing the same siren out their windows. yeah, rock on professor!