Get America Singing!

Use this patriotic folk primer for your music class.

We thought we had to purchase a book for my daughter’s music class this semester, but it was actually a book for the older kids’ group. Still, I am glad we bought it; not only will we possibly use it in a future class, we can also use it while we practice piano music. It will give my daughter a good break from the constant “Mary Had a Little Lamb” she’s been playing.

The book is called Get America Singing…Again! A Project of the Music Educators National Conference. I love that its forward is written by Pete Seeger, a man who appreciates the connection between music and people and justice more than many others do. We tend to see music as this money making machine, something that we use for working out or relaxing to. But the history of music in this country runs so much deeper.

Music was the way that slaves were able to connect with one another and escape to the north; remember “Follow the Drinking Gourd” and “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning?” I get goosebumps just thinking about these songs. They are our history, yet we are taught so few songs like these that actually made a difference in our nation.

From these spirituals to Woodie Guthrie’s music to the gospel songs sang by Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and his fellow activists, music has played a huge role in connecting people in their cause and motivating us to move forward. The sixties were filled with revolutionary songs that fueled the anti-war feeling, and even in this war in Iraq and Afghanistan activists have turned toward vocals of people—from folk singer Amy Martin to hard alternative band System of a Down—for inspiration and action.

So songs in this book, like “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “Blue Skies,” are welcome in my home for sure. Even gospels like “Amazing Grace” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” religiously natured as they are, still make me smile, knowing their great history and use in achieving peace. My daughter would have her mind enriched by learning these and many other Americana tunes.

In Seeger’s forward, he also talks about how we used to sing as communities and how that’s been lost in our country. Could you imagine what it would be like if we still sung together—the kind of unity we could bring about? No wonder you never hear government officials singing! I would love to have that kind of community activity back within our towns and cities, and I know it would make our lives that much more connected and that much sweeter.

Recording a radio program

Ways you can listen at your convenience

Finding time to listen to favorite programs is a challenge for most radio fans. If you enjoy paranormal shows, for instance, you would have to stay up all night to catch Coast to Coast AM. If you work during the day, you could miss Dave Ramsey, Randi Rhodes or other well-known radio hosts. If Tivo, VCRs and Hulu exist for TV fans, why does radio have such limited options?

Corporate radio has taken advantage of the situation by allowing listeners to subscribe. By paying a small amount each month, fans of Rush Limbaugh could listen to shows on demand. Coast to Coast AM has a similar subscriber base. Not only can you listen to programs at your convenience, you can also take part in chats, receive newsletters, and have special access to the host.

Although most of these plans cost less than $10 a month, many people do not have the money to spare these days. If you simply want to listen to shows on demand, you might want to consider DAR.FM. This website allows users to record their favorite shows. It is a free service, if you only want to record one show or series.  Otherwise, you can pay $39.95 annually. The service functions just like a DVR. Simply choose a program. Once the program has been recorded, it will be available to you within 30 minutes. You can hear it over the web or download it to your iPod, phone or computer.

Many radio fans from the 1990s remember C. Crane Company’s radio recorder. It was one of the few devices you could use to hear radio broadcasts at your convenience.  C. Crane still offers a radio recorder. Their CC Witness is an MP3 recorder and AM/FM radio. This gadget has a timer, so you never have to miss a broadcast. You can buy it directly from C. Crane for $129.95.

With these three options, you don’t ever have to go without your favorite radio program. The only challenge now is finding time to listen. 

Justin Bieber hangs up on 'Mojo in the Morning'

Singer vs. host: Who's wrong?

Justin Bieber is probably used to wild radio interviews, but even he was taken aback on Thursday by the antics of Michigan’s “Mojo in the Morning.” He abruptly ended the taped interview after the host began making jokes about Bieber’s mom, Patricia Lynn Mallette.

Host Thomas Carballo, also known as “Mojo,” opened the radio segment by telling listeners that the interview didn’t go according to his plan. He says that the pop star was annoyed after being compared to another teen idol, Justin Timberlake. Mojo also claims that Bieber became offended after he brought up One Direction’s Harry Styles.

Upon listening to the interview, however, another story emerges. Mojo is clearly setting Bieber up for a “gotcha” moment. The host compliments him on his success and affirms Bieber’s immense popularity. Then Mojo tells Bieber that his latest track, “Boyfriend,” sounds like a Timberlake song. While he tells the pop star to take the Timberlake comparison as a compliment, it is somewhat out of line. After all, common sense will tell you that no singer wants to sound like another pop star.

Bieber tries to handle the comment gracefully. Mojo drops the subject, and the interview continues. However, it hits an even bigger bump when the host jokes about Styles and Bieber’s mother getting together. The singer attempts to brush it off with a joke, telling the host that he should “worry about me and your mom, bro.”  You can hear the emotion in Bieber’s voice. He is clearly annoyed.

Mojo retorts that his mother is dead and says, “This is the moment of the interview where it goes south.” Bieber hangs up. The singer’s PR team tells the host that Bieber doesn’t want to talk anymore.

Mojo and his co-hosts claim that the jokes were fine, since Bieber’s girlfriend, Selena Gomez, made similar comments to the media. In the post-interview discussion, the hosts say that Bieber is taking himself too seriously. But who is capitalizing on the incident? Mojo’s website now has a Timberlake vs. Bieber poll.

A good radio host would never make a guest look foolish, which is exactly what Mojo did throughout the interview. Bieber was right to hang up. The singer may be getting a bit of an ego, but Mojo was rude. Listen to the interview below.

Why you need to listen to the radio

Our blasé music culture has left us pretty spoiled.

Do you ever get sick of hearing all of your favorite songs? Maybe you listen to custom Spotify playlists or YouTube favorites while you work or surf the Internet at home, never missing your favorite songs and only hearing those that you love over and over again. And why wouldn’t you, when these services are free as long as you have an Internet connection?

The thing is, I think that listening to the radio gives us a better perspective, a better appreciation, of our music. I was listening to “Rumor Has It” while doing the laundry the other day and realized that as much as I loved the song, I was tired of it. It just wasn’t exciting when it came on.Remember back when we taped our favorites off the radio? (Now I’m dating myself…) We would squeal with joy when “our song” came on, turning it up, hoping to be able to hear it or even record it without static, with an acceptable antenna connection. Now we skip all of those so-so songs, going straight for the good ones, and that excitement and appreciation has been replaced with, well, boredom.

Lately I’ve been listening to the local radio (particularly at night, when there are virtually no commercials and I am working) and this joy is returning, though slowly, considering that I am still a little bored with many of “my songs.” That said, it’s been a nice surprise waiting for my songs to come on, as well as to listen to the wide variety of 80s, 90s, and “whatever we want” that my local station—that also does not play repeats within 24 hours, which is also key here—plays. “Oh, I forgot about this song!” I might hear myself think once or twice a night, getting excited about hearing something that feels new again.

I’m not complaining about Spotify or YouTube or free Internet radio at all. They come in really handy and I absolutely love them. But with all of the skips we have, and the power to make our own playlists, I think we’re both selling ourselves short of listening to new music as well as taking away that childlike fun that comes with the surprise of hearing a song you love unexpectedly. Perhaps listening to the radio, even every once in a while, could help return that spark to so many of us who seem to be yawning when our songs play.

‘Car Talk’ hosts end their run on NPR

Tom and Ray Magliozzi drive off into the sunset

Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of NPR’s “Car Talk,” are retiring, according to the Los Angeles Times. The duo, also known as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, hosted the show for 35 years. More than three million listeners tuned in weekly to hear advice on transmissions, engines and car models. NPR syndicated the show to 660 radio stations. Their last live show will be on September 25, 2012.

The brothers' first found radio success in 1977. Their show, based in Boston, quickly developed a cult following. Listeners loved how the pair would make each other laugh while explaining complicated topics. The brothers took calls and often poked fun at the car industry. Their blunt, honest answers were a hit with Bostonians.

NPR began syndicating the show nationally in 1987. Many people tuned in on Saturday mornings to hear Tom and Ray joke with each other and listeners. Their knowledge was impeccable. Both brothers are graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You would never know it though, judging from their banter. Rather than coming off as self-important, the hosts made callers feel just as smart.

Numerous reports cite Tom Magliozzi’s 75th birthday as the reason for the duo’s retirement. Ray Magliozzi is 63-years-old. The pair will continue the Car Talk column on their website.

Despite the duo’s retirement, listeners will still be able to hear Click and Clack after September. National Public Radio will begin airing old shows in October. They believe that the show’s comedy and advice is timeless. Producers have plenty of material. The Magliozzis have broadcast more than 1,200 shows.


Naomi Judd's hosts 'Think Twice' on SiriusXM

First guest will be Ashley Judd.

Are you ready to hear Naomi Judd’s thoughts on current events, technology and her own personal life? SiriusXM has announced that Judd will host an hour-long show for six weeks, starting on June 8th. The program, “Think Twice,” will cover familiar ground with a few unexpected twists.
This limited-run show will feature a mixture of live and taped interviews. Her first guest will be her daughter, actress Ashley Judd. The two will discuss Ashley’s allegations of childhood sexual abuse. The actress went public with the subject in her book, “All That is Bitter and Sweet.” Both Judds say that they haven’t personally discussed the matter. This first show, taped in front of a studio audience, will be the first time they talk about Ashley’s memories of abuse.
The 66-year old singer believes that by talking about it publicly, they can help other families dealing with similar issues. The topic will likely be personal for Mother Judd, considering she has also admitted to being sexually abused. The two Judds also plan on talking about Ashley’s cancelled show, “Missing,” and her marriage to racecar driver Dario Franchitti.
The other five shows will cover a variety of areas, including topics from the science and health fields. She plans on talking to a forensic psychiatrist and possibly even a physicist. Listeners will have a chance to call and join the discussion.
Judd hopes to inspire others to think twice about themselves, their relationships and the world around them. She would also like to break the stereotype that she is just another ditzy celebrity. The singer says that she has a whole other side to her that the public has never seen until now.
“Think Twice” premieres on June 8  from 10-11 a.m. EST. SiriusXM subscribers can listen to the program on channel 107.

Radio on TV: Frasier

Gave viewers an inside look at the life of a radio host

While “WKRP in Cincinnati” and “NewsRadio” used the broadcasting booth as focal points, “Frasier” concentrated on the life of radio host, Frasier Crane. Played by Kelsey Grammar, the character shows us the self-importance of local celebrity and the wacky world of radio. From 1993 to 2004, viewers watched Frasier navigate through family and career faux pas. It is one of the most successful sitcoms in television history, winning numerous Emmys. TV Guide named “Frasier” one of the Top 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.


The show’s success was difficult to predict. As a spin-off from the classic show, “Cheers,” this program didn’t look like it would succeed. Many people thought Frasier needed the other “Cheers” characters to make him more palatable to audiences. After all, he was an uptight man with refined sensibilities. Bar patrons at “Cheers” were blunt, working class people who didn’t care for social niceties. Where would he find people like that in Seattle?

Wisely, the producers gave him his own radio show. As a radio psychiatrist, Frasier could dispense advice to the lovelorn and ill-mannered. One of the running gags on the show was to have celebrities play callers to the show. Viewers could hear Carrie Fisher, Christopher Reeve, Hilary Duff, Hal Prince and others talk their problems through with Dr. Crane.

His status as a local radio host often provided fodder for storylines. In “The Zoo Story,” Frasier’s contract with the station is up for renewal. Rather than having his rude agent represent him, Frasier opts for Ben, a good-hearted agent. Things go hilariously wrong when Ben sends him to a promotional event at the zoo. Rather than getting along with the zoo’s crane, the animal attacks Frasier’s father. It becomes a hilarious scandal; causing Frasier to rethink is negotiation strategy with the radio station.

While the program focused on aspects of radio, Frasier’s family and friends also created interest for viewers. These personal storylines undoubtedly added longevity to the series. They also humanized Frasier, making him seem deeper and more vulnerable.

Considering the success of “Frasier,” isn’t it about time Hollywood began paying attention to radio again?

Radio on TV: NewsRadio

Fictional WNYX made for real life laughs

Few TV programs have captured the essence of radio like NBC’s “NewsRadio.” Set at a New York City AM radio station, this sitcom featured a harried news director and his staff of anchors, reporters and office employees. It featured well-known actors, such as Phil Hartman, Andy Dick, Stephen Root, and Maura Tierney.  NBC broadcast the show from 1995 to 1999.

“NewsRadio” mixed the best elements of WKRP in Cincinnati and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The series focused on Dave Nelson, news director. Played by Dave Foley, the character was often the straight man for a cast of wacky characters. Like Mary Richards, Dave Nelson had his own quirks and flaws. He seemed too young and naïve for his position. His Midwestern background also served as comedic fodder.

The rich station owner, Jimmy James, was a grandiose version of Mama Carlson from WKRP. Stephen Root brought the character to life, making him seem like a lovable Donald Trump. Storylines often focused on his mysterious background and connections. James was an entrepreneur, often hanging out with Steve Jobs or Richard Branson. Yet, he always wanted to be in the newsroom of his station. Clearly, he was a die-hard fan of radio.

Phil Hartman played Bill McNeal, an egocentric news anchor. Similar to Mary Tyler Moore’s Ted Baxter, McNeal was self-centered. He was often the butt of jokes. Hartman made the character palatable, bringing warmth to a narcissistic role.

The show’s storylines reflected the post-modern style of the 1990s. One week, the program might look at pop culture, such as “Station Sale.” In this episode, Jimmy James lists famous women he would like to marry. The list includes Loretta Swit, Faye Dunaway and K.D. Lang. Other episodes were fantasies. In “Space,” the radio station was set in a futuristic space capsule.

The hip references and imaginative stories made “NewsRadio” a hit among young people. Hartman’s death in 1998 was difficult for the show. Although NBC canceled the show in 1999, you can still catch it in reruns on Hulu.


Radio on TV: A Look at WKRP in Cincinnati

Do you remember Dr. Johnny Fever, Jennifer and Mr. Carlson?

How many popular TV shows have prominently featured fictional radio stations? Radio has played an important part in pop culture; yet few TV programs have used broadcasting as their primary setting. Shows such as “The Simpsons” may mention radio stations, but recent Hollywood producers have largely failed to capitalize on the toils and tribulations of broadcasting. One has to look at the past to find classic TV shows with radio stations as the setting.

One of the most popular programs in the 1970s was “WKRP in Cincinnati.” Set in the late ‘70s, the show used the challenges of running a radio station as fodder for their quirky characters. Who can forget Johnny Fever, Mr. Carlson and Venus Flytrap? In fact, every character on the canvas was memorable. Each one contributed an essential element to the show.

In the 1977 pilot episode, Andy Travis arrives at station. WKRP’s ratings are terrible and Travis has been hired to turn them around. The station is losing money. He switches the station format from elevator music to Top 40 rock. His decision upsets the staff, along with station owner, Mama Carlson. In the end, Andy and Mr. Carlson persuade Mama Carlson that the change will succeed.

Every episode dealt with typical radio station problems of the era, including failed promotions and censorship. WKRP even had an episode that explored The Who 1979 concert disaster. Eleven concertgoers were killed after being trampled by a rushing crowd. The episode shined a spotlight on the hazards of general seating for concerts.

After four years, CBS canceled the show due to low ratings. It eventually became a hit in syndication. Many people fondly remember the show’s best episodes, such as “Turkey’s Away” and “Fish Story.” Although DJ’s no longer spin records, there is a timeless quality to WKRP that makes it a joy to watch even today.

View a clip from the "Turkey's Away" episode below.

Dick Clark, radio star and television icon, dies at 82

Created and hosted shows throughout his career

Radio and television star Dick Clark died on Wednesday at the age of 82. The Hollywood icon was famous for hosting “American Bandstand,” “Pyramid” and “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” According to ABC News, Clark died of a massive heart attack.

While many people know him through his work on television, Clark’s radio career is also notable. His family owned WRUN, a radio station broadcasting out of New York. As a teenager, Clark served as an announcer for the station. He continued his on-air career while studying business at Syracuse University. After receiving his degree, he became disc jockey and commercial spokesman for Philadelphia’s WFIL. His show, “Dick Clark’s Caravan of Music” focused on music appealing to older, conservative tastes.

Clark got his big break when the television division of WFIL decided to focus on teen audiences. Station management created a program similar to WPEN’s popular youth radio show, “950 Club.” Their newly created show, “Bandstand,” debuted in 1955. The original host, Bob Horn, lost the job over personal and legal difficulties. Upon firing Horn, management offered the position to Clark.

It seemed like a natural fit for the 26-year old. Clean-cut and youthful, Clark had charisma in front of the camera. Parents and teens viewed him as trustworthy and honest. For his part, Clark took on the role of counselor to his teen audience. He even published a book guiding young people on how to behave in social situations.

Even with his television success, Clark didn’t abandon radio entirely. He substituted for Casey Kasem on “America’s Top 40” in the early ‘70s. Clark also created and hosted other radio shows, including “Rock, Roll and Remember,” which featured oldies from the ‘50s through the ‘70s.

Funeral arrangements for Clark have not been announced.