Radio.. the magic of the airwaves - late at night, alone on the road.
Static, starry skies, open road, scanning faint stations for company after a show heading to another .. and then - there it is - that perfect station you will live with for a while as it makes your night better! I think of finding that cool station, with a DJ who knew about the music he was playing and told you things about the songs, the singers, the weather, the road conditions, and something you might like to buy.
Such a friend was KFDI, WSM late at night with Charlie Douglas, The Truckers Network out of Dallas, Allison Steel The Night Bird or Joey Reynolds in NYC… and others.
It was like listening to a friend playing music, or talk about life, reaching your senses in a way that was disappointing when you started getting out of range… KFDI and their Ranch hands were that Tradition. The were, like Eddie Stubbs at WSM, radiomen. You could tell they lived to be on the air. That was the KFDI I got to know, a station that made you love having radio be a part of your life.
Owner Mike Oatman's candor and gentle grace spearheaded this operation (one of the last indy guys) , and I got to know both over the years. He talked to thousands of his friends he never met, but you felt like you knew him. You trusted him… he, or any of his cohorts on his radio - Orin Friesen, Johny Western - were there just to talk to you… to play music for you.. to keep you tuned in to the day or night. I not sure they ever had to say 'stay tuned', as their faithful listeners just did.
I fondly remember often calling Orin, one of the longtime captains of Mike's flagship station (his family-held Great Empire Broadcasting company had stations in 5 or 6 cities, all equally friendly), and being put on the air to chat about music, the road, life and such. Even when not in range to hear the station, I could hear Orin deftly handling 'the business' (commercial tape cartridge inserts, news blurbs, weather warnings) and keeping me on the line for yet another talk about Roy Acuff or the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, while taking a request from a listener and the rustling of paper getting a live spot copy ready to read - he was on the air.
I don't see that type of operation much anymore in the stations I visit or search for on that air. Many are automated from 2,000 miles away. Impersonal, cookie cutter programs that 'fits any size' or location…and they are missing something. Something that KFDI had that made it its continuing success: they were YOUR radio station… and still are.
It is hard to explain if can't hear it, but maybe you will be lucky enough to do that, experience radio the way it was in the days of Biff Collie, Hugh Cherry.. it's one of the best parts of America that may be gone.. if you find it let others know.
This is the type of feel and direction I try to emulate on my Sirius/XM show on The Bridge - Acoustic Traveller (also broadcast on their internet channel). I thank those mentioned above and many others for giving me the template and hope you can catch my show sometime.
John McEuen 2013