Dr. Chuck: Interviewed
Back when my college radio station was celebrating its 40th anniversary, I was contacted by someone at the alumni newspaper and asked to talk about my experiences at the station. The article, titled “It’s Better than Static”, was published in the summer of 2005. However, only a portion of the information I sent to them made it to print (which was not unexpected, that’s just how newspapers work). Here’s what I originally sent (their questions in bold):
1) Why did you decide to join WXAC? (and when, what year were you?)
2) What was it about radio that interested you?
I’m not sure how to answer these two questions individually, so I’ll kind of answer them simultaneously. I graduated from Albright in 1990, and started at WXAC in my freshman year (fall 1986), but my reasons for joining date back much further than that. Way back in the early to mid 70′s while growing up on Long Island, I’d ride in my mom’s car while she had the radio on. The station she had on was Musicradio 77 WABC (legendary Top 40 radio station). One of the DJs on the air there was Dan Ingram, and I remember he was always doing something fun and/or funny on the air. I thought this was the greatest thing, talking in between records, not knowing what he was going to say next. I thought he picked the records too, but I learned years later this was not the case. Dickie Goodman’s “Mr. Jaws” was getting airplay at the time, also. To a 6-year-old, this was the funniest record ever (and much better than that Carly Simon song they used to play ad nauseam). Mom stopped listening to WABC, I’m not really sure why, but during those early years the seeds had been planted! Fast forward a bit to the early 1980′s, I kind of “rediscovered” radio, after my interest in it had waned for a few years. I was getting into the Beatles, alternative music, various shock jocks (you can probably guess which ones), and discovered a radio show called the Dr. Demento show. Dr. Demento’s show was (and is) comprised of funny records and comedy album cuts, like Weird Al and Bill Cosby (eventually, my WXAC radio show was modeled after Dr. Demento’s). It was at this point I really wanted to “do radio” and be on the air. However, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Then I found out that a local college had a radio station (free form), which had students on the air, and I figured I’d give it a go when I got to college (which was about 4 years away). Not long after, I discovered that my own high school had a station (Top 40 formatted), which also had students on the air. At the beginning of my senior year of high school, I joined the high school station. I graduated high school, then in the Fall of 1986, I joined WXAC.
I realize this part is a bit long, but I’ve been a “radio geek” for a very long time! I don’t work in radio, I’m a computer programmer, but I still enjoy reading about it and following it.
3) Tell me about your first show. What was it like? Format? Were you nervous? etc.
I think I probably was nervous, even after spending a year at my high school station. I was actually pretty excited, my show ended at midnight and I couldn’t get to sleep until way past 2am. At the time, during my freshman year, my format was an odd mix of alternative, rock, and whatever else I felt playing at the time. I wanted to play funny records, like the ones Dr. Demento played, and I managed to squeeze some in back then. It wouldn’t be until the beginning of my sophomore year that my show became Dr. Chuck’s Bag of Comedy, and funny music/comedy records became the bulk of my playlist.
4) Tell me about your most embarrassing situation as a college DJ.
Nothing really too embarrassing happened at WXAC. There was one time I was trying to quote something off a Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever album and completely messed up the quote, but I ended up laughing about it on the air (everybody makes mistakes). My most embarrassing moment actually came during my first airshift at my high school station. I was handed something to read, and it was something about baseball. I had no interest in baseball and didn’t bother to read it before the microphone was turned on. When the microphone was turned on, I couldn’t pronounce the player’s name at all, and the result was dead air. It was then I learned that you read stuff first before going on the air!
5) What did you enjoy most about being a part of WXAC?
Going on the air, playing what I wanted to play, having mock interviews with celebrities (impersonated), and having sing-a-longs with “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Trying to do things that were interesting, different, or unexpected.
6) Please tell me anything else about your time at WXAC that you think may contribute to the story.
WXAC was this great “sand box,” free form radio with many possibilities. It allowed me to do a show the way I wanted to, and I was happy I was able to do it.