In a piece for The Nation, Garrison Keillor talks about why he loves radio. Seems to like it for some of the same reasons I do. Seems even to like one of the same guys I do. The guys who make radio worth listening to: "People like Tommy Mischke, a nighttime guy on a right-wing station in St. Paul and a free spirit who gets into wonderful stream-of-consciousness harangues and meditations that are a joy to listen to compared with the teeth-grinding that goes on around him. "
I like Keillor. I absolutely adore Mischke. He's a big town radio guy who remembers he's still in fly-over country. He always signs off "KSTP, good old St. Paul, big time Minneapolis". If you're not familiar, run, don't walk to Mischke Madness and download a few mp3s.
An AM radio guy from the great plains who inspires his own fan site deserves your attention.
I love small town radio. You know, the ones with their "radio tradeo" and "partyline" and the "radio classifieds" and the "3-in-1" and that stuff where Gladys calls up looking for mason jar lids, and Cliff has a motor salvaged from a washing machine he's trying to unload. The stations that have the local extension agent on to talk about noxious weeds. I live in a town of around 45,000, and there's a station here that's going to broadcast the high school graduation. Public service radio. What a concept.
My hometown station used to broadcast the fire calls in town. I kid you not. The fire siren would also go off in town. So when you heard the fire siren, you turned on the radio to see where the call was. And it was sponsored. Whether it's home, life, or auto, turn to First Madison Insurance, 224 N Egan Avenue.
Then there was WNAX. Your five state station. This powerhouse from the southeastern corner of South Dakota had it all. Country music, farm reports (including a full time farm reporter), Minnesota Twins baseball, South Dakota State football, Paul Harvey, and The Good Neighbor Lady. That's what she's been called for six decades. I love those stations. They'd even play the star-spangled banner and pledge of allegiance.
And, I usually love stations that play Paul Harvey. You can't go wrong having the patron saint of red-state America on the air. Just save the market report until he's over. I don't need to know what's happening at the Sioux Falls stockyards or Chicago Mercantile Exchange until I've heard "today's news of most lasting significance" on page 2 of "Paul Harvey News and Comment". When I'm travelling, and find a station playing Mr. Harvey, I will leave the dial there, giving that station the benefit of the doubt.
I hope radio goes back this direction. Corporate-directed formats can just go away for all I care. I love independently owned AM stations. I'm always saddened when I check out someone's presets in their car to find *no* AM stations set. In my car I can save 12 FM stations, but only 6 AM. That's not fair!
One more quote from Keillor:
After the iPod takes half the radio audience and satellite radio subtracts half of the remainder and Internet radio gets a third of the rest and Clear Channel has to start cutting its losses and selling off frequencies, good-neighbor radio will come back. People do enjoy being spoken to by other people who are alive and who live within a few miles of you.
As U2 would say, somewhere up with the static and the radio, with satellite television, you can go anywhere.