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Little Brother Radio: Itís Broadacious
By Sean Smith
Fort Wayne Reader
It couldn't have been more than five minutes into my conversation with Rich Lee and Rob Wood when I realized what excellent people they were. Lee recalled Rob and himself traveling out of state for a music festival and witnessing a performance by The Fixx. Most people might be troubled by that sort of thing, but they weren't. That is, not until they didn't perform, 'A Letter to Both Sides,' their contribution to the Fletch soundtrack over two decades ago. At that moment I decided I was buying whatever they were selling and it turned out to be the deal of the century. (I apologize for making two Chevy Chase references in as many sentences.)
Rob and Rich host Little Brother Radio which is broadcast on WBOI 89.1 FM every Saturday evening starting at 9:00 p.m. until 12:00 a.m. beginning June 2nd. Listeners can also tune in at www.nipr.fm if they prefer. This will be a new night and time for the program, as it has normally been heard on Thursdays from 7:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. up until recently and the show will still broadcast on June 7th and 21st until the switchover is complete in July.
One might get the idea that they were both the youngest born and while that may very well be the case (I didn't ask because I felt that might be too personal) the guys tell me the name is a nod to both Orwell and those who helped pave the way for them.
"Little Brother is a reference to 'Big Brother is Watching,' as in 'Big Brother is Watching, but Little Brother hears ya!' offers Wood.
"Or 'Big Brother is gonna kick him in the shin!' adds Lee. "It is also a nod to Burnt Toast which is like our older sibling and who, over the course of more than a decade, opened up the musical format on WBOI. They gave us a lot of encouragement when we first started. While what we do and what they do may have some overlap, we work with Todd Harrold and Felix Moxter to keep the two shows distinct."
"Our current tag line, courtesy of Mr. Lee," Wood acknowledges. "is 'Little Brother Radio, It's Brodacious!' We hope to move that word into the lexicon on the strength of our 50,000 watts of pure FM power."
So how is it that these two 'Brodacious' fellows were bestowed with such awesome command? It all resulted from Wood taking a chance three years ago.
"I heard an advertisement on the radio in early 2004 asking for Jazz hosts for a weekly 'Nightflight' spot that ran from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m." recalls Wood. "I read up on a lot of Jazz and then did a quick interview with Jazz Coordinator Doug Gruber, which involved picking a handful of Jazz albums from WBOI's collection and doing some front and back announcing in the studio. They agreed to the Thursday slot more or less on the spot and the show started in the spring of 2004."
"I had college radio experience from my days at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio," shares Lee, "so I joined on a few months later. We played Jazz from 7 until 10 and Adult Album Alternative from 10 until 11. The AAA 'hour' began to creep earlier and earlier, which was not the direction the station was looking for in that time slot, so we concentrated on building a modern Jazz format with a connection to indie rock. We featured tracks that either shared players or a sound that would appeal to people who grew up listening to rock n roll, but definitely Jazz."
A year later, another volunteer offered to trade the Thursday slot every other week. That lasted less than three months before the volunteer quit, however Little Brother never picked up the other Thursday slot. During this period the Lee and Wood had four successful pledge drive shows which were supported by Karen Fraser's marketing efforts.
Wood says they get a good response to the Jazz, mostly from local musicians. "The Jazz was mostly from the last two decades with a nod to the avant-garde players throughout history. We tagged the segment as 'Jazz for the Rock n Roll Soul' to indicate a movement away from the preservation work and toward the progressive side of Jazz with non traditional instrumentation, Hip-Hop influence, electronica and a crackling rhythm section."
"Once we had that format in place, we tried to put the AAA hour back in play," explains Lee. "I brought transitional connections from my collection with bands like Taarka, Critters Buggin' and a Clutch track that featured Delfeayo Marsalis. We used that to bridge to the AAA from 10 until 11. For the past six or eight months the AAA segment has slid as early as 8:30."
"After the last pledge drive in late March, the station asked us to fill a weekly slot on Saturday nights and to concentrate on the AAA format," Wood adds. "We will be supported in this transition by station Program Director Colleen Condron, Station Manager Bruce Haines and Gruber. We have some concern that a part of our audience will be out and about seeing shows."
"And enjoying libations!" interjects Lee.
"But we hope they will take us with them in the car," continues Wood. "We are very excited about the opportunity."
All signs indicate that they need not worry about folks tuning in. Since the 'revised' format they have received two to three emails a week, whereas they were receiving one or two every six months prior to that."Traffic is coming from both the NIPR website and our myspace page (myspace.com/littlebroradio)," says Wood. "Local musicians have fed us their CDs and we would like to encourage more to do so. Vandolah appeared on a recent broadcast for an interview and listening review of their albums. We look forward to doing more of those with other bands in the future."
"Supporting the local music scene is important to our show as it fits the well with NIPR's mission statement, which in part reads 'engages its regional community as partners and stewards,'" states Lee, "We want to form an alignment with The Reader and Live on Stage and we also want to promote a vibrant local music scene with a mix of local and regional bands."
So far the effort is worth all the return and judging from the work they put into the show it would be easy to discount the idea of it being work.
"We find new music by word of mouth," concedes Wood, "Kevin Hambrick informed us of Dr. Dog and we also use the internet. Rich has been to fourteen shows in the past six months and also attends Bumbershoot in Seattle every year. Combined we probably spend between sixteen and twenty hours a week researching music for the show."
"Our tastes overlap in the center, but are different as you move away from there and we have fun introducing one another to new bands," says Lee. "Rob and I come in with three song mini 'sets' in mind, but we will trade songs within that set on the fly if the other brother has a better song to compliment the set or makes a connection for the set. An example would be Joe Henry (Rob's), Michael Penn (Rich's) and 10CC from the Snatch soundtrack (Rich's) with the common theme being Madonna. We do stuff like that to keep it interesting. Call it the Seven Degrees of Little Brother."
Better yet, call it brilliant.
You can hear little Brother Radio every Saturday night, 9 pm Ė Midnite on WBOI 89.1