I'm also on the radio. My show is called “Deep Cuts”, and my handle is, you guessed it, “The Dude.”
Early during my freshman year, I caught wind that the NC State radio station, WKNC, was hiring new DJs to put into rotation, which they pretty much have to do every semester to account for the graduating seniors, people who quit, sudden deaths/disappearances, and so forth. So I went through a six week training course, got certified by the FCC (something they'll end up regretting one day), and was given a two hour time slot on Saturday nights to play all the obscure classic rock my computer could… legally obtain, adhering strictly and respectfully to all applicable copyright laws, both domestic and international.
Now, the thing about most college radio stations is this; they're shit compared to WKNC. The majority of college radio stations are lucky if they extend their broadcast radius a few miles outside the immediate campus boundaries, and a few even cover the entire town or city that the university is based in. WKNC, however, broadcasts at 25,000 watts, and covers three of the largest cities in North Carolina, including three major NCAA universities (NC State, UNC, and Duke) and the state capitol. We're not only one of the largest radio stations in the country, but we also have one of the highest listenerships.
My show is part of the weekend “Specialty Show” lineup, which basically means I get to play something other than the alternative rock which makes up the format during the days on Monday through Friday. I play obscure classic rock, the guy before me plays acapella, there even used to be some jackass who thought he'd go ahead and piss of fans of the station and play nothing but shitty Japanese pop. But hey, people listened. Speaking of people listening…
We're a public radio station. We do have sponsors, and we do run quick advertisements, but we aren't corporately owned, and we really don't have to answer to anyone other than the FCC and the NCSU Board of Trustees. This means as well that we aren't obliged to play anything that is Top 40 or will probably ever see the Billboard charts.
One of the perks of being public is that we are one of the few radio stations low enough on the dial that federal and state prisons are able to listen to. I don't know why this is, but it probably has something to do with the penal system not wanting the suicide rates to skyrocket when some scrawny new kid gets a shower party from Big Lester and his gang… while having to listen to Gewn Stefani. He was prepared that he'd be gettin' the shaft in the Big House… he just didn't think he'd have to hear his rapist singin' along about how his shit was bananas.
Anyway, I got an email one day that I had a letter waiting for me in the KNC studio (we all have mailboxes set up, mainly for the daytime DJs who play local alternative, so bands can send in another CD that we'll never play). Being a host that won't play music that's any younger than I am, I wondered who was sending me mail, and which kind of chemical compound they used for the bomb.
So I walked into the studio, asked the General Manager where my mailbox was (I'm always on top of things), and he pointed me in the general direction. I go to my mailbox, take out the letter, and examine the envelope. The first thing that came to my attention was the simple black stamp on the front which plainly read “MAILED FROM CENTRAL PRISON“. Next to the sender's name, who I'll call “Death Row Inmate,” there was an inmate number.
Oh. This is good.
Here is a transcript of the letter from the most captive audience I'll ever have:
I'm writing to let you know that you show ‘Deep Cuts' rules! I caught it for the 1st time on the 3rd. I heard stuff I haven't heard in 30 years. I'm on death row now, have been for 13 years now. I'm 48, and the late 60's and 70's is my era for rock-n-roll. Me and several of the older heads are really digging your show. I'm also writing in hopes I can suggest some cuts for you to play. I used to write in to Penitentiary Rock back when it was on early Sat mornings on '94 and '95. I recently wrote to ‘Uncle Paul' (writer's note: another KNC DJ), but I guess all my requests were too ‘old school', and I didn't even get a mention over the air! (here, Death Row Inmate drew a frowny face.) I hope I can do better with you. I know that WKNC has some great old vinyl stacks in their library, if somebody hasn't walked off with it.”
Death Row Inmate then proceeded to list about ten songs that he'd like to hear again, correctly remembering every album they were off of and every year the album was released. He then ended the letter,
“Keep up the great music, “Dude”. It's one of the best shows I've heard ever.
Death Row Inmate”
Now, I get fans that call in from time to time and tell me they like the show or certain songs I'm playing (DeGraaf actually ended up calling me when I was on the air. It was soon after The Nathan DeGraaf Masochistic Health Kick started, and he complained that there were, and I quote, “teabags all over the fuckin' place.”). But this letter was by far the strangest and most awesome fan correspondence that I have ever, and likely will ever, receive. Not only was an inmate listening in, but he was a death row inmate, he dug the show, and got all his prison cronies to listen in too. He's never sent me any more mail, and he didn't sound creepy in his writing me- he was just a guy who liked the music who happened to be sentenced to death by the state.
Since then, I've played every one of the songs he requested at least once.
So, if you too would like to listen to the show that is enjoyed by my grandparents and convicts alike, head here, download the mp3 webstream, and tune in from 2-3 on Sunday afternoons.
We'll be seein' ya.