KAOS will not be on the list of stations that break your heart

“You’re treating me wrong, you’re breaking my heart,” sang country singer Claude King.

The song was likely about his Louisiana love but it could also apply to various radio stations I’ve known.

Over the years, I have formed some serious attachments to stations and their programming. But I learned at an early age, that they can break your heart and not say goodbye.

Leilani McCoy was a DJ with KZAM in Seattle in the 70's and 80's. I loved her voice.
Leilani McCoy was a DJ with KZAM in Seattle in the 70’s and 80’s. I loved her voice.

It first happened with progressive rock station KZAM in Seattle. From 1975 to 1983, the FM station introduced me to new artists, diverse selections, and female DJs.  For a while KZAM had an AM sister station that was more cutting edge and which I could listen to in my car.

But then one day in 1981 without warning, the AM station abruptly switched to a smooth jazz format and, yes, I was heartbroken.  Two years later, the FM station suddenly folded as well. Again without notice. I felt used.

Fortunately, there was KJET, another AM station. KJET introduced to me The Clash, R.E.M, The Police, Soft Cell, Devo, The Go Gos and so much more. And apparently I wasn’t the only fan. Allegedly members of Soundgarden, Mudhoney and Pearl Jam were listeners.

But one day, I got in my car, turned on the radio and heard classic oldies.  Arggh! It happened again. Not even a farewell.

More recently, I listened to the “Mountain” (KMTT) decline from a KZAM-like progressive station to a shell of its past till it eventually folded. I remember thinking there must be something wrong with my radio until I realized that once again, I’d been dumped without even a “Dear Tim” letter.

What’s my point?  Your ears (and heart) matter. And while change is inevitable, how that change happens  matters. It should be done right.

kaosAt KAOS, your community radio station in the South Puget Sound for over 40 years, we let you know before programming changes. We have show hosts who have been offering a diverse range of music and information for years and they have built a relationship with listeners. When they eventually take their leave, they say “goodbye” on the air.  And if you really like the programming, you can let us know so we can find a replacement. Or YOU could be that replacement, because the show hosts are people who live in the community and volunteer on the air.

It’s pledge drive time.  This type of loyalty doesn’t happen without your support. Show your love to KAOS, I promise we won’t break your heart.

More women are taking the music stage in New Orleans

The obvious struggle by Republican candidates in their most recent debate to think of an American woman deserving to be on the $10 bill once again illustrated the dearth of awareness of women’s role in our history.

This issue is brought home to me almost every time I map out music for my New Orleans show. Perhaps because my knowledge and music library is not as extensive as I would like, I struggle to bring gender balance to my shows, particularly when  I play early jazz, R&B, funk and brass bands. But I also sense that New Orleans is no different than the broader music world where female musicians have struggled to get into the spotlight.

Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, was a pioneer in a male-dominated New Orleans R&B scene.
Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, was a pioneer in a male-dominated New Orleans R&B scene.

Finding music I can play that feature early New Orleans jazz women is pretty much impossible.  I only have a little more luck when I move into the New Orleans R&B era. Lots of great music recorded out of J&M Recording Studio heyday, but with the huge exception of Irma Thomas, and also Shirley Goodman, its mostly guys.

With the help of Jeff Hannusch’s book “The Soul of New Orleans – A Legacy of Rhythm and Blues,” I have learned about Jean Knight (Mr. Big Stuff), Martha Carter,  Mathilda Jones, and Barbara George.  And, of course, the Dixie Cups.

If you don’t recognize some of those names, you’re not alone. Finding their music to play on the radio takes work.

Similarly you might recognize Marva Wright and Charmaine Neville but what about Leigh Harris (Little Queenie) or jazz singer Germaine Bazzle? Many excellent female musicians  worked in New Orleans during the 20th Century but their recordings are sparse and scarce.

Fortunately, change is happening.  While it still doesn’t feel balanced, there is an increasing number of New Orleans-based women musicians who are getting recognized in our new century.  Helen Gillet, Aurora Nealand, Kelcy Mae, and Ingrid Lucia are carving a living out of the NOLA music landscape. Perhaps the most well-known in recent years is Alynda Lee Segarra who is the driving force behind Hurray for the Riff Raff.

And there’s growing recognition.  New Orleans Women In Music, founded in 2007, promotes the careers of women musicians through information, network and other support.

Debbie Davis is a member of the New Orleans Nightingale collective which has help put a spotlight on New Orleans female musicians.
Debbie Davis is a member of the New Orleans Nightingale collective which has help put a spotlight on New Orleans female musicians.

The New Orleans Nightingales is a marketing collective with whom Ingrid Lucia has produced a compilation featuring 19 female musicians.  Here’s the website description: “Steeped in the musical traditions of early American music, the ladies of the New Orleans Nightingales bring new life to this hundred year art form through new compositions, vibrant live performances and a commitment to the idea that traditional jazz and folk music is still evolving.”

I’m going to tip the gender balance scale of my next radio show, leaning heavily on the double X chromosome for my tunes.   Here’s the edited version of the show on Mixcloud.

Yes, We Have No Bananas But We have Plenty of Sugar

My radio station, KAOS, was going bananas last week when Scott Stevens, host of Spin the Globe, devoted a full hour to songs about this beloved fruit. My time-slot colleague (his Friday show anchors the KAOS world programming slot that I kick off on Mondays [Now moved to Thursdays] with Gumbo YaYa starting at 10 a.m.) played 18 banana songs from around the world.

Sam the banana man. Sam Zemurray lived and died in New Orleans after building a banana distribution dynasty.
Sam the banana man. Sam Zemurray lived and died in New Orleans after building a banana distribution dynasty.

As I was listening to King Sunny Ade wax on about “Sweet Banana,” I was thinking I could do a show like that, right? Scott may have the whole world to draw from, but New Orleans is the home of the banana gangster Sam Zemurray, the man who parlayed the resale of overripe bananas dumped at the New Orleans port into a banana dynasty (and screwed Honduras and Guatemala in the process). Surely, I can find enough music from New Orleans to do my own banana show.

So I checked my catalog of New Orleans music and found nothing. Okay, there was the Fathead Newman tune “Montana Banana” recorded with Dr. John in 1991 — an instrumental.

If I did more research, I might find some songs but if my log was showing nothing, I knew I wouldn’t have much to work with.  So what other fruit or vegetable might I use for a show? I grabbed a banana, peeled it and gave it deeper thought with each bite. (uh oh, sudden flash of the “Brothers McMullen” banana scene.)

Last year, I did a show on food where I didn’t even break a sweat. New Orleans musicians have no trouble singing the praises of red beans, jambalaya, gumbo, chicken, shrimp and barbecue–though if you read my post from that show, Louis Armstrong’s “barbecue” is not something you find on the grill.

Holy Sucrose, Batman! New Orleans is also known for sugar. The Jesuit missionaries in the mid-1700s grew the stuff in downtown New Orleans (before they built the Superdome and those other buildings).

Louisiana produces about 20 percents of the U.S. cane sugar market
Louisiana produces about 20 percents of the U.S. cane sugar market

The Chalmette Domino Sugar refinery is one of the successes of post-Hurricane Katrina, returning to operation relatively quickly after the deep flood waters receded from its St. Bernard parish home. The state produces roughly two billion pounds of white death a year. And let’s not forget, the city has hosted the “Sugar Bowl” every year since 1935.

It’s kind of cheating, though. I mean, not all the “sugar” songs are about real sugar. Songwriters love metaphors and sugar lends itself well to that. Not to mention, that in New Orleans, the word “sugar” is a popular term of endearment used by almost everyone, including grocery clerks and bus drivers to complete strangers.

So not surprisingly, I have several New Orleans style versions of the 1927 jazz standard “Sugar” with the phrase “I’d make a million trips to his lips, if I was a bee. Because they are sweeter than any candy to me.”

But there’s also Sugar Foot Strut (Armstrong), Sugar Foot Stomp (Oliver), Sugar Blues (Preservation Hall Jazz Band) and Sugar Shack (Flavor Kings).  There’s also Corey Harris’ Sugar Daddy and Percy Mayfield’s Sugar Mama.

It’s close enough.  I’ll be sprinkling sugar throughout Monday’s sweet show.

By the way, you should listen to Scott’s podcast of his banana program.