There's a story from American history that goes like this: Beginning in 1779, Benjamin Franklin served as American minister to France, a very important post considering that the French were American allies during the Revolutionary War. The elderly Franklin gave up the post in 1785 and was succeeded by Thomas Jefferson. A French official asked Jefferson, "It is you who replaces Dr. Franklin?" Jefferson is said to have responded, "No one can replace him, sir. I am only his successor."
So it is here at Magic 98. I'm pleased to say that on March 11, I'll be taking over the afternoon show weekdays from 3 to 7 on a permanent basis, not replacing our longtime friend Jim McGaw, just succeeding him.
My goal is to make the show a comfortable place to hang out and to be somebody you like to hang out with, whether you're at the office, in the car, around the house, or any one of a million other places you might have the radio on. And I hope that while we're together, you'll keep in touch. Here in the 21st century, there are plenty of ways to do that. You can call the Magic line anytime at 321-0098, or e-mail straight into the studio by using firstname.lastname@example.org. You can post on the wall of Magic's Facebook page, or use the search function on Facebook to find my personal page, friend me there, and send me a message. You can follow me on Twitter, too: my handle is @ja_bartlett. Use those channels to ask a question, share a traffic or weather report, tell about something you saw in your neighborhood--chances are that if you think it's interesting, other people will think so, too.
Any good radio show is a collaborative effort between the person in the studio and the people tuned in. So, starting on March 11, let's have some fun together in the afternoon, because if we aren't enjoying ourselves, what's the point?
I will hang another birthday on the line next week. Sort of. I was born on February 29th. This means that I only get a "real" birthday every four years, along with the Summer Olympics and the presidential election. Since there is no Summer Olympics or presidential election in 2013, I will be celebrating on the 28th this year, as I normally do. People ask me if it's weird to have my birthday on February 29th. I suppose it is, although I've never known anything else, so I can't say for sure.
On the day I was born, my father called my mother's mother to tell her that her daughter's firstborn son had arrived, and the first thing my grandmother said was, "Oh, no, not today." But it's fine. Being a Leap Year baby made me a minor local celebrity. On my first, second, third. and fifth "real" birthdays, I got my picture in the Monroe paper. On some more recent birthday--can't remember which one--I was at the Nitty Gritty when a local TV crew came in looking for Leap Year babies, and I was happy to be famous for another minute.
There's a woman in Monroe who is of my parents' generation and whose birthday is on February 29th, and we exchange cards every four years. Similarly, I know a couple of younger Leap Year babies, and I make sure to send them cards when we have a "real" birthday, because each of them should know at least one other person with this ridiculous distinction.
My nephews and nieces think the whole thing is hilarious, especially when they reach the point where they've had more birthdays than I have. It works like this: I went to high school when I was 3 1/2 and to college when I was 4 1/2. I got married when I was almost 6. This means, of course, that I will die tragically young, but that's the way it goes.
In the spring of 2000, Ann and I moved to Madison, back home to Wisconsin after several years of living in Iowa and Illinois. We moved the same weekend the Badgers played in the Final Four. A couple of weekends later, we discovered Saturday at the 70s for the first time. After listening for most of the day I said to Ann, "They need me." It was a joke, mostly; although I was a 70s music geek, I had been out of radio entirely for a couple of years by then and had no plans to get back in. I did, however, send Pat O'Neill a fan letter. (Fan e-mail, actually.) I said I liked the show, and I even gave him a bit of programming advice, about one song I thought was remarkably terrible. He was kind enough to write back, and joked that he would take another listen to the song I mentioned. (I'm not going to tell you the name of it, but it's not in the library today. You're welcome.)
In 2008, I would finally get to be on Saturday at the 70s. It was a thrill then, and it's still my favorite thing to do now. I like it because so many of the songs are ones I remember from when I was a kid, songs I bought on 45s or vinyl albums. But Saturday at the 70s has fans who were born during the 70s, or even *after* the 70s. Here's why: There's an incredible variety to 70s music. What other decade's music spans a spectrum from the Rolling Stones to Donna Summer to Steve Martin's "King Tut"? There's a level of creativity that's unmatched. Nobody ever took the Beatles' ideas further than the Electric Light Orchestra; Steely Dan invented an entirely new style of music that nobody else has been able to duplicate. Certain 70s bands will always be cool: each new generation of kids discovers Queen, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin, and finds them as fascinating as the first generation of fans did. And if you play "I Will Survive" for a teenage girl who just got dumped by her boyfriend, it'll become her personal anthem.
I'm not the only member of the Magic crew who loves Saturdays. Sara, Juli, and I invite you to come hang with us all day tomorrow.
The Zor Shrine Circus comes back to the Coliseum February 15th through the 17th, and it always makes me think of the year my whole grade-school class went to see it. I'm not going to tell you the precise year, but it was when the Coliseum was fairly new. I remember climbing up up up to our seats, horrified to find that they were in the very top row of the arena. I remember gripping the arms of my chair as I sat there, presumably to keep from flying off into space. (I did the same thing the other night at the Badger basketball game, way up at the top of the Kohl Center.)
Because I was nervous about being so high in the air, I don't remember much about the circus itself, except for two things: the elephants and the woman on the flying trapeze. And I remember that when we got home, my class started the process of putting together our own circus, which was to be presented for parents and friends toward the end of the school year. I don't remember how it was that I ended up auditioning to be ringmaster, what the job involved, or else anything about it. I remember only that they chose somebody else to be the star of the show. I had to settle for the part of a ringmaster in a skit about a clown who couldn’t find his smile. I had one line, and I still remember it: “Why don’t you look in your paintbox?”
There are no small parts, only small actors, and I suppose that if it wasn’t for me, the clown would still be looking for that smile. It does mean, however, that my first flirtation with showbiz ended up a disappointment.