Jim Bartlett's Blog

Posts from May 2014

Broadcasting Live From the Festival
On Memorial Day weekend, Bratfest kicks off the festival season.  If you keep your eyes open, you'll see lots of radio stations broadcasting from these summertime events (even Magic 98).  Over the years, I have been to a few.

In small-town Iowa more than 20 years ago, the annual summer festival was supposed to have something to do with the city's heritage as an old Mississippi River town, although we suspected it existed mostly to create customers for the Kiwanis club beer tent.  It was held in Riverview Park, a place from which the Mississippi could not actually be seen.  I would do my radio show from an RV on the festival grounds all week, and part of the job involved introducing concerts.  I got to hang out backstage with Paul Kantner and Jack Casady from Jefferson Starship, two actual survivors of San Francisco in the Summer of Love, and I once watched Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon go off on a roadie who brought him the wrong brand of bottled water, although it occurs to me now he may have been joking.

My wife and I once got invited to be celebrity judges at Taste of Something-or-Other.  (It, too, was in Iowa many years ago, and can't remember what the festival was actually called.)  The judging process wasn't exactly systematic - they gave us a handful of food tickets and told us to go and eat, which we were happy to do since we were newly married and broke.  I don't remember which establishment won.  I know the celebrity judges definitely did.

A more recent experience came a few years ago at Taste of Madison, when I worked for a different radio station, and discovered that the most dangerous place on Earth is onstage with six DJs and only one microphone that they have to share.  It would have been easy to break up the melee, though - just wave a few free food tickets. 

Have fun around Madison this summer, and come up to say hello to radio DJs whenever you see us.  We like that. 
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Hamsters in the Smoke
This past weekend's Saturday morning edition of American Top 40 is a show I can remember hearing when it was on the first time, back in the spring of 1974. I was a 14-year-old music and radio geek, and I used to sit by the radio with a pencil and paper and write down the title and artist of each song as Casey played them. I remember being pretty happy when my favorite songs of the moment, "T. S. O. P." by MFSB was the #1 song on the show.

Somethign else I remember very well happened sometime that spring, probably in the month of May. We came home from church one Sunday to find our house full of smoke. We didn’t see any fire, but we couldn’t tell where the smoke was coming from, either. As it turned out, the culprit was the radio in my brother’s bedroom upstairs. It was an old plastic box with tubes inside that had belonged to my father (and had been my first radio a few years before), something inside had shorted out and burned. It was hard for us to imagine that it could have produced the volume of smoke we saw, but it did, and the smoke and soot damage, particularly to the upstairs, was significant.

The afternoon of the fire, my brother was inconsolable, sure that his hamsters, which lived in his room, were dead. At mid-afternoon my father finally went up to retrieve the cage. The little creatures were covered with black soot—but they were still alive. It fell to my grandmother, for reasons I can’t recall, to clean them up. I can see her even now, standing at the kitchen sink, washcloth in one hand and hamster in the other, with a look on her face that said, “You know, at my house we set traps for things like this.”

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