The Old-Time Herald Volume 6, Number 1

Old-Time Music on the Radio

Guest OTR columnist for this issue is Susan Madden of KBCS in Seattle, Washington.

As this column enters its second year, OTR is planning the June 1998 conference in Mt. Airy, N.C. This is a wonderful opportunity to share goals, success stories, find new music, and meet with others who believe in the value of this music we call old-time. Past conferences have yielded many good contacts for the work I do at KBCS in the Seattle area, and the chance to enjoy the adjacent Mt. Airy Fiddlers Convention is a delicious bonus.

At KBCS, we are fortunate to have over 40 hours per week of folk programming, covering a wide spectrum. The compilations released by County, Rounder, Arhoolie and others have made an enormous difference in the quantity of old-time and traditional musics being heard here. With the advent of field recordings, re-issues and obscure, independently produced CDs finding their way to us, my fellow DJs are learning the joys of this style of music. Formerly many of them only knew folk to mean singer/songwriters, and now they are delving into string bands, a capella ballads and fiddle tunes.

My goal has long been to air as much traditional, old-time, bluegrass and related music as possible. While I strive for variety on both my folk and bluegrass shows, I personally do not favor the "all things to all listeners" form of eclecticism. As a listener, I don't want to be yanked straight out of a driving dance tune into a plaintive ballad. For me, there must be some connection piece to piece. Be that topic, pace, key or instrumentation, if there is a relational raison d'etre, I am a happy host. I find a great sense of satisfaction if someone calls having "discovered" old-time music. Ideally, my programs reach more than just "the choir." When I can mix the styles, blending quirky songwriting with swing tunes and then slide into a banjo/fiddle duet, the uninitiated can test the waters. Not everyone can really "listen" to a fiddle tune, so I try not to play 15 minutes of straight dance music. The ebb and flow seems to work, with very successful fundraisers as the litmus test.

Some pre-tape their shows, but I prefer to wing it and let my four hours unfold. Blending CDs, LPs and cassettes from my own collection, I explore the new releases and archival material from the station library and often fit in interviews, requests and live music. Included is a calendar of concerts, workshops, festivals, and dances.

While the Pacific Northwest is many miles from the heart of Appalachia, our dance scene is extremely vibrant and many exceptional musicians keep the old-time flame hot. Frequently throughout the year, The Seattle Folklore Society presents old-time music in concert.

In addition to artists mentioned in previous columns, KBCS has had great response to James Bryan & Carl Jones, Carla Gover, The Buckhannon Brothers, Mando Mafia, Doug & Jack Wallin, Skeeter and the Skidmarks, The Boiled Buzzards, Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard, Critton Hollow, Molly Andrews & Duck Baker, Sheila Kay Adams, Carol Elizabeth Jones & James Leva, Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, Walt Koken, and Jenny Allinder. The Young/American Fogies CDs have had an impressive impact as has the Ralph Stanley recording of Grayson and Whitter songs.

I can't imagine my life without radio, and hope others can find ways to present old-time music on the air in their community.

Susan Madden has been on KBCS since 1981, is a member of the OTR steering committee, and can be heard most Sundays at 91.3 FM in the Seattle/Puget Sound region. You may contact her at 14225 SW Pohl Rd., Vashon WA 98070, or via e-mail at
If you are interested in being a guest columnist for the OTR column please contact Frank Hoppe at Bluegrass Etc., KCSN 88.5 FM, 1811 Nordhoff St., Northridge, CA 91330-8312; email, or you can write to Alice Gerrard at the OTH address.
Old Time Music on the Radio (OTR) is dedicated to furthering the broadcast of old-time music on the airwaves. For more information on OTR contact OTR, PO Box 292414, Dayton, OH 45429

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