Monday, July 10, 2017

How I got into radio

This blog is dedicated to Jenny Ryan of Dallas Cowboys Rhythm & Blue dancers. She was the last person who asked me how I got into radio. We were walking down the hall of my old station when she asked and I was so surprised by her inquiry and did not have a handy lie at the ready so just told the truth. The look on her face as I shared my journey is seared in my memory. Her eyes sparkled with equal parts joy, incredulity and awe.

Related: I'm always slightly embarrassed when college students majoring in communications send me letters asking for interviews about my career in radio because unlike them I didn't go to school...I fell into it because I had a crush on a boy.

He was tall and beautiful w lips made for kisses and I was determined to feast on them. There was just one little problem.

Language barrier.

I spoke only English. And he spoke only Bon Jovi.

In a determined effort to win my crush I went and bought ALL the Bon Jovi records I could find and proceeded to learn this unique and beautiful language. However despite my passion and dedication he didn't respond to my attempts to communicate .

One day at work a bunch of us were talking and laughing hysterically about whatever it was when he stood up and SHOOSHED everyone and indignantly pointed to the radio in the corner and very seriously said "Bon Jovi is playing" we were, it seems, to show proper reverence to his gods... as you do.

This is when the hamster on the wheel in my head fell off the wheel which rolled out of my ears and took my brain with it...I deduced that if I was the girl on the radio playing the Bon Jovi this kissable crush would HAVE to love to me. Those are the rules right? RIGHT???

So I marched my dumbass right down to the nearest radio station that played Bon Jovi and I fully expected to be hired on the spot. It doesn't work that way apparently. I was one of those ignorant assholes who just assumed anyone with a larynx could do radio. You can imagine my indignant irritation to be informed otherwise.

But dear reader, there were kisses to be had and damn it all to hell I was not going to be deterred or denied so I kept marching into the station with stupid cassettes of me just yammering about this that and the other. I sincerely did not know any better. Sometimes stupidity pays off and if you needed a poster child for this assertion look no further than the author of this blog.

It took 6 months of steady visits to the station but I finally got the job doing overnights at this rock station.

Years later my boss told me the reason he hired me was not because he saw any hidden potential in the ding dong in his midst but rather because I was so fucking annoying he would do anything to make me go away.  What is that old adage about keep your friends close and your enemies closer? Yeah that.

Bossman grew tired of my weekly visits pleading for a job and finally hired me thinking that if he stuck me on a midnight to 6am schedule he would never have to see me again. He was correct of course.


So here is where it gets fun.

My ridiculous ploy worked. I got the job but more importantly I GOT THE BOY. Boy oh boy did I. And being in the overnight shift meant we could be alone in the studio. I could and did kiss him all night every night and all the while Bon Jovi played ON VINYL in the background. My mom knew when he was at station because the record would run out and there would be dead air...we were so immersed in our passion that I didn't hear the record end because the music was still playing in my head.

To this day Bon Jovi is the soundtrack to the sweetest kisses I ever knew.

The relationship with the boy was evanescent. We had nothing in common and pretty soon we ran out of kisses. But my passion for radio replaced the passion for the boy.

I stuck with it.

It has been a wildly beautiful journey and although my story is absurd it works and I wouldn't change any part of it. For as unhinged as the origin story of my career in radio may sound it really highlights a radiant trifecta of imperative traits for not just surviving but also really thriving in this industry...passion, tenacity and perseverance.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Zero to Cap'n Crunch: Prince, Purple Rain, & a pilgrimage to Paisley Park

On a warm evening in the final week of July of 1984 there was a cataclysmic shift in the music space continuum when the movie Purple Rain hit theaters like a thunder bolt. It catapulted Prince into the stratosphere and would transform multiple generations of music lovers to come.

I was a kid in Grand Forks North Dakota when this movie came out. My bff Kristi and I loved him so much that used to  seriously talk about running away to First Avenue in Minneapolis to join the Revolution.

When we talk about the soundtrack of our lives mine is 95% Prince. His music is not just a cornerstone but the entire foundation to my music loving life. My mom only recently confessed that she used to worry about my obsession with Prince to such a degree she seriously considered breaking into my room to steal and burn all of his records. She singled out his songs Sister and Head for special derision because she came home one day and heard me singing them full decibel and was horrified.

It is a good thing her senses kicked in before she did such a thing because there would have been hell to pay if anything ever happened to my treasured collection.

Prince saved my life. His music, His spirit. His message. Prince'energy and light was a source of fuel that powered me thru every challenge that has come up thru the years including his shocking death.

On the morning of April 21 2016 I was awakened by the most extraordinary pain. It was 4 or 5 am and the pain was so intense and visceral that I could taste it and  there were flashes of white light when I closed my eyes with hope it would  just pass. As I laid there wondering if I should call 911 I tried to figure out where the pain was. I couldn't seem to pinpoint its exact location because it was everywhere and nowhere deep within and beyond my body. To this day I still can't reconcile what happened. I was embarrassed to call 911 for myself and worse not quite knowing how to explain the problem. It eventually subsided and I fell back to sleep.

I woke up later and felt fine, went into work, got online and the whole world melted in front of my eyes. One of my friends on twitter had posted something that I recognized as being written in English but the words were incomprehensible....something in the water did not compute. But the tears started flowing as I read the reactions to her tweet and the sickening realization sank in.

Our radiant purple hero had embarked on the long journey home.

Being on the air on April 21 2016 was fucking depressing and an exercise in abject futility. I desperately wanted to go home to be alone with my grief. I did NOT want to say those words on the air. "Prince has died"

I recall after whispering them, turning off my mic, falling to my knees and sobbing on the floor as Purple Rain played. I drove home that night for the first of many sleepless nights wrestling with an all consuming depression that grew deeper and more agonizing with each passing day that reality became clear. He was gone. Forever.

A few days after Prince died and as a way to cope with the loss I went out to The Tattoo Ranch in Fort Worth and got a Prince portrait inspired by the classic Herb Ritts photoshoot he did for Vogue.

Trey English really did an extraordinary job. It is a masterpiece.It was around this time I got a call from my high school best friend friend Kristi who said "isn't it time to make the pilgrimage?" So I booked a flight to Minneapolis to be there for what would have been his 58th birthday.
“Today in my heart a vague trembling of stars and all roses are as purple as my pain.”
In my room when I checked in were 58 long stemmed purple roses and his portrait by the bed.

My first mission on this journey was to see the club Kristi and I had dreamed of running away to. First Avenue. Its legend is sacrosanct and cherished in the realm of music venues and I steeled myself for the impact seeing it in person would have. It was bigger and more beautiful than I ever could have dreamed possible.It came with a goofball.
 There are stars all over the outside walls with the names of bands who have played there and for years they have all been uniformly silver. But after Prince died an anonymous fan came to the wall in the overnight hours and painted over Prince's silver star and replaced it with gold  one

There was a sold out Prince tribute show at First Avenue hosted by Jake Rudh and The Current (Prince's favorite radio station) I didnt think I would be able to get in but I wrote to the station and told them why I was coming and asked if they had room on their guest list. Jim McGuinn put me on the list and even invited me to tour their station. FIRST AVENUE. The dream finally realized.  My heart was a bit sore though because he would not be there. His spirit though was everywhere.

In Let's Go Crazy Prince sings "...let's look for the purple banana until they put us in the truck" I was planning on visiting Paisley Park on his birthday and wanted to leave something on the memorial that had grown there since he died. So I drew those beautiful bananas crying in the back of the truck that had flat tires and was also crying and added the elephants and flowers so the bananas and the truck wouldn't be alone in their grief

On Prince's birthday (June 7th) Minnesota's governor declared it Prince Day. I joined a group of Prince fans on a bus that would take us all over Minnie to see Prince places including his favorite record store and Lake Minnetonka but the primary goal was Paisley Park.

We wanted to pay our respects, to show our love and gratitude and to be able to bond and speak the Prince language...the one that is basically going back and forth with all of his lyrics. Especially the smutty ones and the funny ones because Prince was, at his core, a ham.  Fam there were a lot of Texans on this journey mostly from Houston so you know that sh*t was LIT. When I brought up Joint 2 Joint everybody screamed because they KNEW & went full zero to Cap'n Crunch:
"Oh great, now U think U're my soulmate
U don't even know what kind of cereal I like
Wrong! Cap'n Crunch with soy milk
'cause cows are 4 calves
U'd probably take me 4 half
U don't love me, U're a faker
U just want me 4 my acres"
Our first stop was where it all started, where Prince originally got signed. The Capri Theater.

We also got to visit the Purple Rain house. Prince bought it just before he died. My favorite story here was sitting in the van outside of this legendary house and talking to one of my fellow Texans about making out to Prince songs. She said Prince was a magician because whenever Do Me Baby came on her underpants disappeared. I jokingly asked what she named the baby and she whipped out her wallet, showed me a photo and said "Alisha, she'll be 32 next week" LOL.

Our guide was savvy and instead of taking us right to to Paisley he dropped us off on a trail that led to tunnels that led to Paisley.

He said the tributes there were just as beautiful as on the fence and he was right.

There were hundreds and hundreds of messages covering every inch of the tunnels. I added one too although I was too emotional and incoherent and spelled it all wrong.

It was overwhelming and stunning and impossible to take it all in. So much love for Prince I wonder if he knew just how much he meant to so many people all over the world.

I had brought my drawings and the 58 purple roses to leave at the memorial with Emma who I met on the bus and who came from Australia to leave her own drawing in remembrance. I didn't know it when we took this photo but I would also end up leaving my shirt.

Once we passed thru the tunnel you could see the fence to Paisley Park and the mementos fans had left were everywhere....EVERYWHERE. A single silver sequin slipper, a lion and even a fully decorated birthday cake

There were so many long, deeply personal and heartfelt letters.

I was overwhelmed by the passion, the emotion, the sheer depth of the love so many fans put out there on that beautiful living tribute to such an extraordinary artist.

This was the second round of mementos left on the fence at Paisley Park, the first were taken down in May by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Sadly this second batch of fan mementos would not be treated with the same dignity and respect. But that is another blog for another day.

As I wandered around wondering where to put my own tribute I felt a presence. There was the distinct aroma of PANCAKES and I turned around to see one of my favorite artists in the whole wide world DAN LACEY. AKA Pancake Dan. I had been following him on twitter since his painting of Justin Bieber balancing pancakes on his penis went viral. I had tweeted him the night before to see if he was going to be there and he said he didnt think so and yet HERE HE WAS in his infamous pan of buttery syrupy pancakes beanie

He had painted a beautiful portrait of Prince with clouds in his eyes and pancake w a pat of butter and syrup dripping down his forehead

Pancake Dan gave me the biggest hug in the land and then proceeded to help me hang my bananas and elephant on the fence. He even gave me chicken wire to secure it so if the wind picked up they wouldn't blow away and I left the 58 purple roses below

 After I left Pancake Dan sent me updates on my drawings and roses

 My new friend Emma took a photo of my tat in front of my drawings on the fence

While in Minneapolis  I took a drive Uptown to find the mural everyone had been talking about. I liked it although wished they would have put him some place other than on top of dumpsters. I cropped them out because they bothered me so much and still do to this day.

That night I got to go to another show thanks again to The Current and to Lara at The Parkway Theater. New Power Generation was playing a live tribute and of course it too was sold out so I was incredibly grateful that complete strangers were so tremendously gracious to throw some tickets at this random emotional  pink haired Texan in their midst.

A Lovesexy margarita was in my very near future. It was purple, it was sweet, it was delicious.

NPG was joined by. the legendary Hornheads along with Julius Collins and Sounds of Blackness’s electrifying Jamecia Bennett as well as Katy Gearty of Bookers n Blow, Rachel Hennig of Wolverines. I got into the theater early and planted myself like a determined rutabaga at the center speaker at the front of the stage and waited for the show to begin.

(photo credit: The Current)

It was a transformative experience to finally, after all these years, make it to Minneapolis. I'd be lying if I said I felt any better because the truth is I didn't and here a year later still don't. The loss is just too much to contemplate all at once. It will likely take years to grapple with the enormity of it all. I am still struggling with the deep depression that enveloped me after he died. It was a relief when I got laid off in November because I crawled under the covers and slept for 6 months straight. I was grateful for Sheila E speaking up on fans behalf...with no memorial her precious words were a blessing that offered us the compassion we so desperately needed to try to find even the tiniest sliver of closure, peace and acceptance.

The day after the Parkway show I went back out to Paisley Park and unlike the previous day it was totally deserted. There was not a soul in sight. I went back thru the tunnels to see the new messages and drawings and up and down the memorial along the fence because seeing what all the other fans had left made me feel less alone in my grief. And because I was alone I could talk to him and tell him everything most especially thank you.. Before I left I took off my Prince shirt and tied it to the fence under my drawings.

Then I said goodbye and quietly read Maya Angelou's poem When Great Trees Fall:
"When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed."

Thursday, June 01, 2017

All That We Have

My dream job has come through and I will be moving in three weeks to the magical city of Abu Dhabi. It is already a life changing journey and one that I have been working toward since I started in radio on Guam so many years ago. I'm ecstatic and ready to fully immerse myself in the culture and energy of the UAE ready to learn, to grow, to share, & to shine in previously unimaginable ways.

Poetry is one of my greatest passions and there are so many tremendous writers in UAE. My blog is going to be brimming with all of them in the coming days.

Let's start with Khalid Albudoor and his magnificent All That We Have. The final lines of which are just devastatingly gorgeous and perfect.

Because there is no one there
Now is the time
For me
To set off
On the road
Toward the desert.

I would be
Where no one covers the horizon
Or prevents the sky from falling
On my head.

When the winter comes
Or the summer nears
With its burning winds
I would be the wonderer
Who's searching
For you.

The night
Binds me like a page in a book
And when the morning surprises me
With its sun,
The red apple,
I would stand
Like old monastery's column
Uttering melodies
Of traveling Bedouins,
Praying for the darkness
With all my heart's beats
So my voice can
Reach you.

It will not be too late
In the age
To come back to you
Because your voice always comes back
And burns my life
With your hot breaths.

I see an image of your body
Laying in the dark
And I ask
How can we learn love
When night is dry
Like an old tree
And all the horizons
Are not welcoming
For the journey.

I extend my hand
But cannot touch you
I know
We are two souls
In solitude
I know that daydreams
All that we have
When our hearts search
For a shelter.

I approach wells in the summer
I find that
You are the water,
And in winter nights
You are burning with enigmatic light
Your lightning breaks the sky,
For that
My dream's desert
Is bright.

Because no one is there
We will lay down
On the shoulder of a dune
Gazing silently
At colors of far hills
We wait for no one
You might say
No more Bedouins
They disappeared
All of them
Before we knew them
Or wrote their names
On the skins of our tent
Before we learned love from them
And I would say
Look carefully
Behind our dune
I can see their souls approach us
Rising from the mirage of distance
Appearing to us from
The future.

I extend my hand
Toward you
Carrying a few daydreams
Is all that remains for us.
And we have few more years
To build our tent
Near the wells,
We will stay all night
With the light of
Our existence
While we wait for the Bedouins
Stop their journeys
To settle into the sand
We will hand them buckets
Filed with water
And they, from their time worn bags,
Will hand us
So we can learn it

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Here Come The Mummies

I have a gorgeously demented chart of Supernatural Collective Nouns.  A few divine examples include:  A persuasion of prophets, a bureau of molemen, a ruminance of bigfeet...the chart is really quite something to behold. And so too are mummies.

In case you ever happen upon a large group of them (as one does), they would be called a liberty. I was fortunate enough to come into contact with a liberty of mummies this past weekend. This is our journey.

I've been in the music business for 20+ years and I will tell you emphatically that Here Come The Mummies are one of the most enthralling, outrageously fun and thoroughly entertaining bands I have ever seen.

Their sound is definitely their own but I picked up an electrifying mix of influential flavors that harken back to P-Funk, Cameo, Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang,  Tower Of Power, Nash The Slash, Player, The Doobie Brothers, LRB, Mothers Finest, The Mystical Knights Of The Oingo Boingo, James Brown & even a sweet dash of Sublime....which is also an adjective I would use to describe the experience of catching not one but two of their live shows.

These particular mummies are Nashvillains and they have been grinding out the wicked funky goodness since the early aughts which was enraging to discover because how am I only just finding them? Thanks to House Of Blues Dallas for the tweet and turning me on to this sensational group.

 (drawing by Ian Leino)

To catch up with all that I had missed....I spent the past two weeks in hot devil mode laying down on all their super cool music, flapping arms wildly and absorbing every single beat, rhythm, nuance & lyric. I was determined to be ready for their show and when the time came I'm proud to report I sang and danced my guts out with all the other passionate mummy acolytes.

I KNEW the show was going to be good based on what I had seen on yt. But their show in Dallas surpassed even my wildest expectations and was so good that I decided to hit the road and drive four hours to see them again in Houston.

Thank you to Garrett their manager who hooked me up with a free pair of tickets. A cherished and treasured gift for which I will be eternally grateful.

After my first mummy I went apeshit on social media and my bff, who has been off the grid for a few weeks, came back and asked "what the hell are all these mummies in my feed?" What can I say when I love... I love big and without fear or inhibition.

Here Come The Mummies fill my music loving heart in a way that previously only Prince could. That is the highest compliment I can give them. They are first and foremost passionate and dedicated musicians. Artists so in tune with their craft and talent it is impossible to tell where the artist stops and the instrument begins. They have fused together in a way that borders on magic. The staggering amount of work they must do behind the scenes is visible and audible in their wildly entertaining live shows.

Did I mention they are dirty? Yes they are literally and lyrically. This too is a compliment.

If you say the words "kinda lingers" really fast it sounds like something completely different and rather delightful. PS chewing gum for an hour a day is great exercise and will mitigate the lockjaw discussed forthwith.

Mummies are lovers. Mummies are frisky. Mummies lyrics are hilariously risque.  They have a song all about pants, the live performance of which drove the crowd to rapture from the very opening riff. The cheers when the song started were, for this author, augmented by a question from the nearest drunk guy who asked "wait...are the mummies cumming? IN THEIR PANTS?"

Chortling into my ample cleavage I gently reminded him of  the band's moniker. I watched  in awe as the hamster on the wheel inside of his head slowly caught its breath. Then the drunk guy's eyes lit up and he raised his beer and warbled "FUCK YEAH!"

I will always remember my first mummy. The show begins with a drumline that enters thru the crowd and it was an exciting taste of the fun to come...hmmm inadvertent pun. Mummies are infectious. Now I have the sickness.

The mummies first song My Party sets the stage and tone for the show which at the outset is devoted entirely to celebrating all y'all freaks. PROTIP:  If you don't know any... guess what chicken butt? The freak is probably you and that is cool AF. Welcome home little one.

"You're free to be a freak among freaks."

Their song Friction is so tantalizing, thick and creamy it should be served warm on toast. It is a must for your sexy time playlist because "thrust is a must" and friction is basically all thrust.

And THAT BEAT!!! That beat is so deep it should come with a condom or it might just get you pregnant.

The sparks literally flew in this song and the mummies have some wicked dark lords whose sole job is to basically whip the floor like a naughty lover. The effect of it is intoxicating and mesmerizing.

Booty. Oh Booty. This song is my anthem, probably because I am highly blessed. The mummies smack their own butts during this song and that spectacle is worth its weight in gauze. I love it when The Flu falls to his knees to pray for the booty...LMAO Amen.

I LOVED Underground too another sick sexy af beat and I felt a little like a drunk cobra standing there swooning over the multiple hypnotic horn solos

Triple Double is another fave because witnessing a liberty of mummies running amok all over the stage is always a scream.


Forgive my camera brainfart and behold the glory of the magical mystical musical mummy journey, I am enchanted, entranced and smitten with his incandescent  joie de vivre

Before I go any further on the music I want to take the time to applaud the HCTM lighting designer. They are as much an artist and star of this show as the band members basking under, above and within it.

The lighting was hypnotic &  transcendent.

Every song had a mood and even the beats within each song would frequently be a lighting cue.

The lighting took what would have been a great concert and made it a spectacular theatrical wunderkind.

This ties into the literal filth I mentioned earlier. The gray, black and brown make up on their pockets of exposed skin gives them that freshly dug up sex appeal that you crave in your garden variety mummy. And the costumes take that a step further. The dark spots with what I can only describe as a graveyard dirt effect on their perfectly tattered wrappings are balanced by sporadic bright white strips which catch and reflect the lights in ways that give the mummies a positively supernatural glow throughout the show.

The stunning lighting, stage design, costumes, & choreography in conjunction with the electrifying music were what took this way beyond a mere concert experience and deep into the realm of  performance art. The impact was thunderous and eternal.

I've been frustrated by the occasional odd critic on yt & in my Twitter mentions who dismisses the costumes as a "gimmick" saying they are not necessary for artists who are clearly very good at what they do. Conveniently contrarian criticism like this is willfully obtuse and misses what makes HCTM so unique and separates them from other talent in a beautiful and profound way. And p the fuck s what is wrong w a gimmick if it works? KISS had a hell of a run and so have many others like Daft Punk, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper, King Diamond, Hatebeak, Mac Sabbath, GWAR, Kraftwerk & some guy named David Bowie. Ultimately it's all about the music and for the mummies their talent is sacrosanct & irrefutable.

The mummies bring with them a show that fully engages their fans with an inventive mind/body experience. So along with the stunning and super tight musical performance the mummies go one step beyond and deliver an enticing and thoroughly addictive visual spectacle. A performance so different and so fun that it flips a switch, lights up your mind and inspires powerful and innate creative forces. Doubt my word? Look at all these photos. I am not a photographer. My pictures usually come out grainy and totally worthless. These HCTM images from Dallas and Houston are from a run of the mill cellphone and I honestly have no idea what I did right. When I talk about mummy magic I mean it.

Even off stage the mummies are working hard.  The mummies merch booth was a cut above the rest. I go to hundreds of shows and the merch situation is always a little maniacal and harum scarum. It is typical at a show to find the merch booth run by a curt, harried scruffy guy who pulls stuff out of dirty, bent boxes haphazardly laying around all over the floor. And if a shirt or jacket is involved there is usually a struggle and an excavation process to find the size you want.

Here Come The Mummies have one of the most organized merch booths I have ever seen with a carefully presented table display of cds freak flags and other swag. And their band tshirts which are available in every size  are folded and placed in their own special cubby.

A post shared by Here Come The Mummies (@hctmummies) on

There is a creative, thoughtful and detail oriented mind at work behind the scenes at mummies headquarters. No detail is too small for these mummies to tend to which should tell you a lot about how they feel about their fans. They must love and respect us passionately to go as hard and as far as they do. So if you are a mummy who finds this review by happenstance, thank you. The love and respect is mutual.

Finding Here Come The Mummies has been such a blessing for my wounded aching heart. Prince's death hit hard and deep. His loss brought a pain I had never experienced before and getting past it seemed impossible. Here Come The Mummies music lifted up my shattered soul and reminded me there is a way to keep going. That the best way to remember Prince is by connecting with other free spirited artists who lived as he making real music with real musicians.

That a group of mummies is collectively known as a liberty is fitting because this particular unbridled fearless batch bring with them a music, an energy, a creativity, a passion & a showmanship that will surely set you free.