About a month ago, my old radio pal Ric “The Rictile” Cengeri was unceremoniously dumped from his Vermont Public Radio gig, after 12 years of faithful service.
I worked with Ric for three years at 97X. We were roommates for much of that time, and morning show co-hosts for a year. So we spent a ton of time together. You won’t find a nicer guy, or one more passionate about creating great radio programs.
His energy was off the charts. His sense of humor was keen. His joie de vivre was contagious. His ability to remember listeners’ names was Rain Man-like. The way he mentored our college co-ops was admirable.
You could drop Rictile onto an uncharted desert isle (not Gilligan’s Island) and come back in three weeks to find a full blown party with hundreds of people. (He earned his Dirty Mayor nickname from his local pub, where he made so many fast friends that they called him “the Mayor.” He even has a cider named in his honor.)
After such a shock, Ric could’ve chosen to wallow in self-pity. But that’s not the Way of the Rictile. Instead, he’s doing what he’s always done. Going to concerts, to museums, to sporting events, to restaurants, to the symphony, to poetry readings, to the pub, to farmer’s markets, and volunteering in the community… The Man stole his livelihood, but he’s not going to mess up his life.
The Facebook post below from a former co-worker — and Ric’s reply — speak volumes about the kind of person he is.
Ric’s VPR job ended on a sour note, but the Dirty Mayor’s life is a thing of beauty. I can’t wait to hear about his next adventure.
A few weekends ago, I created what many would consider a very crappy website. But I don’t think it’s crappy — I think it’s scrappy.
I’m a big fan of Seth Godin, and one of his key tenets is “ship your work.” In other words, you have to put your product out there, you can’t keep it hidden, or keep noodling it to death, wishing and praying that it’ll become perfect at some undefined, future time.
It’s scary, it’s intimidating, because you’re essentially signing your name to something that is rough, raw, unhoned. You’re saying “here, I made this” and opening yourself up to the slings and arrows of other people’s evaluation… and even criticism.
Here’s a recent blog post of Seth’s where he talks about “scrappy” vs. “crappy”:
The only choice is to launch before you’re ready. Before it’s perfect. Before it’s 100% proven to be no risk to you. At that moment, your resistance says, “don’t ship it, it’s crappy stuff. We don’t ship crap.” And it’s true that you shouldn’t ship work that’s hurried, sloppy or ungenerous. But what’s actually on offer is something scrappy. Scrappy means that while it’s unpolished, it’s better than good enough. Scrappy doesn’t care about cosmetics as much as it cares about impact. Scrappy is flexible and resilient and ready to learn. Ship scrappy.
Ship scrappy is exactly what I did. I’m a big fan of music (no shock to my handful of faithful readers), and I wanted a site where I could consolidate all my music musings:
blog posts about live shows, bands, the music business
episodes my semi-monthly podcast about my days at 97X, a ground-breaking indie rock station from 1983-2004 and online only through 2010
A weekly list of the concerts coming to the Cincinnati area, with my wacky (and sometimes snarky) commentary included. I used to send this out via email, but having it on a website makes it easier to edit and send, and more engaging (I hope) for the recipient.
Hence, 97Xbam.com was born in June, weighing in at 10 pounds of scrappy in a five-pound bag. Wondering where the name came from? Here’s the answer:
While I was putting the site together, I realized I could also add a few more features… a music video, a song from SoundCloud or a similar listening platform, indie rock headlines/news, a discussion board, a photo gallery of concert pix, even sound clips from my days at 97X.
I’m a writer, not a designer, so it ain’t pretty, but it’s pretty good. Huge tip o’ the hat to WordPress for making it so easy that even a caveman like me could do it. The domain name cost about $10, and hosting is about $100. A small price to pay for a scrappy little website. And I’ll keep working on it.
I’ll be posting most, if not all, of my music-related pieces on 97Xbam.com instead of posting them on this site. So if you don’t like my weird taste in music, you’ll enjoy NOT getting the occasional music post. But if you DO like music, you can also subscribe to 97Xbam.com via a link at the bottom of the page, and you’ll get an email anytime I post, typically 1-2 times a week.
It’s not perfect. But it’s scrappy. And that’s music to my ears.
After publishing yesterday’s post, I realized it was an inadvertent rerun – it had the same “inspirational quote” content as a post from mid-December. Clearly, I need to stock up on gingko biloba or some other memory aid (real or imagined).
To make up for yesterday’s stale post, today we have something piping hot and fresh from The Bakerman. Also known as Steve Baker… or just plain “Bake.” He’s a broadcasting legend, and I don’t use that term lightly (just ask Joe Buck).
Steve’s current role is Assistant Athletic Director – Director of Broadcasting for Miami University. But in a prior life, he worked at 97X for 20 years, as a news reporter, midday host, morning show host, station manager, play-by-play man for Miami U. football and basketball (he still does that in his current role), assistant engineer, only person with any technical expertise for live/remote broadcasts, etc. I had the privilege of working with him for a few years back in the late 80s and early 90s. He’s one of the best play-by-play people in the universe, and a great guy to boot.
My friend Dave (with whom Bake and I both worked at 97X) and I have started a podcast about the good old days at 97X, a tiny station in Oxford, Ohio that was one of the first in the country to play “college rock/indie rock/alternative” music and did so for more than 20 years, earning national accolades in the process. The station had a crappy, hard-to-pickup signal, but it also had an oversized influence on its listeners (and employees).
In our most recently published episode, we spend 20 minutes chatting with Steve. If you listen, you’ll hear some great stories from Steve – including how he started at “that damn punk rock station” and how his stellar voice (“great pipes” as we say in the business) wound up in the Academy Award-winning Tom Cruise/Dustin Hoffman movie Rainman.
If you’re so inclined, you can visit the podcast home page for three other episodes, and you can even “follow” it to be alerted when there’s a new episode (about every two weeks… provided the co-host/recording engineer/editor known as dubbatrubba doesn’t have too much other stuff going on.)
My friend Dave worked there as well (that’s how we met and became friends). Now that Dave’s two sons and my four kids are a bit older, we have some spare time on our hands. So we decided to create a podcast about our adventures (and misadventures) at 97X.
I don’t think Marc Maron and the folks at My Favorite Murder or This American Life have to watch their backs, but if you listened to 97X before it went off the air, you’ll probably find the podcast semi-entertaining. Even if you never heard (or even heard of) the station, you might get a kick or three out of the podcast. Or not. But hey, it’s only 18 minutes of your day. You’ve probably got some time off for the holidays, right? It’s the perfect aural accompaniment to taking down the Christmas lights, trying to assemble kids toys and/or scrubbing congealed ham/turkey/goose fat out of the roasting pan.
You can subscribe via that same link, so you’ll never have to miss a single scintillating episode. (And you won’t miss the boring ones either.)
You can also listen/download below.
Please don’t feel obligated to listen. Dave and I just have to call it “podcasting” because that sounds fancier (and more productive) than “hanging out in the basement and reminiscing about the good old days.”