On this blog, I don’t normally post my music-centric stuff (I have a separate blog for that). But I’m making an exception because I’m pretty darn proud of the fact that my old radio pal Dave and I have done 90+ episodes of a podcast, and that podcast has been the impetus for a full-fledged radio station revival (albeit for a limited, one-week-only engagement). Full press release is at the bottom of this post.
The podcast has been a labor of love. We’ve never sold a nickel’s worth of ads. We’ve never reached an audience beyond a hundred or so loyal listeners. But we’ve brought a lot of joy to those listeners, and that’s worth more than gold.
The fact that a niche format station based in the tiny town of Oxford, Ohio, with a crappy signal, could reach so many, and still be fondly remembered nearly half a century after it started, and more than a decade after it ceased to exist… it’s nothing short of magic.
To be able to pay tribute to the under-the-radar bands and their music, and showcase the DJs from every era of the station’s existence, is truly special.
And here’s the official press release that generated the reactions above:
97X, BAM, THE FUTURE OF ROCK AND ROLL RETURNS WITH THE 2023 97X MODERN ROCK 500
(Oxford/Cincinnati, OH) – March 9, 2023 – It’s been 20 years since the legendary Oxford, OH-based alternative radio station WOXY FM, aka “97X, BAM! The Future of Rock and Roll” first left the airwaves. Celebrating what would have been its 40th anniversary, 97X makes its triumphant online return in May 2023 with the 2023 97X Modern Rock 500 countdown.
In partnership with Cincinnati-based streaming station Inhailer Radio, 97X and WOXY.com present the 2023 97X Modern Rock 500, airing May 22 – 29, 2023 on Inhailer Radio, also available on the Inhailer Radio app and WGUC 90.9- HD3 in Cincinnati.
The 2023 Modern Rock 500 will air on Inhailer Radio in five 100-lap segments from May 22-26, 2023, and repeat in the 500’s traditional Memorial Day weekend timeslot from May 27-29, 2023. Plans are in the works for an on-demand archive of the broadcast.
As a special treat, the broadcast is hosted by over 30 station DJs sharing memories from WOXY’s 40-year run. From its fledgling 80s days to the explosion of the format in the 90s and its time as an online entity in the early 2000s, the 2023 Modern Rock 500 is represented by the people who were there making it happen.
If there was one signature program that became synonymous with 97X, it was the annual Modern Rock 500. Borrowing thematically from the nearby Indianapolis 500 and broadcast over Memorial Day Weekend, the 97X Modern Rock 500 counted down the best alternative songs as “laps”. The Modern Rock 500 aired on 97X from 1988-2003 and continued on WOXY.COM from 2005-2009.
Now it returns for one final countdown.
The broadcast also serves as a wrap-up of the 97X-focused podcast Rumblings from the Big Bush (a reference to a distinctly large shrubbery located on the station’s Oxford, Ohio property), hosted by former DJs Dave Tellmann and Damian Dotterweich.
“Rumblings over the last few years has caught up with former air talent, station employees, fans of the station, and some of the artists that we played at 97X. It’s been a blast! The podcast has about run its course; but the idea of capping it with the Modern Rock 500 couldn’t be a better way to sign off,” said co-host Dave Tellmann. Rumblings… episodes can be found on all major podcast player sites and on 97Xbam.
“We here at Inhailer are honored to hand over the airwaves to the people of 97X who influenced our own musical journeys and the music we play here”, adds Taylor Fox, Founder and Program Director at Inhailer. “We’re downright giddy with excitement!”
“This new Modern Rock 500 will be limited to those songs that landed on the countdown in the past. It’s taking a look back from a present-day point of view”, states Mike Taylor, 97X Program Director from 2001 to 2010. “Any way you slice it, it’s gonna be 500 great tunes.”
The 2023 97X Modern Rock 500 is a love letter to its loyal legion of listeners and to station owners Doug and Linda Balogh, for giving the world something super special. We’ll see you at the starting line…
Full list of featured talent:
Bryan Jay Miller
Dan “Danny Crash” Reed
Julie “Jae Forman” Clay
Julie “Maxwell” Argonis
Matt “Sledge” Waller
Ric “Tile” Cengeri
Tina Kristina Mueller
If all the old bands can reunite, so can we. Long Live 97X – The Future of Rock and Roll!
My friend and co-worker Brian has an interesting side hustle. He prowls the sidelines of NFL games as “Who Dey” – the mascot for the Cincinnati Bengals.
He’s been “dressing up as a fake tiger” (his words, not mine) for more than 20 years — he’s getting a bit long in the fang for the mascot game. This feat is quite impressive when you consider how much of a physical workout it is. (Brian said on warmer game days, he’ll sweat off 10 pounds or more.)
And it’s even more impressive when you consider the fact that the Bengals were… let me put this politely… not good for much of his tenure. It can’t be much fun trying to fire up a sparse crowd — many of whom were probably rooting for the opposing team — during a 2-14 season.
I’m glad the Tiger tables have turned. If things go the Bengals way this Sunday, Brian will be going to the Super Bowl for the 2nd year in a row. Not bad for a side hustle. Or should I say “fur” a side hustle?
Xavier University’s website has a great profile of Brian here.
While he was in college, he was leading a mascot double life, as the “Blue Blob” mascot at Xavier sporting events, as well as doing his Who Dey thing.
And because Brian’s a natural ham, I cast him in a bunch of fun videos that I’ve scripted for our company over the years. One of my favorites was a buddy cop spoof — Brian and I were “Ham” and “Cheese” respectively, for obvious reasons.
In that video, we poked fun at some of the more arcane rules in the employee handbook, like “no t-shirts with inappropriate slogans” for our in-house fitness center. Here’s a quick clip from that:
I’m glad Brian’s still having fun hamming it up as Who Dey. Here’s hoping we see him at Super Bowl LVII in a few weeks!
If I had to pick one word to sum up this past Saturday’s Royal Crescent Mob concert, that word would be “joyous.”
If I got to use two word to describe it, I’d use “joyous” and “sweaty.”
Joyous and sweaty were the hallmarks of any Royal Crescent Mob live show, back when they were a touring band, in the late 80s through the mid-90s. One of the best live bands in the entire world. Yes, a club band, with a mostly Midwestern fan base. But ask anyone who ever attended one of the RCMob shows and they will easily attest to the Mob’s punk ethos, their funk bona fides and their stellar showmanship. You had a 100% chance of leaving their shows feeling joyous and sweaty.
But it had been 28 years since the Royal Crescent Mob played together live. A lifetime ago. And now “lifetime” has a brand new meaning for the audience members, and especially the band members.
Time takes its toll on all of us. If we’re lucky, we manage to avoid cancer. In that department, the RC Mob has been decidedly unlucky. Lead singer David Ellison is being treated for prostate cancer. Lead guitarist Brian “B” Emch lost his wife to pancreatic cancer earlier this year. Drummer Carlton Smith has a rare form of brain cancer.
Rather than wallow in pity, the band decided to take their heaping helping of lemons and make lemonade… and sell it to raise funds for cancer research.
They played a fundraiser show in Columbus (their home base back in the day) on Friday, and Cincinnati (their second home, and strongest market, thanks in no small part to 97X radio station) on Saturday. Two shows in two nights. A limited engagement. Then again, life is a limited engagement.
It was a different kind of joyous this time around. For a couple of nights, for a couple of hours, they could focus on the music instead of mortality. So could their fans.
we’re four guys up there…and, you know, our audiences, our fan base is our age probably now. And it’s important for them to know there’s like, there’s this shitty thing about getting older, it’s like, things pop up. And, you know, I mean, hopefully we can raise some awareness about that as well. That’d be just extra special to be able to do that and it’s going to mean a lot for everybody to up on stage just to be playing together, that whole camaraderie.
We hate that we’re talking about Dan in the past tense.
53 years was all Dan got. He made the most of them, playing in a Grateful Dead-inspired jam band for 35 of them, alongside my wife’s cousin Mike, and carving out a great career at P&G.
But you can be a musician and be a jerk. Or you can be a musician and be like Dan – kind, positive, sharing the love of music with the next generation.
Dan’s passing was sudden, and totally unexpected. He was supposed to fly back into town this weekend and play a gig with his band, Spookfloaters. Instead, his family and friends will gather in Colorado for a celebration of life.
“Celebration of life” – it’s something we should all do, every day. Dan sure did. Rest in peace, friend. We love you.
Heaven is having two of the best singer-songwriters in the whole wide world play a concert in your living room.
That’s Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker of the band Wussy. (Chuck used to front a band called Ass Ponys… as he readily admits, he’s 0-2 in band names.)
Wussy has released several albums to much critical acclaim (see below) and limited commercial success.
“Wussy have been the best band in America since they released the first of their five superb albums in 2005.”
Robert Christgau (“the dean of American rock critics”) in 2012
Chuck and Lisa (and the other band members) still have day jobs. It nearly breaks my music-loving heart to know that such talented artists are toiling in semi-obscurity. Then again, if they were international superstars, they wouldn’t be playing my living room. I still have goosebumps from hearing their songs, and am still on Cloud Nine from the house show.
Chuck and Lisa couldn’t be nicer human beings… they create amazing art… they get to play their songs for people who absolutely adore them. Who needs American Top 40 anyway?
Doug Balogh recently celebrated his 80th birthday. Doug’s name may not mean much to you, but Doug meant the world to a bunch of youngsters who worked at the radio station he and his wife Linda owned and operated for more than two decades in Oxford, Ohio.
97X was a tiny station in a small college town. It had a weak signal, and it played weird music. Not exactly the recipe for runaway success. In fact, it barely registered on the quarterly list of radio ratings for Cincinnati and Dayton stations. But if you define success by the joy that station brought to both the station staff and the small-but-mighty group of dedicated listeners, then Doug’s ratings are off the charts — on the good side.
Doug gave countless young adults – many of them still in college or recently graduated – a chance to work in radio. For that reason alone, he deserves a ton of credit. But he not only gave them opportunity, but also a ton of freedom to do what they thought was best. To play the music they wanted. To be total goofballs on the air. To learn on the job. To grow up under his tutelage.
I’m probably the poster child for Doug Balogh’s Radio Refuge. I worked in radio for a few years after I graduated college, doing behind the scenes work at a company that ran an AM oldies station and an FM country station. I discovered 97X because they played bands you couldn’t hear anywhere else (Replacements, Connells, They Might Be Giants… I could go on and on). I wound up weaseling my way into some weekend air shifts there. I probably spent more in gas money than I made in hourly wages, but I didn’t care, because I had a freedom I couldn’t find elsewhere in the formatted-to-death world of corporate radio, and a connection to the listeners that made it feel like we were all one big (or not so big) happy family.
But then I had my “lost years”… I wound up leaving the radio biz and was living with my brother in Bakersfield, California and working as a travel agent. I knew I was deluding myself but I was in a bit of a rut. When I finally worked up the courage to try to get back in the radio game, the first call I made was to Doug. He had no business putting out the welcome mat for some travel agent in Bakersfield who did a few weekend shifts at the station three years prior. But somehow, some way, Doug brought me back into the fold. Because he saw something in me that I myself often struggled to see. Doug was an ace salesman, but his greatest skill was talent scout. He had a preternatural gift for sensing the right “fit” in the people who came looking for a job there.
I worked overnights for a year, mornings for a year and afternoons for six months before leaving for a larger station in Cincinnati. 97X was where I found myself… it was the radio reboot I desperately needed. It was a second chance at my first love. It was all that and more, thanks to Doug and Linda.
That was 30 years ago. I’ve said many times since that 97X was the least amount of money I’ve ever made… and the most fun I’ve ever had. The latter is much more valuable, and more precious, by far.
Prior to Doug’s big BD, his son Marty and daughter Kristy asked me to reach out to a bunch of 97X alums and get a birthday greeting from them. Several responded, and I edited the clips together for an audio surprise (seemed like a fitting format for a radio guy) that Marty and Kristy shared with Doug during the birthday celebration. I won’t share the total clip here, but you’ll hear snippets from three folks who worked on the morning show (in order: Julie Maxwell, John “JJ” Jesser and Steve Baker)
“Mentor. Coach…. wonderful place”
“Best years of my life”
Some folks may think that Doug and Linda ran a tiny radio station for 20 years. But I know better – they created a magical place that still exists in our minds and hearts.