A Future for “The Future of Rock and Roll”

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.

Article and link to the five-minute interview former Program Director Mike Taylor did with a local public radio station can be found here.

And here’s the official press release that generated the reactions above:


(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:

Aaron Borns

Ali Castellini

Barb Abney

Bill Douglas

Brian Ewing

Bryan Jay Miller

Damian Dotterweich

Dan “Danny Crash” Reed

Dave Tellmann

Dorsie Fyffe

Forrest Griffen

Julie “Jae Forman” Clay

Jeff Rohrs

Jim Mercer

Joe Long

John Jesser

Julie “Maxwell” Argonis

Keri Valmassei

Luann Gibbs

Matt Shiv

Matt “Sledge” Waller

Matthew Harris

Mike Taylor

Mike Winstead

Nick Pleimling

Phil Kollin

Ric “Tile” Cengeri

Rob Ervin

Robin Plan

Stase Wendland

Steve Baker

Tina Kristina Mueller

If all the old bands can reunite, so can we. Long Live 97X – The Future of Rock and Roll!

You cannot be Sirius

Sorry, SiriusXM, but I’m dumping you.

There are many reasons why I’m dumping satellite radio:

  1. I’m a cheapskate. We have Sirius XM in two cars. Total was about $15 a month. (I’d call each year before my latest “promotional” price would expire to renegotiate the rate.)
  2. I don’t drive as much. Now that I can work from home most days of the week, we’re putting a lot fewer miles on our cars. Less “time spent listening” as the salespeople used to say in my radio days.
  3. I’ve switched from music to podcasts. Nowadays, when I do get in the car, chances are pretty good that I’ll listen to a podcast instead of the radio – satellite or otherwise. Why pay for something you don’t use?
  4. We’re already paying for Spotify. We have the family plan… if I want to listen in the car, I can just stream Spotify or play a downloaded playlist or album.

But those are just the minor reasons. The main reason is their woeful lack of variety on SiriusXMU, the station that likes to call itself the place for “groundbreaking music and emerging artists.” In theory, it should be similar to 97X, the “college rock” station where I worked in the early 90s. But in reality, their playlist is waaaay too narrow.

I was driving my son Peter back to campus at Ohio University (“Harvard on the Hocking”) a few weeks ago, and just for fun, I told him that I’d pick five bands, and we’d see how long we could listen to SiriusXMU before one of them was played. The five bands were:

  1. Vampire Weekend
  2. The Strokes
  3. LCD Soundsystem
  4. Tame Impala
  5. Grizzly Bear

Peter and I wound up listening to other stations for most of the drive to his apartment. On my way home, I listened to podcasts most of the way, but after I stopped to get gas, I turned on SiriusXMU… and they were playing a Tame Impala song.

The following evening when I was running some errands, the 2nd song that came on was from Vampire Weekend.

Two days later, a Grizzly Bear song was playing when I started the (other) car.

4 days later, it was LCD Soundsystem that was on when I got in the car in the mid-morning.

1/23 11:02 a.m.

That same afternoon, I went to visit my mother-in-law in the hospital. Vampire Weekend was the second song that came on during my drive over.

1/23, 5:42 p.m

Aaaand later that evening, when I left the hospital, here’s the song that was playing when I started the car:

1/23 8:39 p.m.

I stopped at a store on the way home. When I got back into the car, here’s what was on:

1/23 8:47 p.m.

It’d be laughable if it weren’t so sad. I mean, why would someone pay for “groundbreaking music” only to get a station with a playlist that’s tighter than a terrestrial Top 40 station?

Each week, I check the list of new album releases (on Allmusic and Metacritic) and create a Spotify playlist of the ones I think will appeal to me. I’ve discovered tons of new music that way. It’s a hobby of mine. But for SiriusXMU, it’s their job… and they’re failing miserably.

Granted there are plenty more channels on SiriusXM (my wife likes the Grateful Dead channel… but now she listens to books on tape in the car), but indie rock is my go-to… and I just can’t go to SiriusXMU any more. It’s too frustrating.

So I’ve dumped them… and if I miss it, I can just create a Spotify playlist of four or five bands and run it on repeat. Same difference.

Stay Weird!

“Weird Al” Yankovic has a biopic out called Weird. In true Weird Al fashion, it’s a parody of biopics. And of course it’s on a weird network (the Roku channel). Weirder still, Daniel Radcliffe plays Al.

I watched it last night. Pretty funny stuff. (One of the best running gags is that Al wrote an original song called “Eat it” and then Michael Jackson came out with “Beat it” as a parody of that.)

Here’s one of the opening scenes, poking fun at the trope of parents who just don’t understand:

“Stop being who you are and doing the things you love…” Classic!

But near the end of the movie, “Al” gives an awards ceremony speech that doesn’t seem like parody (if you can overlook the fact that he pees his pants):

“Live the life you want to live. Be as weird as you wanna be. You will never find true happiness until you can truly accept who you are.”

Al Yankovic plays the accordian. And he does parodies of pop music songs. Not exactly the template for a rocket ride to the top of the music charts. But somehow it worked.

He chose the weird path… the path that was true to himself… and it paid off.

What’s your weird? And are you living it?

Worst. Christmas Song. ever.

I’m a Grinch (pre-heart-growing-three-sizes). And I particularly despise the tripe foisted upon our ears from Halloween onward. You may call it “Christmas music” but to me it’s an aural assault equivalent to a million nails on a chalkboard.

99% of the holiday songs that are played ad nauseum are nausea-inducing. I don’t care if they’re “classics” from milquetoast crooners like Perry Como and Andy Williams or songs from new artists. They all stink.

The newer songs are particularly egregious. Every semi-popular artist releases at least one holiday tune, in a blatant attempt to weasel their way into the nearly-calcified list of 20 or so songs that are trotted out every year, merely to cash in on the “played every 30 minutes for 8 weeks every year” royalties. (It’s called the Mariah Carey Lottery.)

The worst offenders release an entire album of holiday music. “Why thank you, Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, we didn’t think we needed a bazillionth cover of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ but you showed us the error of our ways. God bless us, every one!”

This Tiny Tim probably did a Christmas album.

However, there’s a special place in my holiday hell reserved for what is undeniably the worst Christmas song ever: “The Christmas Shoes.”

Let’s break it down line by line (yes, I know Patton Oswalt does it so much better, but his version is pretty raunchy).

Typical dude, waiting until the last minute to do his shopping. Clearly this song was written in the pre-online shopping era. And let’s face it, no one is in a “Christmas mood” when they’re in a long line.

I think the boy needs to pee. I hope he doesn’t pee in the shoes!

Yes, our narrator is not in a “Christmas mood” nor is he in a Christian mood because he’s being awfully judgy about the lad’s appearance.

And the song has taken a dark turn. But even though the kid’s dad says “there’s not much time” he’s fine with his unaccompanied minor going to the store with a boatload of pennies to buy shoes for his dying mom. Imagine if the mom passes while the kid is out shopping… there aren’t enough pennies in the entire world to pay for the therapy sessions he’ll need.

Also, the dad has informed the wee one that momma is not long for this world, but he clearly hasn’t told his son how funerals work. I’ve been to a few services in my day and have yet to see an “open shoe” casket. So the poor kid is wasting his pennies.

The kid could probably just get her some house slippers. Or use his penny stash to get her some illegal pain meds.

Again, I’m going to go back to the casket thing… the kid should’ve purchased some earrings instead.

Our faithful narrator has been reminded of “what Christmas is all about”:

  • long lines
  • those super-annoying people who pay in cash
  • spending beyond your means
  • impractical gifts
  • imminent death

Sorry for being so grumpy. I blame the music.

Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer

Republishing this post from 2020, because today is Joe Strummer Day, and because the number of dubbatrubba blog readers has doubled in the past 2 years (going from two to four!).

From an old article by Brian Doyle, republished this week in The American Scholar:

Can I ask you a strange favor? On Monday night, December 22, go outside with your kids, or your friends, or your neighbors, and start a bonfire… And when it is going well, when it’s leaping and steady and warmer than you remember bonfires being, stand around it with your friends or your loved ones, and tell stories, and laugh, maybe have a beer, maybe even sing a little.

Mr. Doyle asked us for that favor because Joe Strummer (musician, singer, songwriter, co-founder of The Clash) died on December 22, 2002.

his favorite thing to do was gather friends and family and make bonfires and stand around the fire telling stories and laughing and singing. 

Brian Doyle, in the article linked above.

My friend Kevin read the article recently, and was happy to oblige the request. He organized a firepit gathering at my neighbor Mark’s house on Tuesday night. We were a day late for Joe Strummer Day, but better late than never. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the spirit of a man who touched a lot of lives with his music and his stories.

I’ve read a lot of autobiographies from rock and rollers. Many of them include “the first time I met Joe Strummer” tales. And I’ve yet to read an unkind word about him. From all accounts, he was generous with his time, and liberal with his praise and encouragement.

Joe was only 50 when he passed away. The folks gathered around the fire on Tuesday have passed that milestone. I hope we’re able to keep Joe’s spirit burning brightly.

Think of it as a way to say hey to Joe Strummer, who was a good man, much missed; but think of it too as a way to honor what he cherished and savored in his own life: the way standing or sitting together matters, and telling stories matters, and laughing matters, and singing matters. That’s Joe Strummer’s true legacy, I think, more than the records he sold

Brian Doyle’s piece is quite short, and well worth the read. Mr. Doyle passed away in 2017. Like Joe, he left us with food for thought, with something to savor, with fond memories.

See you next December 22nd. Until then, keep the fire burning.

Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer
I think he might have been our only decent teacher

Lyrics from “Constructive Summer” by The Hold Steady

Mob Rules!

If I had to pick one word to sum up this past Saturday’s Royal Crescent Mob concert, that word would be “joyous.”

Carlton’s smile can light up an entire venue. (Photo credit: Jon Calderas. Full gallery here.)

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.

Lead singer David Ellison in this CincyMusic interview with Jon Calderas

The Royal Crescent Mob brought a ton of joy to thousands of people 30 years ago. It was so good to experience that joy once again. It makes life worth living.

And if I had to use three words to describe their show, those words would be: Joyous. Sweaty. Grateful.

Thank you B, David, Carlton and Happy. Take a bow. Because we’re all happy now.

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