My buddy Dave and I have been doing a podcast for nearly three years. It’s called “97X Rumblings from the Big Bush,” and it’s about a dearly departed modern rock/alternative/college rock/indie (pick any of those) radio station. Dave and I both worked there in the 90s. The station never made a scratch in the Cincinnati market ratings, much less a dent. But the few folks who did tune in weren’t just casual listeners, they were truly passionate about the music. And 97X was their tribe, the place where they belonged.
The terrestrial station (97.7 FM in Oxford, Ohio) gave up the ghost in 2004. The online version (woxy.com) was lost to the ether in 2010. But it still holds a very special place in the hearts of those who remember it. And that’s the target audience for our podcast. It’s too small to even be a niche, but we don’t mind.
We publish a new episode roughly every two weeks, and we probably average around 160 downloads.
Joe Rogan is not in danger of losing his podcasting crown, that’s for sure.
Over the three years, we’ve published 66 episodes. Each one requires scheduling a call, doing the interview, editing each episode down to roughly 20 minutes, uploading and posting it. (We probably should promote it too, but we stink at that!). So it’s easily two hours of work per episode. We’ve made the princely sum of zero dollars and zero cents for our efforts. (Actually it’s a loss leader – we have to pay for podcast hosting.) But as Dave and I like to say, “we’ve made 150 people very happy” because we’re helping them reconnect with a station that meant a lot to them, and reconnect with the people who made it so special.
Here’s an email we got about a month ago — I think it sums up why Dave and I continue to do the podcast:
Hey Dave and Damian!
I discovered 97X: Rumblings from the Big Bush on Spotify, and have been binge listening for weeks to get caught up! This past weekend I listened all the way down to Nashville and again all the way back, and you made the trip go by so fast.
I love this podcast so much. Hearing your voices and your guests take me right back. This is going to be a long email.
I grew up in Crosby Township, just south of Ross Ohio, surrounded by cornfields, with a view of the Fernald uranium plant in the distance.
My family wasn’t really into music. As a kid their idea of good entertainment was “Hee Haw”. My older siblings listened to 70s lite rock and country music. I knew none of this was for me, but I didn’t know what was.
I was in middle school in 1983 when my brother came home from college one weekend and played some new music he’d heard from friends. When I heard The Go-Gos for the first time, I thought it was the weirdest thing I ever heard — and I LOVED IT. Around that time too my just older sister and her high school friends were listening to British pop. I went to a friend’s house for a sleepover, and they had cable tv. We watched the U2 Red Rocks concert on MTV, and I was amazed. I was getting closer, but I still couldn’t find anything in any steady stream that was for me. All I heard was Q102.
Then one day about 1985, I was in my room flipping through my collection of Star Hits magazines, looking at photos of Depeche Mode and other British bands, wondering what they sounded like, and scrolling through the radio dial…when all of a sudden I heard the most outrageous sounds coming from the speakers. I found 97X!
That was about the only good thing about where I lived: 97X came in crystal clear and was like an oasis among the fields of corn. The music you played opened my mind and heart to soundscapes so different than anything I’d ever known. You took me to places I was sure I’d never get to go. How lucky was I!
I remember the summers in high school listening to 97X. I always had leftover notebooks at the end of the school year. So I ripped out all my biology and algebra notes, and used up the remaining pages keeping lists of songs I heard and liked on the radio. I filled pages and pages. I hung on every note, counted each song, waiting for you to backsell what you just played so I could write it down. (Gosh I wish I still had those lists!)
Whenever I could, I kept a Memorex 90 minute cassette in the player so I could spring from my bed in time to hit record/play and catch those songs and make mix tapes. And I waited all week for Saturday overnights when you’d play an album in its entirety. I struggled to stay awake til midnight just to hit record, then turned the volume low so I could sleep. In the morning I rewound to listen back, and was either happy or bummed to find out if the entire album fit on one side. I remember getting XTC “Apples and Oranges” that way, and The Indigo Girls and The Smithereens. Then later I would make my own album covers from a collage of pictures and patterns I’d find in magazines.
I didn’t have an allowance or a job, so I’d save my lunch money up to buy used albums whenever I could. In anticipation of The Smiths’ “Louder Than Bombs” I saved and rolled coins for weeks and weeks til I had enough plus tax to buy it brand new at Camelot Music in Northgate Mall. (I think the clerk hated me for my rolls of taped up coins, but I was too excited to care.)
I also didn’t get to go to shows, but did manage two unforgettable ones I heard about on 97X. I got to see Echo & the Bunnymen at Millett Hall, and Gene Loves Jezebel at Bogart’s (I think RedMath opened for them there?)
After I graduated high school in 1989, I went to a little Christian college in Kentucky. The kids there tried to get me into their Christian music, but most of it stunk, bad. Then someone suggested I give the band The Choir a try, and finally I was like, “These are my people!” Bands like The Choir, The Prayer Chain, The Seventy Sevens, and anything by Michael Knott would have fit so well with 97X’s format! I’m still a fan of them and all the music from 97X to this day.
I wish I could say you inspired me to pursue a creative career in music or art or something that would have made me an interesting adult. I’m just a music fan, is all, but can’t play or sing or anything. I got married and became a stay at home mom. But a freaking cool one. (My kids have turned out cool too, they dig all my music and introduce me to theirs.)
Really I just wanted to let you know how much 97X meant to me in my teen years. You truly saved me. I can’t fully express how much you did. But I am Here in large part because of this station. You gave me hope and an outlet. I heard you, and my spirit felt heard in return.
Thank you so much for doing this podcast. Also excited to find playlists on Spotify, and I tuned-in to Inhailer radio for the first time today. And I just ordered a 97X t-shirt from Unsung Salvage Design in Hamilton that I will proudly wear wherever I go.
Please let me know if you are on Facebook. An episode I heard this weekend mentioned “WOXY Forever” but I couldn’t find it. I found the 97X WOXY Alums closed group, but I wasn’t an employee so… The only other page I could find is WOXY.COM The Future of Rock and Roll, which hasn’t been posted to since 2011.
See? I told you it was more than just a radio station. And it was more than a home for independent music… it was a refuge for whole bunch of folks like Jen who felt like they didn’t fit in anywhere else…. and 97X became their home.
Really I just wanted to let you know how much 97X meant to me in my teen years. You truly saved me. I can’t fully express how much you did. But I am here in large part because of this station. You gave me hope and an outlet. I heard you, and my spirit felt heard in return.
(We got Jen’s permission to print her email, in case you were wondering.)
The station and its programming was driven by the idea that true independence is possible only when practiced with and for other people. The book argues that this idea of independence is what we need to fight the 21st century corporate mainstream, which is driven by the false idea that real independence is being left to fend for yourself.Robin James, describing the book she’s writing about 97X. Read more here.