Other Stuff  I  Do

For the first dozen years after Sarah and I moved out here to the Happy Valley of western Massachusetts, I hosted a music program on WMUA, the noncommercial FM station at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. On the air, I was known as “Daddy Wags.”

The type of show did changed over the years. I started out with a weekday-afternoon world music show called All Over the Map, then moved to an eclectic early-morning show called Rude Awakenings, then an oddball late-night show called Strange Bedfellows. That last one was the longest-running and most fun, because I mixed night music — moody jazz, avant garde contemporary classical, some darker rock and other oddities — with all sorts of spoken word sprinkled in, from poetry to comedy, political ranting to old-time radio rambling. A key part of the show’s appeal was the weekly hour-long segment devoted to the radio collage work of Joe Frank, drawn from his archives of hundreds of hours of programs for NPR. It’s hard to describe Joe’s work, other than to say that if you’re alone in your car late at night and happen to stumble upon it while flipping through stations, you’ll want to stick around . . . and if your signal starts to fade before his hour is done, you’ll be probably pull into a rest stop to catch the rest. Strange Bedfellows was a lot of fun.

My final stint at WMUA was as host of one of the station’s longest-running and most popular shows, a Sunday afternoon foray into American roots music called Country, Blues & Bluegrass. The show was on the air for more than 40 years (with many, many other hosts before me) and had quite the devoted following. You can probably guess some of the music I played, although country, blues and bluegrass were only part of the story. You also would have heard Cajun and zydeco, Tejano and other Texas border music, any other American music that’s too gritty to be pop.

But CB&B is no more, after the undergrads who ran the station decided to do away with the community shows that for years had made up about half of the programming. These days WMUA is a wasteland, vanilla programming with no listenership. A fine community resource no more.

My wife, Sarah Swersey, plays the flute. She plays it very well. She’s performed all over the world, including seven years as principal flutist for an orchestra in Spain. Now she’s one half of Dúo Fusión, along with guitarist extraordinaire Joe Belmont. Sarah’s background is in classical music, Joe’s in jazz and other styles, and together they explore all corners of the musical map — from J.S. Bach to Astor Piazzolla, Miles Davis to Gabriel Fauré, Celtic jig to Andes folk song to surf guitar frenzy. Where do I fit in? I’m the unofficial manager/publicist for Sarah and Joe — I keep their website updated and am always improving its look and content, I write their promotional materials and work with venues to publicize their performances, and I try to get the word out about their exquisite CD. Have you heard Dúo Fusión? If not, you owe it to yourself to check out the music.

%d bloggers like this: