Take a visit to the audio green room that is BACKSTAGE ATLANTA (Tues. at 12:30 p.m.; encore Sun. 11:30 a.m.) , and you might find bassist Joe B. Maudlin of Buddy Holly & The Crickets sharing a firsthand account of the heyday of early rock ‘n’ roll. Or ‘80s synth-pop maestro Jan Hammer revealing the story behind how he came to compose the soundtrack to MIAMI VICE. R&B legend Peabo Bryson has stopped by, The Beach Boys‘ Brian Wilson was a recent guest, and country star Emmylou Harris came to sit a spell, as well as pianist Kenny Ascher, who’s collaborated with John Lennon, Barbara Streisand and Paul Williams.
Those Retro music greats, however, never would have found it onto Atlanta’s airwaves if it wasn’t for the existence of an eclectic little radio station called AM 1690 The Voice of the Arts and a visionary local musician named Scott Glazer known for jumping music genres and fascinated with what goes on behind the curtains. ATLRetro recently caught up with Scott, who also deejays The Midday Mix (Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.) on AM 1690, to find out more about the independent radio station and Scott’s passion for preserving music history on the air.
How did you become involved with AM 1690 The Voice of the Arts?
I am a musician. In the fall of ’03, I was playing the annual run of THE 1940s RADIO HOUR at Theatre in the Square in Marietta. One evening after the show I went to a jam session at Darwin’s, a blues joint. There I sang and played with a piano player and spoke and exchanged phone numbers with him. Turns out that he was/is station owner Joe Weber. We touched base a couple of times during the year, and [in] fall of ’04, he called me and asked me to come in to speak with him and [General Manager] Jeff Davis. I was astounded and excited!
When people hear “The Voice of the Arts,” they might think you’re another public radio station playing classical and experimental jazz. They’d be wrong, right?
First off, they’d be wrong in thinking that we are “public radio.” No National Endowment for the Arts funds come our way. Led by noted industry veteran and my personal hero Jeff Davis, our advertising sales staff is #1 and hustles like hell! As far as classical and experimental music, well, you’ll get some of everything on AM1690. We play music that we are passionate about. Most of it is music that you won’t hear on the big megabucks media conglomerates. How can there not be George Jones, Emmylou or Loretta on country radio? Or Chuck Berry, The Olympics, Percy Mayfield, Ruth Brown, Patsy Cline or a litany of other American greats on the air?
As a DJ and music director for college radio, I always felt I was on a mission to expose listeners to something they couldn’t hear elsewhere in the sea of commercial corporate-driven stations. It seems like AM 1690 has that same rebel energy, only it’s for all ages. How important is it for there to be alternatives on the radio dial today?
In a world of commercial and talk radio, we offer a hopefully thoughtful alternative by seeking music—and spoken word—through considering the scene in a broad scope—indie, local, world. The station reflects the spirit and guiding vision of Joe Weber. Independent radio is a beautiful thing.
You’ve said the reason you do BACKSTAGE ATLANTA is to explore aspects of music that those outside of the business might never experience. What do you mean by that and what are a few examples?
The vagaries and the delights of performing, the creative process, the nuts and bolts and grind of the road. Surprises along the way, chemistry between artists, the sometimes competitive aspect of their artistry. These are things only someone in the middle of it can reflect upon.
I’ve been thinking about an older generation of musicians. I enjoy speaking with folks, musicians especially, who have created their own distinctive voice in music. As well, it’s important to me to record the thoughts of folks who are getting on in years—pioneers whose work stands up and sounds as good today as it did when it was recorded maybe 50 years ago. As time flies by, we’ve seen the passing of folks who seemed to be with us on air just yesterday. Solomon Burke, Jack Lalanne. I want to hear about their experiences, creativity, joys and hardships.
I’m sure it’s hard to pick favorite guests, but can you share a few anecdotes about memorable shows. Let’s start with who was the most surprising guest either in terms of revealing something unexpected or in terms of their personality?
Had a quick interview this month with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys before his August 3 performance at Chastain Park. He lived up to his reputation as a “cryptic” interview. But did offer some insight into his genius. That said, he was revealing in another sort of way; his manner reflecting his tumultuous personal experience.
Who did you think you’d never get on the show, and how did you land him/her?
Emmylou [Harris] took about a year, but she was an amazing guest. She visited us in the studio and spent an hour and a half live on the air with me and her former Hot Band music director, prolific bassist, producer extraordinaire and Atlanta native, Emory Gordy, Jr. I heard that she wanted to come back before her concert this summer at the Atlanta Botanical Garden but had her Mom with her and couldn’t work it out.
Who would you love to talk to talk to in the future?
This week we ran an interview with drumming legend Bernard Purdie, who has been all over music—Aretha, Steely Dan, King Curtis. Right now I’m working toward a conversation with sax legend Sonny Rollins. I saw Atlanta native Gladys Knight‘s great, down home show in Vegas this summer. I’ve always loved her music and would very much like to chat with her.
You’re also an accomplished bassist. What are some bands you’ve played with which readers may know, who are you playing with now, and where can we see you perform live in the near future?
I’ve been around the world playing and singing with various groups including Grammy Award-winning guitarist Earl Klugh and others. In Atlanta, I worked with Atlanta’s Donnie McCormick in the ’80s. I play occasionally with the Columbus [GA]
Symphony and various theater and cabaret groups. I enjoy arranging, playing bass and singing for my own group, The MOJO DOJO. The band includes two horns and young bloods alongside veterans. When we’re onstage all is well in the world—or at least on stage! Incidentally, we’ll be at Blind Willie’s on Wed. August 24 playing some great stuff; ‘50s R&B, blues, jazz and Southern soul.
Find past episodes of BACKSTAGE ATLANTA archived here.