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By Bryan Chalker June 17 2016
Email:  Bryan.Chalker@yahoo.co.uk

I have always considered my long involvement in the broadcasting
industry to be a privilege and, whilst my career has often been fraught
with problems largely associated with raising the profile and image of
country music in the face of opposition from colleagues who dismiss the
genre as 'junk' music, I have thoroughly enjoyed more than 45 years
behind the microphone.

As a musician and recording artist myself, I am acutely aware of the
pitfalls of trying to get product aired on radio stations and go out of
my way to ensure that fellow performers have easy access to my 'Same
Roots, Different Fruits' show on Somer Valley 97.5FM. I do insist,
however, that all music is submitted to me in CD format. The growing
trend of sending songs via mp3 does not appeal to me, as it reduces
music to an electronic commodity completely lacking in soul and substance.

Many of my colleagues on the station are happy to use mp3 and frequently
download CD's to Somer Valley's computer system. Their shows are
presented using the touch-screen method but, as an old-school dinosaur,
I prefer to use CD's. I am, of course, in a minority but that's good
enough for me. Yes, I do make mistakes and my 'trademark' is opening
the wrong fader/slider and plunging into the first bar of the song I've
just played. Oops! To err is human.

During my early days as a broadcaster I made many other mistakes but
listening back to recordings of my own programs taught me the rights
and wrongs of broadcasting as a music presenter. My personal rules are
fairly basic and amount to not talking over intros and outros, or
'singing along' to music, as these traits irritate the listener and mar
a good song. I have never adopted the crass 'crush-and-roll' policy of
countless American radio stations. This practice involves pulling down
the fader/slider on the record currently playing and moving instantly to
the next, thereby potentially destroying innovative and creative
instrumental fade-outs and sometimes clipping vocals. This, in my
ancient book, amounts to heresy.

Microphone techniques are a vital tool in presenting a satisfying and
enjoyable musical radio show. I was what was known as a 'popper' in my
early days but learned to avoid it by gently compressing my lips on
offending words and smoothing my vocal delivery. I also quickly adapted
the policy of anti-waffle, as we refer to it in the UK - basically, if
you've got nothing to say, then don't say it! A great number of
djs/presenters wrongly assume that they are more important than the
music they are playing. Wrong! If you are hosting a music-based show,
then allow much of the music to speak for itself. Hans Christian
Andersen had it right when he said, 'When words fail, music speaks'.

It is also extremely important to know your subject and impart just
enough knowledge about a particular song, or unusual instrument (such as
the autoharp, Appalachian dulcimer or picking-bow) to engage the listener
without becoming tedious. I pride myself on my wide knowledge of music
but have worked on some stations where the so-called Head of Music
hadn't a clue. The HM of London's now-defunct Country 10.35 thought
bluegrass was a perfume, Tex-Mex was a Mexican bandit and was totally
thrown by Cajun, which he confused with Irish ceilidh music!

I was on a high salary at Country 10.35 but hated its computerized
format, with rigid playlists and heavy-rotation. It was the early 1980s
and Garth Brooks was at saturation level, with literally every other
song being one of his. It made for boring radio and when I attempted to
deviate slightly by playing Lefty Frizzell and Hank Snow (to the delight
of listeners everywhere), I was fired on the spot. Oh, bliss! I moved
then to CMR (Country Music Radio for Europe), which broadcast from
London via the Astra Satellite and had a reach across 36 countries.
This station was a joy to work for and I became Station Manager and Head
of Music and it was there that my idea for 'Same Roots, Different
Fruits' was born. Sadly, it was impossible to gauge the size of the
station's audience to satisfy potential advertisers and when we appealed
to the Country Music Association in London and Nashville, they were
unhelpful, to say the very least. CMR closed after a couple of years
and I was invited to join the legendary Radio Caroline.

The rest, as they say, is history. These days I work purely as a
volunteer but could not be happier. Music is my life and if I can
continue to persuade listeners that there is more to country music than
'Crystal Chandeliers' and English fans dressing up like Wild Bill
Hickok, then my show is doing its job. I agree that my choice of music
leaves one or two listeners somewhat confused but the clue is in the
show's title, 'Same ROOTS, Different FRUITS'.

As a parting shot, I'd like to request that artists put track-listings
and timings on the reverse of their CD's to make life easier for
broadcasters and if they have an unusual name, such as Niamh, then
please spell it out phonetically. The correct pronunciation is 'Neeve'!

Remember, even if you are 90-plus and still making music, I'll play you
on my show. Age is no barrier!

Bryan Chalker UK
DJ at Same Roots, Different Fruits
7pm -9pm (UK Time)

(c) Joyce Ramgatie/Bryan Chalker 2016    Email  info@joyce-ramgatie.com    http://www.countrymusicchart.net