I grew up in public radio. First, roaming the halls of KLCC in Eugene, Oregon, and later at KSOR in Ashland, which then became the Jefferson Public Radio you know (and hopefully listen to) today. At first I was accompanying my mother to work. Later I became a volunteer, and finally landed an actual paying gig at the network. But my first paying job in radio wasn't at JPR. It wasn't even public radio.
My first job in radio was pulling weekend shifts at KCMX in Medford, Oregon. I recorded commercials and babysat an automated FM Adult Contemporary station, but that's not the real reason they were paying me the big bucks.
The reason KCMX wanted a 21 year old college student at the controls was to spin the discs on "58 Country" for cheap, and they could get a hungry college student for minimum wage, which I think was $3.35 an hour back in the summer of 1988. It was an authentic Country & Western radio station, that occasionally threw in something modern just to keep with the changing times, but mostly it was old school country. Artists like Lefty Frizell, Faron Young, Johnny Horton, Ray Price, Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline.
For the most part, I wasn't even spinning actual discs, except for the brand new 45s with Eddie Rabbit, Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam and a brand new singer on the scene, kd Lang, who I thought sounded just like Patsy Cline.
Everything else was on something that we in the radio biz called carts. They looked just like 8-track tapes and that's pretty much exactly what they were, simplified. Each cart had one song on it, in mono, which was fine since it was an AM station, and was more concerned about selling life insurance and Coca Cola products than the sound quality of its music. All you had to do was grab one, stick it into the slot in the cart machine, and press the green button to play it.
Every weekend I would show up to work and start looking through the library, pulling carts off the shelves, stacking them up, shoving them into the cart machines and pressing the green button. I remember that when I went on the air, my voice tended to naturally gravitate to a southern drawl, which wasn't that weird when you know that I spent all my summers at my paternal grandparent's home in Texas, or my maternal grandparent's chicken farm in North Carolina.
At first I was a little bit embarrassed to be playing old timey country music, but after awhile it really grew on me. After all, I'd been in a country punk band in high school, and we'd done a few honkytonk covers, but for the most part we were poking fun at country music, not actually embracing it. But in the Summer of '88, I can honestly say that I found a love for country music that's stuck with me since then.
Last week my daughter told me that she had a secret fondness for Patsy Cline, and it like was the country floodgates suddenly opened again. I played a little Willy, and told her that the red headed stranger actually wrote one of the songs Patsy Cline is best known for, "Crazy." He also wrote "Hello Walls," made famous by Faron Young. I played snippets of this and that, and started making a playlist of all the songs I'd known and loved from back in the day, and I've been listening to it all week. Deep down, I'm just a honky tonk girl. And I hope you'll take an hour or two to get into this honky tonk playlist, filled with all my old favorites. 27 of them - one for each year since the Summer of '88.
And here's a bonus nugget for reading all the way through to the end of today's column: I am as excited as a young schoolgirl who just got asked to the dance that one of the artists included in today's playlist will be performing on the Cascade Theatre stage in the next season. Y'all feel free to talk about it amongst yourselves, but I can't confirm or deny anything for another week or two, or divulge any of the rest of the season lineup for that matter. But I can say it's going to be another incredible year at the Cascade….maybe even the best ever. Yeehaw!!!
Here's my Honky Tonk Girl playlist, which includes some of the great suggestions from A News Cafe readers!
- Lefty Frizell - Always Late With Your Kisses
- Faron Young - Hello Walls
- Kitty Wells - Rockytop
- Ferlin Husky - Wings Of A Dove
- Hank Thompson - Wild Side of Life
- Patsy Cline - Walking After Midnight
- kd Lang - Down To My Last Cigarette
- Willie Nelson - Crazy
- Loretta Lynn - These Boots Are Made For Walkin'
- Merle Haggard - Honky Tonk Mama
- Faron Young - Your Cheatin' Heart
- Hank Williams III - Honky Tonk Girls
- Faron Young & Ray Price - Lonely Teardrops
- Willie Nelson - Mama Dont Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
- Roy Orbison & kd Lang - Crying
- Marty Stuart & Mavis Staples - Move Along
- Johnny Horton - North to Alaska
- Lyle Lovett - She's No Lady
- Two Hoots & A Holler - Dance Hall Swing
- Tammy Wynette - Stand By Your Man
- Faron Young - Wine Me Up
- K.T. Oslin - Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad
- The Mavericks - All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down
- Dwight Yoakam - Crazy Little Thing Called Love
- Minutemen - Corona
- Dwight Yoakam - Let's Work Together
- Tennessee Ernie Ford - Shot Gun Boogie