Every Saturday night JJ Loy keeps the two-decade run of Ska’s the Limit bouncing from one foot to the other.
Joe Duepner: How long have you been at KDHX?
JJ Loy: About three and a half years now.
You started out doing the show?
Yeah, I’d done a ska-themed podcast that Paul Stark (previous host for 16 years) knew about. Paul stepped down to do the Musical Merry-Go-Round show and he told KDHX that he was going to end Ska’s the Limit. A few people said they didn’t want the show to go away as it was a weekend staple. I was on the list of possible hosts, and when they asked me if I wanted it, and I took it. So I didn’t have to go through a lot of the rigmarole that other hosts have.
I mean they did stick me on in the middle of the night for about a year to prove I could do it, but other than that…
Where did the logo come from? I really like it.
I had that designed. Before Ska’s the Limit had the standard checkerboard thing. It was done by Steve Kitchen from Combination13. He does skate decks and album covers for bands. He did it up real nice.
The way you said Ska’s the Limit, are you not a fan of the name?
Well I feel like it’s kind of a joke name.
But a lot of ska bands are pun names.
That’s a trend that’s kind of ending though. I think that did the scene a kind of disservice. You’d have trouble selling yourself today if your name was the Veal Skallipinis or something. There’s a lot of stigma attached to the word ska as well even though the music the current scene is playing isn’t the kind of ska that people hate.
Which would be what?
You know, ska punk has probably got the worst reputation. I’m thinking the Reel Big Fishes and No Doubts. The ones with the really big names are the ones that make people think, “Yeah I know what ska is now and I hate it.” It’s not that I hate the name, but it’s more that I think I could find a more fitting one. Honestly I play only about half ska. Mostly it’s Jamaican and retro music. Most of the bands that you would call a ska band are playing more reggae than ska. So I think it’s not a fair descriptor.
So this fourth wave of ska, it’s more back to roots?
There was an argument about that for a while. It doesn’t seem to be a wave anymore. There aren’t peaks or breaks, just a steady movement. I think the Internet has kind of normalized the popularity of genres. It’s not such a flash in the pan or revival to revile or to backlash. I’d say for 10 years now it’s been steady growth. At least on the early reggae scene. Not so much regarding the ska punk stuff.
Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst covers many genres and sub-genres — British Invasion, Mersey beat, folk rock, garage rock, power pop, jangle pop, pub jock — but without the influence of African Americans it’s doubtful that many of those genres would exist, and if they did they would most likely not merit our attention.
It is because of this that I will be recognizing and celebrating those contributions by setting aside the four February shows (February 2, 9, 16 and 23) on P!TBBB.
This year I’ll be expanding said celebration. During the show’s first three years, the month featured three weeks of the bands that appear regularly on P!TBBB covering blues, soul R&B and other material either written by or performed by African Americans. The last show of the month has featured selections from the first three shows performed by the songs’ originators.
This year valis from Trip Inside This House will be joining me and providing the music for the February 2 show. Trip Inside This House is valis’ weekly exploration of the last 40 plus years of psychedelia; he will be bringing that expertise to P!TBBB. The show will feature two hours of music by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Muddy Waters and the Temptations, which will showcase the contributions African Americans have made to psychedelia.
The remaining three shows will revert to the format from the last three years of Februaries. Those shows have not been finalized yet, but will no doubt mine selections from the following: Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers, the Kinks, the Searchers, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Tony Jackson, Manfred Mann and many more. You can expect to hear original versions by bands and performers like: Brenda Holloway, the Supremes, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Otis Redding to name several.
So, please join me (and valis) and celebrate Black History Month as we pay tribute to and celebrate the unique, dynamic and undeniable contributions made by African Americans to the music of Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst (and beyond).
Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst airs Thursday mornings, 5-7 a.m. Central on 88.1 KDHX.
Gold Soundz may be a reference to the Pavement song of the same name but Chris Bay’s show on Fridays 7-9 p.m. Central reaches beyond to the indie pop rock songs that make you feel good and keep you coming back for more.
Ranging from the freshest indie rock to everyone’s favorite songs from the last couple decades, Gold Soundz places more emphasis on how a song makes you feel rather than how pristine the production is or the hype swelling around it. This last week Chris and I met at Foam in the Cherokee District to discuss the perfect pop rock song, staying up all night on the air, J Mascis’ shoes and ’90s rock favorites best kept a secret.
Joe Roberts: What was the genesis of your show Gold Soundz?
Chris Bay: I had been volunteering at KDHX for several years. And at some point I got really interested in doing something more than the normal volunteer stuff like answering phones and going to events. There were some audio production classes you can take that Andy Coco teaches. I took a couple of those. [The classes] allow you to decide what you want to do. Like in studio engineering with live bands in the studio or more production based work with PSAs, band spotlights and stuff like that.
I was interested in doing some in studio engineering, but I also mentioned at some point I’d like to put in an application for a radio show, and Andy Coco said, “Let’s just do it now, it’ll be a good way for you to learn all this stuff.” So I did it. And three months later, which is way sooner than to be expected … I mean, there’s been people who’ve been on that list for years, and not because they don’t deserve it, but because if a weeknight spot opens up [KDHX is] not going to put a bluegrass show there because of how scheduling is. So they offered me a spot at 3 a.m. 3 a.m. is tough, but I’ll try it. I don’t know. I’m a morning person! I don’t have any kids! I can be sleep deprived one day a week! And also I got to ease into it. When you don’t expect anyone to be listening, you can get used to things and not worry about screwing up.
So 3 a.m. was a good place to start?
It was awesome. I loved it. [Long pause] I never really want to do the 3 a.m. slot again. [Laughs] But I was totally happy to do it, because I love the show and love playing music for people.
Did the show start out as Gold Soundz? How long has it been on the air?
Yeah. The show itself is a little over a year old. I did the 3 a.m. slot from last July until April. So I’ve been on Fridays since April. So yeah, it’s still a new show.
Has this been your first DJ or radio experience?
Yeah. For sure. I’ve always done music in various ways, but this was my first experience with radio production.
With such a concentration of music lovers at KDHX, do all the DJs at the station know each other?
It depends. There are a lot of DJs that go to a lot of shows. I go to a lot of shows. Maybe on average two or three a week. There are a lot of DJs I know just because we go to the same shows. There are a lot of DJs I know because we have the same interest. And then there’s people you just meet, like Rich Reese, whose show was right after mine when I had the 3 a.m. slot. There was a minimal overlap between our shows, but it was enough to have a conversation about… . But there are a lot of DJs I’ve never met before.
I have to ask about the name Gold Soundz. Is that a reference to the Pavement song of the same name?
It is! Yeah, it’s a direct reference. It’s kind of weird since Pavement’s had this resurgence lately. So this band that was fairly obscure in the ’90s is now much more mainstream and getting a lot of attention. It has a bit of a different context. And I love Pavement. I’m not a fan boy or anything. But I think it’s more about the song “Gold Soundz.” The song is a perfect pop rock song. Everything about it is absolutely perfect. And that type of song and type of ethos that the song carries with it, the chorus of that song frames the kind of music I want to play. “Gold Soundz” is meant to embody beautiful, golden pop songs. No hype surrounding the music. No quirky instrumentation. Nothing overly dramatic. It’s just about the song and the music and feeling good about that song. That’s what the song means to me anyway. And the name also implies that. It’s just a beautiful pair of words that also happen to be a great name for a radio show.
For the last three years, Chris Lawyer has been the host of Hip City on 88.1 KDHX, each Wednesday, 2 p.m.-4 p.m. Central. Every show is an opportunity to get schooled on some of the best and lesser-known gems of ’60s, ’70s and current funk and soul music, with the occasional cut of hip-hop thrown in for good measure.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Lawyer over some soda pops at Shameless Grounds to discuss the origins of his show, some of his favorite aspects of music and how the media has always dumbed down James Brown.
Kenji Yoshinobu: Have you lived here your whole life?
Chris Lawyer: Yeah. I was born, raised and educated in St. Louis. I went to college at St. Louis University. Moved to Chicago for a while and did some acting, but I came back.
What do you do professionally?
I’m an actor when I can find the work, but here you’ve got to have a day job also. I paint houses when I’m not acting.
How did you get involved with KDHX?
I was working in construction, so I was listening to the radio like eight hours a day. I listened for a long time. Eventually I started working for myself so I had a lot more flexibility schedule-wise, and I decided to help answer phones during one of the membership drives. I did that for several years and then they asked me to be a supervisor. I took the training so I could sub for people on other shows. And three years ago when they made some scheduling changes, they offered me a slot.
What is the origin of your show’s name?
It is actually a song by Junior Walker and the All-Stars, a Motown band. I’d always loved Junior Walker and the name just fit.
How did you get into funk and soul music?
I was raised on classic rock and also the oldies in my mom’s car. In my dad’s car it was classical. I also had an affinity for rhythm and blues and early rock ‘n’ roll. But when “The Blues Brothers” movie came out, I was about 11 or 12 years old and I remember wondering what they were listening to. I saw they had a Sam & Dave eight-track in their car and I thought, “I gotta get that.” I started picking up on stuff they were listening to along with what I had heard on the radio and just kind of kept going from there.
Do you shop for records often?
I don’t know about often. The economics of the times have conspired against me buying lots of things. But buying used records is certainly inexpensive. I actually have a lot of success at the library. KDHX, with all the music coming in there, is a great resource. And it’s nice to have people who look out for you, like our music director, Nick Acquisto. When something comes in that he thinks will fit my show he points me to it. There are a few other DJs who do the same kind of thing. Kate [host of Beep Beep Boop Boop] and Valis [host of Trip Inside This House] have turned me on to a few new things. It’s a nice musical community here at KDHX where we’re sharing with each other and there’s this sort of cross-pollination between genres.
A native of St. Louis, bobEE Sweet has been broadcasting on 88.1 KDHX for a decade. His current show, Uncontrollable Urge, has been on air since 2006, and its host plans to keep on rocking for many more years. In this interview, we discuss the history of his show, his connection to KDHX and his life in St. Louis.
To hear more from bobbEE, listen to Uncontrollable Urge on 88.1 KDHX on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon Central.
Becky Chanis: Let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell me when you first came to KDHX and what brought you to the station?
bobEE Sweet: Well, way back in the late ‘80s when they were first doing some of the planning work for it, I was in high school and this guy I know’s dad was involved with the station. So we went out and dug around with the transmitter a couple time and did some grunt work a few days.
Then I went off to school and came back, and just was a regular listener, a member, and worked the phone drive and membership drive for several years. 2001 was when I started doing — they were calling it the Morning Show at the time, and there was a guy named Roy St. John, who had been doing it five days a week. He had stopped doing [his show] and so the programming committee at the time was like, “Well let’s make it more like the rest of the week and the rest of the days, where every show is different and its not the same person.”
They were trying to do teams, and so me and this woman Mary Kay — we didn’t know each other — we got put together, and we did a show together for four or five years. I think five years, we did it together. It went from being called the Morning Show to When the Levee Breaks, and then shifted times by an hour here or there. We were mostly on from 6 to 8 in the morning. And then I think it was ’06 when I started doing this show, Uncontrollable Urge. That first started from 2 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, and then it got move to where I am now, 10 to noon.
So what made you want to do your own show?
We were always kind of friendly knocking heads over what we wanted to do, or running out of time, or we each wanted more time for more music. And I think that the programming committee also realized that our tastes were different enough that it made sense to have two different shows than to have one.
I listened to your show and it seems to be this very eclectic mix of a lot of different genres and a lot of different time periods. How would you characterize your show?
I don’t know. (Laughs) I knew you were going to ask me something like that. I usually tell people it’s mostly a rock show with elements of some folk and country, and I lean towards punk and some poppy-er stuff and psychedelic stuff.
How’d you come up with the title?
Well, it’s the name of a Devo song. I kind of wanted [the show title] to be a song title. I was originally on after Afternoon Delight and I was on before the Big Bang. [I decided to] carry on the sexual innuendo thing, after an afternoon delight, you get an uncontrollable urge and then you have a big bang. I was coming up with names independent of that idea, but it also just worked.
I try to be gracious when folks thank me for helping to organize these KDHX benefit and tribute nights. But it’s mostly selfish on my part. There’s nothing more purely fun and gratifying than being in a packed club, surrounded by friends and fans of KDHX, and hearing a slate of terrific St. Louis bands sing the songs of my heroes.
Friday night, May 27, 12 bands/artists played the songs of Bob Dylan for nearly five hours. They only scratched the surface of such a catalogue, but the scratches were deep and lasting all the same.
My highlights from Shot of Love, in chronological order.
Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine (aka Beth Bombara) singing “Corinna, Corinna” early in the evening. No, Bob didn’t write that one, but it’s a song that still demonstrates the not-so-secret origins of his music. Morgan captured the tone beautifully.
Elly Herget and Evan O’Neal of the Skekses tackling the little known “Billy,” an outtake from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Emcee Cat Pick noted that the melody is identical to Neil Young’s “Powderfinger.”
Ryan Spearman filled in at the last minute for an injured Riley James. And he did so with a sweet and serious version of “The Times They Are a Changin’.”
Joe Stickley and Sean Canan turning in an elevated and swinging “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”
Rough Shop tackling the rarely covered “Isis” and Anne Tkach really getting into the vocal delivery.
Cumberland Gap doing the wonderful waltz “Wallflower.” Greg Silsby is one of the best singers in St. Louis.
The return of Rebecca Ryan to the stage in St. Louis as lead singer of the Sparrows. To say the band’s version of “I Want You” was sexy is to somewhat understate matters.
Magnolia Summer getting all the rock lead out for an angry and loud “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.”
Dave Grelle of the Feed owning “Simple Twist of Fate” with a precise and beautiful piano melody.
Pretty Little Empire rocking “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” as hard as it’s ever been rocked. Video evidence below.
Karate Bikini rising to the occasion with a loud, thrilling “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Bothers Lazaroff swinging all the way through “Summer Days” and then leading everyone in “I Shall Be Released” and an unsanctioned but delightful “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.”
If you missed the party, fear not. We’ll have video and photography for you soon, and who knows, perhaps we’ll do it again in a few years. Happy birthday, Bob.
“…you’re the one that’s been causing all them riots over in vietnam. immediately turns t a bunch of people an says if elected, he’ll have me electrocuted publicly on the next fourth of july. i look around an all these people he’s talking to are carry blowtorches / needless t say, i split fast go back t the nice quiet country…”(2)
during the second song last night at off broadway, “Corrina, Corrina” played by Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine, i leaned over to my friend and said, “I really like this song.” i could have said that all night. over beers, over anything. Shot of Love — a 12-band, five-hour marathon tribute concert celebrating Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday — a testament to the diversity and ability in our local music scene to cover the range and depth of Dylan’s lengthy career. “70, f**k you Keith Richards,” Roy [Kasten] joked, and the FCC-fill-the-blank joke. we associate icons with iconic symbols, or so I thought when i eyeballed the Skekses beginning “Boots of Spanish Leather” with the harmonica cage, or the even the whistle in “Highway 61 Revisited” which produced a healthy group giggle. Ryan Spearman, he played “The Times They Are A-Changing” — “played it pitch perfect,” i’m told outside and i’m sad i wasn’t there. Joe Stickley and Sean Canan offered an upbeat hullabaloo “Buckets of Rain” when i returned but not before going to the bathroom.
Rough Shop joked, “We’re going to play an extended version of ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.’ We’ve got 30 minutes, right?” I might have misquoted by a word or two or four but ya get the idea. oh, and Cat [Pick], i heard ya say it was going t b your first MC on last monday drive time “and you do it well.”(3) A beautiful “Wallflower” bounced from the warm strings of Cumberland Gap, and i overheard someone say, “don’t be ridiculous. the best Dylan is ’66, no need to differentiate. royal albert hall, that’s the best Dylan,” to which, a woman responded, “i like his ’80s stuff.” “christian Dylan?” “what do you mean?” and i stopped caring when the Sparrows lead singer, Rebecca Ryan, delicately tapped her left fingers on her left blue jean thigh to a sexy, slowed-down, bass-heavy rendition of “I Want You” and an electric “Oxford Town” — an exercise in “tonal breath control.”(4)
writing a Bob Dylan tribute article is about as difficult as a Mark Twain look-a-like contest if you’re a twelve-year-old boy who can’t grow a mustache or fit properly into a white suit. and your mother won’t let ya smoke a cheap cigar. current events come an go don’t you know and i don’t like my picture taken. Magnolia Summer, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.” yep, “i’m going back to South City, i do believe i’ve had enough!” and who was that on the moving piano on “Simple Twist of Fate.” “The Feed,” you answer. [Dave Grelle, to be specific.] “why allen ginsberg was not chosen t read poetry at the inauguration boggles my mind.”(5) i could hear Pretty Little Empire outside. again regret except i met nine beautiful strangers / consuming meat an cigarettes an sitting. Karate Bikini pleased with “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” and “Like a Rolling Stone,”
[end of pause]
while Brothers Lazaroff delivered a tender “Most of the Time” and the brothers invited all musicians to return t the stage. when I first saw that electric Sleepy Kitty poster, I wondered who and what and how it would all end and i was surprisingly shocked at the obvious an beautiful choice — “I Shall Be Released.” unison is funny bird with serious wings.
and then Brothers Lazaroff mischievously ignored the scheduled — i’m guessing by body gestures & apologies — an rolled into an impromptu “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” good fun. where were you “i have no arguments an i never drink milk.”(6) when you see a band, any band from last night, tell em’ I said hello…they brought their own voice t a tribute which wasn’t easy to pull off.
i’ve heard Dylan recently call this era his middle years. he released his first album in ’62. as a different birthday approaches, i reflect not only upon how Dylan influenced her but for how long — roughly 50 years, or 21% of american history!
(1) This article is a tribute to the mad and beautiful notes inscribed on the back of multiple Bob Dylan albums.
(2) Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
(3) Buckets of Rain
(4) Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
(5) Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
(6) Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
Take a break from your train of thought to find out about Nick Cowan’s show on 88.1 KDHX. Train of Thought airs Thursday night / Friday morning (depending on your lifestyle) from 3 a.m. – 5 a.m. Central.
Nick was born and raised in St. Louis. He grew up in North County, Jennings and Florissant, and moved out to Manchester with roommates in the ’90s. He also lived for a short while in the city. He’s a family man whose children are more familiar with Ozzy than Barney (he had to explain to his seven-year-old why “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” wasn’t appropriate for the Saturday morning KDHX show Musical Merry-Go-Round).
Try to follow us as we jump a train of thought — boxcar to boxcar, covering the classic rock station KSHE, how to handle intoxicated radio listeners and the realization that you don’t know as much as you thought did about music until you undergo the humbling experience of having your own radio show on KDHX.
Nick Cowan: I’ve got a blog that’s been neglected for the past two years. There’s a lot of stuff on there about bacon.
Erin Chapman: Have you ever had chocolate-covered bacon?
It’s so good. I don’t care where it comes from. It’s perfect, sweet, salty. One of the other best things in the world besides beer, and, you know, and my family.
What is your earliest memory involving the enjoyment of music?
My mom was pretty young when she had me, 19, I think. She listened to KSHE, like 1970s KSHE….
I’m not from St. Louis.
Where are you from?
De-troit. KSHE 95 was like the rock station. My mom listened to all that classic rock stuff. My first memories of enjoying music involve listening to that station. I listened to the cool heavy guitars, but then it seemed like at night the mellow stuff I remember Diana Ross for some reason and then John Lennon.
So you would listen to KSHE in the house, in the car?
It was always on. Radio was my beginning. Also a record club. There was one record I would have to defend now, I think it was Christopher Cross’s first album. My mom asked me, “Do you want this one?” I was like, all right. Gimme that Christopher Cross record.
Did you have your own record player?
Yeah, one of those little blue ones, with the little case on it. My dad always made sure I had stereos with equalizers and stuff, that helped.
Tell me about your show, Train of Thought.
This is my second show. I got my first show, which was called “It’s Late” named after the Queen song from the album News of the World. I started that in 1999 with a friend when the station first did a huge reorganization I think Bev Hacker first came on board and opened up a whole new slot of shows. I had been volunteering there for three years at that point.