Playing Records With Mavis Staples
One of my favorite episodes of Playing Records With Mike. In fact, one of my personal career highlights. A magical afternoon with the sublime Mavis and tons of laughs. With the news yesterday of the final gutting of The Loft I would like to dedicate this upload to Franny Thomas who engineered this interview and gave her heart and soul to The Loft for 11 years.
Brother Vin... Radio King
I have never hidden my unbridled fandom for the work of Vin Scelsa. It was his radio shows in the late 60's and 70's that initially inspired this music obsessed Jersey boy to follow the radio muse. I never liked everything he played or even everything he said, but I loved that he was always Vin... not Vince. His show wasn't an act, it was a real human sharing his love of music, art, literature and film. His ability to keep several plates spinning in the air for hours, while carefully stitching together thought provoking musical segues intent on enlightening as much as entertaining his audience. This wasn't just a radio show, it was truly "Art." Vin was the big brother I never had and in many ways he still is.
Vin Scelsa and I first met at a radio convention in 1995. As the Program Director of Coyote Radio in New Mexico I was the recipient of "The Least Tactful Programmer" award, mainly for refusing to play Hootie & The Blowfish on the radio station and remarks made to the endless stream of promotion people attempting to change my mind. Stepping down from the podium I could see him coming toward me and I clearly remember thinking, "Oh shit, I hope Vin doesn't like that record. Nah... no way he would play that shit, he's probably just going to the bathroom he's not coming over to me. Oh shit... he is heading straight at me... what do I say... it's VIN FUCKING SCELSA!" With a huge grin and an outstretched hand, I grabbed it and said, "It is an honor to meet you, Mr. Scelsa." Vin laughed, got real close to my ear and said, "I covet that award." I quickly said "If it wasn't for you I never would have got it!" and offered to give it him. He politely declined but wanted to know what it was I had said to the promoters. I told him some of the disgusting things I said to them, many of which centered around sneezing with your eyes open and chugging a gallon of my own bath water. Instantly we bonded over the mediocrity infecting the radio industry. We became fast friends.
In the years since that encounter I had the opportunity to spend a fair amount of time with Vin, often bringing artists from Rykodisc (my employer at time) to visit with and play music live on his show. A personal highlight was setting up a visit with Golden Smog. Vin told me that Rosanne Cash was also going to be there and I told him that the favorite song of Smog/Jayhawk member Gary Louris was Rosanne's "Seven Year Ache." He immediately said, "I'll call Rosanne and see if she'll sing it with him, do you think he'll do that?" I said I would check right away and get back to him. After convincing Gary that I wasn't making it up, he agreed to do it but still didn't believe it would happen. Sure enough Rosanne was there and after a quick introduction, Gary and Rosanne decided on the proper key for their voices and boom, live on the radio it happened. One time, no rehearsal and it was magic. Gary was so over the moon about it he taped a picture of Rosanne on his amplifier for the remainder of tour. We included it on a promotional sampler for radio and I still play it to this day.
Vin and I were also both involved in the embryonic days of Internet Radio, me with Radio Ryko and Vin with his Live At Lunch show. But at the dawn of Satellite Radio we were on different sides. I was at XM and Vin's "Idiot's Delight" was on Sirius. That didn't stop Vin from being one of the first people to call and congratulate me for a very flattering Stephen Holden piece in The New York Times. "Marrone... congrats! I hope you realize that now that you have been in the "paper of record" when you die, they will run your obit." I bust out laughing and said something along the lines of "Only you, Scelsa.... only you would think of that!"
When the dust settled after the merger of Sirius and XM, I could not believe that Vin Scelsa's Idiot's Delight would be airing on the station I had created and would finally get to work with my initial inspiration, who had by now become a dear and trusted friend.
I have cherished these years with Vin, on the radio and off. He is a wonderful man and in my mind a true broadcasting legend. There simply is no replacement. We have had a great many discussions about this for a few years and I am happy that he is going into retirement on his terms. He deserves it. He also deserves my endless gratitude for his friendship, his passion and for channeling and riding that mysterious radio muse for all these years.
I love you, Brother Vin. But don't think for a second I won't be trying to coax you into Studio V for a special show or two on a regular basis.
Dad, Husband, Radio Programmer/DJ, Music Enthusiast, Drummer, Baseball Fan and Retired American.
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