WYCE Programmer Hall of Fame: The Driver - Gregg Adelman

posted by Matt Jarrells on 06/08/2018

In 1994, a co-worker heard me complain about the sad state of radio in GR. She also heard the music I was bringing in and suggested I try WYCE. Being non-commercial and volunteer run appealed to me, having come from a public radio background. I started listening immediately and at some point in 1995, heard an announcement about a programmer class. I stopped in and was given a questionnaire asking about my musical influences, listening habits and prior radio experience. My schooling as a Broadcast Electronics Technician from Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts, an internship at WDET in Detroit, experience with various high school and college radio stations as well as my lifelong desire to be on the air all prepared me for this opportunity.


I didn't have a demo tape, but was told I could use the Production Studio.  2 hours later I submitted a 90 minute tape, and was told to find a mentor. I sought out Cap’n Kurt, and after spending several Saturday afternoons under his bad influence, we agreed that I would fill in for him when he got married. I adopted the on-air name The Driver as a result of being a truck driver at the time, and always being the designated driver for all of my friends. Add to that the ability to drive a golf ball more than 300 yards and the name seemed even more appropriate.


Music has always been my first love, my therapy, my connection to the rest of the world. I was raised in a household that encouraged all types of musical expression. I learned that all music is related and can be grouped together via rhythm, key or tone. My programming philosophy had always been to keep the listener guessing what could possibly come next. The main thing that I wanted to do was to expose listeners to the widest possible variety of music. I tried to take into account not only the sophistication of the listener, but the time of day or night for which I was programming. I have always been drawn to the more challenging aspects and styles of all genres. I have always believed that the listening audience can handle music they have never been exposed to or that is outside their comfort zone. Most feedback I have gotten is along the lines of, “Wow, what the hell was that?”. One of the best compliments I ever got was from another programmer who asked me, “Are we pulling from the same library?”. I just focused on areas of the library that were under played, misunderstood, or just plain ignored. I always wanted to hear something that would blow my socks off. The listeners deserve that as well.


The hardest thing about programming was keeping things fresh and ever evolving. That forced me to expand, to embrace more new music, whether it was in the new section or just artists that I had overlooked. My weakest genre by far was folk. Every other programmer focused heavily on it so I stayed away as much as possible. I made a conscious decision to find alternatives to core artists who were equally relevant but underexposed. I went further into the library to find the pioneers of the genre, and took particular interest in newer artists who were not contemporary. I generally had an idea of what the first set was going to be and the music and mood took me from there. Later in my programming days I would sort through the new music before I did anything else to see what gems had graced our shelves. I never  pre-programmed more than one set a night. As I was doing the show, I would make sure that there were an equal number of selections from each genre and that would dictate which direction to go next. I also had one or two tunes that were gnawing at my mind over the previous few days, and the listeners would keep me honest.


Some changes are that when I first started at WYCE we had things called cart machines, 8-track looking tapes that had pre-recorded announcements or songs. In the days before 24/7 programming, I was the guy on Saturday night Sunday morning who would turn off the transmitter if I was not there for the full 6 hours I had available, but rarely did I. Email did not exist, there was no such thing as streaming on the web.


What has not changed is the motivation to play the widest possible variety of music, to expose the public to great music that they did not know about, music that they grew up with, music that motivates them to call during fund Drive. People still get introduced for the first time to Frank Zappa, Jean-Luc Ponty, Air, Phil Ochs, Galactic, Watermelon Slim, James Blood Ulmer, Ella Fitzgerald and Pat Metheny. WYCE listeners are still the most engaged and educated (and possibly spoiled) radio audience anywhere. They know the true value of the most unique outlet for music anywhere on the planet.


One of the first things I ever heard on WYCE was one of Cap’n Kurt's April Fool's shows. All cover tunes, tongue firmly in cheek. “Insurrection Radio” is what I called it to my wife. I knew at that point that I had found something special. Later, when Dirk and Tim decided to bring WYCE into the fold and consolidate all of GRCMC affiliates into one building, I helped to wire the whole building for radio and TV production.


The first significant memory of programming at YCE is two shows of nothing but Frank Zappa and related artists. The feedback from listeners was phenomenal. Second, it was 11:30 p.m. and I filled out the show with Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller. I introduced the set by saying that I was “attempting to satisfy your bassist desires”. I immediately received 10 phone calls from programmers and listeners thanking me for the music and the pun. Third and most heartfelt; I was asked to do an on-air tribute to a huge influence on the radio station. He not only shaped the sound with his input, but he did a music show that also introduced the incorporation of poetry. He not only programmed exceedingly eclectic music with an emphasis on esoteric Jazz, he encouraged all programmers to expand their horizons. He encouraged all programmers to be the best they could be, not just rely on the known. He even went so far as to program his final show prior to his untimely death. I speak of course of Jeff Van Kuiken, AKA Dick Destiny. He was a mentor and a kindred spirit.

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