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Rock & Roll Dope

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Drive south out Main Street past the stadium and Pioneer High, past the farms and the stables outside of Ann Arbor. The highway turns left into Ann Saline Road and, in a few minutes, before you're into Saline, you see a couple of small radio towers off behind a suburban housing development. Cop a left on bumpy, unpaved Brassow Road and just before the dead end, in front of the towers on the right, is a little drab green cinderblock building. Oi the side of the building nearest the road are four block letters in faded black paint: "WNRZ. " WNRZ was in the news last month when two of their best jocks, Mike O"brien and Larry Monroe, got canned after a run-in with the station management. It was the second time Monroe had been fired, the first tima coming in January when he and Jim Dulzo expressed opposition to the station's programming policies. That time Monroe and Dulzo wanted to do "free form" shows, play long jams, do community news, read their own ads, have people on the air to rap and other groovy stuff - while the manager wanted a tight format with lots of hype ads mixed with short pop tunes and station breaks. Dulzo ended up splitting to WABX in Detroit. Monroe stuck around though, and when the station manager he had said "No" to was replaced because NRZ was losing money, he found himself back on the air. Until April. "Artistic freedom" and "responsiveness to the community" were again the issues at the last shake-up at WNRZ--the new managers had their own ideas how the station should be run and Monroe ended up just ignoring their orders and doing the kind of shows he was sure people dug. When Larry was fired MOte O'brien quit in protest. The management was probably completely unaware that they were losing their best men cause they quickïy imported some new DJs from out of town and went about business as usual. Despite its uptight policies, though, despite the fact that it tries so hard to overlook that it broadcasts to one of the farthest-out, highest energy communities anywhere - despite all that WNRZ is still Ann Arbor's hipest station by far. First of all, NRZ is the only local station following the "progressive" format, which ain't earth-shattering, but they DO play ROCK AND ROLL rather than the bubblegum bullshit of the Top 40s. Secondly, WNRZ is an AM station (WNRS) as well as an FM FCC rules let them broadcast the sama thing on both because they are officially located in a small town, Saline, rather than in Ann Arbor„ This gives us the rare opportunity to hear the FM format on the AM car radio which, again, beats CKLW by a long shot. Another thing is the PEOPLE who PLAY the music. Last Monday Barbara Holliday, Dave Fenton, and myself went out to NRZ to rap to two of their new disk jockeys, Bob Young and Larry Rock. We had a good time talking to them - they're FREEKS, the kind of people who love music and getting stoned and freeking out in the Arb--and our community has already had a beautiful effect on them and what they are doing at the station. Born in Massachusetts and raised in Houston, Bob Young got his start in radio "at a little tiny station in San Marcos, Texas, while I was going to school three years ago„ It was a local daytime station that went on at sunup and went off at sundown. Something like 65% af the community was American so we had Spanish music in the morning for two hours, then a guy carne in and did the Country Hoe-Down, then I came on and played somí rock. . . " Young went to Pennsylvania where he "did a stand up screaming maniac AM show" and spent his spare time working at the Youth Information Center, which is a community service organization there in Harrisburg. Then he went to Washington, D. C. , where he quit a job at another Top 40 station in disgust before finding his new gig at NRZ. Larry Rock (that's his REAL name) is from Brooklyn, New York, and got his start in rock and roll as the drummer in "a group that did nothing but soul. . . a rough gig, you work till your hands bleed. " His first radio job and only other station work before NRZ was in upstate New York at Poughkeepsie, where the music was "middle-of-the-road, for people between the ages of 21 and 45. . . background music. " The heavy travelling that Young and Rock have done between jobs is something quite normal in Amorikan radio. The laws governing radio say that the airways belong to the people and that the stations only "lease" their frequencies from the communities they are supposed to serve and be responsive to. Bat the standard practice in the industry is to make the disk jockies serve the OWNERS and the ADVERTISERS at the station, rather than ALL the people, by shipping them into communities they know nothing about. Both Bob Young and Larry Rock have never been to Ann Arbor bef -the only time Young ever saw Michigan was when he toured Ford's River Rouge plant when he was a kid on vaation with his parents. Both of them make it clear that they cama here to work, that ihey dig their jobs and ain't about to lose them by putting anybody uptight. But they already have Tallen in love with Ann Arbor and want to do what they can to get into the community, both on and off the air. For example, Young started a ride inf ormation service at NRZ a couple of weeks ago and encourages people to write in news and information for the NRZ community bulletin board. "People don't send us enough stuff, " he says. He also wants to work with one of the youth colony organizations. "Ozone House for example, " once he gets a little more settledo Larry Rock (whose show, by the way, is one of the few heard by the inmates at Jackson Prison) considers it "kind of an obligation on my part to find out what's going on locally. . . you know, it's a responsibility. " He admits to not knowing too much about Michigan music yet, but he takes requests and, "If I dig the cut, 111 play it again. " Rock says things are getting better at WNRZ. "Nobody teïls me what I should or shouldn't play. . . I guess I can say we are trying to change . . . get complete hype spots off the air. We're reading a lot of spots live. " And he's already been talking to local people like Terry Tate about coming on the show to rap - "Sure, IM like to do live things. . . if I can clear it with my boss. " The most important indication that WNRZ may be coming more open to changes and Ann Arbor comnunity is the news that they'll be doing a big marathon in the next few weeks to help raise money for the free rock and roll concerts this summer. (Check out the rest of this issue of the SUN for more up-to-date stuff about that. ) I think it's safe to say that there is a lot that we, the whole community, can do through WNRZ - even though it's clear that we're still a long way off from having a true PEOPLE'S STATION out there on Brassow Road. Radio workers, DJs AND managers too, do respond to letters and phone -so the way to make NRZ more of our own thing is to keep in touch with it, cali them or write and teil them what you want to hear and how you want to hear it. LEFE TO THE LIFE CULTURE ! ! ! RAINBOW MUSIC TO THE AIRWAVES! ! !