The following interview with WRIF DJ Barbara Holliday was made last week at RIF's studios, by Ken Kelly for the SUN. Check out Barbara's killer shows Tuesday-Saturday, 3-7 a. m. , and Sundays from 3-7 p. m.
SUN: When did you enter the music business?
BARBARA: When I was four.
S: What happened?
B: Oh, the clarinet and "Mary Had a Little Lamb".
S: And then what?
B: I don 't know, violin lessons, piano lessons, ballet for nine years. . .
S: When did you start getting into rock and roll?
B: When I was in the sixth grade, and that was the Duke of Earl and I don't know, just going to Jr. high school in Detroit and hanging out and stuff and just listening to rock and roll.
S: When did you start singing?
B: In the back seat of cars getting drunk, in high school.
S: When did you start getting gigs?
B: I sang at the Chessmate Coffee House once when I was seventeen, and üiey had a Wednesday night audition and then I met this dude Jerry Lewis who was living on Tuxedo and he introduced me to all these other people and we got this band and we did stuff like we played the Latin Quarter, and the band opened the upper deck of the Roostertail and we did a Motown special with the Four Tops and Martha and the Vandellas.
S: What was that like?
B: That was cool, I had my picture taken with the Four Tops and shit, and in fact we opened up Harmony Park downtown and we played with the MC5 that day.
S: When was that?
B: That was probably in 19. . . let's see I'm 23 and I was 17, 1965, right.
S: The MC5 were around in 1965?
B: Oh yea, and Rob Tyner had his hair parted in the middle, and they did blues songs then.
S: What did you think of the MC5 then?
B: What did I think of them? I liked them, they played a lot of old Beatle songs.
S: What kind of music did you realize turned you on?
B: Well just what I've always listened to -- just rock and roll stations in Detroit- CKLW, WKNR, all of the stations, Club 1270 and the Walled Lake Casino and the Contours and Billie Lee and the Rivieras and everybody man, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, just everybody that was around Detroit then,? Mark and the Mysterians, the Shirelles -- everybody man, all the women's groups -- and I always wanted to be in a singing group like the Shirelles.
S: You were in a group for a while out in California.
B: Oh, the Ace of Cups, yea, I played the bass.
S: Tell us about that.
B: There's nothing to tell really, we played a lot together and our biggest job was the Family Dog. We played with Terry Reid and Catmother and the All Night News Boys for two nights and that was the biggest job we had and we ended up splitting up very soon after that.
S: What did you think of Detroit radio back in 1966? And Detroit radio now?
B: Well the AM used to be good a long time ago, then it got progressively out of its mind until it reached its present stage, which is still operated by human beings but it's all cartridges you know, it's all computerized, all top 4U --old mind off the wall. And WXYZ is in the middle of the road, they don't even play the top 40 that much. It's like all the AM stations have disintegrated into what makes the most money just like everything else.
S: From your experiences in Detroit and ín San Francisco how do you evaluate the FM scene?
B: Well, FM was like a shock, you know. Everybody was getting bored with the AM stations and when FM came cut it was like --WHEEW! And then everybody that was in FM started getting into this FM mold of what a progressive rock station should be, and that's all cool you know but it got to the point where only certain records are played and a lot of the really good stuff is just forgotten and discarded.
S: How do you program the show?
B: I just go around and pick out the records that I feel like listening to, that night, I just go through the whole record library and see what's in there and see what I want to play that night and play it.
S: What kind of things do you play mostly?
B: What kind of music do I play? Rock N' Roll Music ! Like you know it all doesn't have to be a verbal thing -- You can do alot of things.
S: You're the only woman working at this radio station. Why do you think there's so few women working in the media? Generally, both in the honk media and in the media that's supposedly liberated?
B: Well, in the honk media, there's a woman who works with Jack in the AM and she sits there and makes phone calls and changes her wig every day and stuff and that's her role--to sit there and give Jack confidence and be the short-order-coffee-maker and whatever is involved in doing that. You know, how did Kathy Nolan become the Farmer 's Daughter in the Real McCoys? It's just a question of money and how much time you grew up with when you were a kid to learn things.
S: How did you get the job? Like what kind of things did you run into when you came out here to get the job?
B: Well, see, ABC is a little different here, only because they were intent on hiring, and this is what was told to me, a woman who was black, mexican, or white. Those were the three choices, they weren't even going to consider hiring another white male DJ, so it just happened. Hog Tate told me about it and I got here and kept bugging them and was consistent in my efforts to obtain the position of playing records for four hours every night, and so they gave me the job.
S: Are there a lot of rules?
B: I can do whatever I want as long as I don't say fuck, shit, or play anything that says fuck, shit or has marijuana or heroin in it.
S: Then you can't play the Velvet Underground's "Heroin?"
B: No, it's on the banned list-- this is a company, man, this is a part of the American Broadcasting Company!
S : Well, "Heroin" is one of the best songs explaining to the people exactly what "Heroin" is, and how it's a subtle way of destroying yourself .
B: It's a song that makes people think about what it is really like shooting up, especially if they've never shot up before.
S: Well, the FCC suggests that song shouldn't be played, and some stations don't go along with it. I know that WABX doesn't go along with it and a station like WRIF does. For whatever reason, whatever pressure they feel.
B: But ABX. . .you don't hear ABX play fuck over the radio, I don't think I've ever heard fuck and I don't hear disc jockies making crazy editorials either, you know and the reason for that is they want to keep their FCC license, because the FCC will fine the shit out of them- they'll fine you so bad and they'll take your station away from you.
S: That's a ruse!
B: I know it's a ruse!
S: But the FCC"s never done that, they've never taken a license away.
B: No one's had the guts.
S: Well there has been fuck said on the radio, one radio station was fined $500.00 in Philadelphia-- but they've never taken a license away, you're right.
B: Right, well if they constantly say fuck and If it was a radical station that was giving editorial comment on everything, then they would eventual, the FCC would control it to the point of taking the license away from the station.
S: Do you think the station would submit to this point and go along with it?
B: Right now this station, if everybody just said ok, we're going to do it, no matter what, we'll fucklng take over the station, and said fuck -- they would first of all off the whole staff, second of all the air waves would be totally blocked out within a matter of hours, the governor would have it totally blocked out, shattered so that nobody could listen to it, it would just be static. If we took over the tv network, they would have it erased. I mean this is occupied territory, man.
S: But don't you think you should fight back? People are fighting back on levels like playing "Heroin" on the air.
S: Or playing Have a Marijuana by David Peel.
B: Sure. But those fuckers would just off me, you know?
S: They would fire you?
B: Oh, immediately man, Paul Greiner played a John Lennon song with fuck in it, "Working Man's Hero" -- and immediately the next day he got a notice; and like I got a notice of my editorial comment about a news broadcast, things that I thought I made very objective -- and I got a note about it. And the managers of American Broadcasting System, they're being progressive with the rock and roll stations because that's what's "in" you know -- that's what may possibly be the next money maker as far as radio is concerned because the 40's go in the middle of the road.
S: A lot of radicals make the charge that by cooperating with WRIF, which is owned by ABC, which also has a war contract blah, blah, blah, that they're co-opting you. Do you feel that maybe it's the reverse, that you're co-opting them?
B: Listen, when you can play music for the people, you're playing music for the people, and it is better than having some bullshit on the air that is just tapes or whatever man, and that's the only way I feel about it. I don't know man, sometimes there's a lot of criticism from people who are doing things in the community, I mean really bad criticism like people demonstrating on stage and tearing apart equipment - tearing apart somebody's equipment is like, you know, cutting off their arms and their legs.
S: You're talking about the Commander Cody gig?
B: Well, that's what popped into my head. That's because let's say the honks go to topless bars, and go to Washington hotels and try to get at hippies walking down the street-- you know, those are the motherfuckers who are the REAL offenders. To me, the men that I know, the men that I associate with, are struggling, you know, because they're trying to get away from being the comming-home-ignore-your-wife-just-shut-up-bitch-cook-the-food, and that's the way it is. That's macho. And the men that I know that are trying to struggle with it in any way at all certainly shouldn't be treated in the same way as a businessman from Dearborn, who really did just want a little hippie nookie man. There are alot of people in our culture who use the same terminology for both, but slowly but surely are beginning to see that it's just empty bullshit. And it's oppressing people, especially people that they're closest too. It just drives them to the point where they just get pissed man, it just doesn't do anything.
S: Our culture has definitely run into a lot of problems -- there's a preponderance of bad drugs, death trips, and low-energy music being forced on people by the biggest low-energy trip of all: Amerika. What are we to do?
B: Well look what this culture has evolved out of. I mean in 1854 the first Indian war started, and from 1854 to 1971 the entire Indian nation has been just about wiped out. And that's a pretty heavy burden, man. And there was a lot of like gory blood, as much gore and shit going on then as there is in (continued on page 8) J BARBARA HOLLIDAY (continued from page 5) Vietnam now. The United States has been in wars and kicking ass for a long time.
But it's like the dead spirits of all of those people that the United States has messed over coming back into the children. But the children are still fucked up, having to pay all of these dues for all of these crazy people that are perpetuating this shit.
We have to stop the war in Vietnam, make more good music, which we'll do by changing a system where people are making money off of people dying in the streets and stuff. Because it's like Mad magazine, America's turned into Mad magazine. . . . We've just got to start educating people. You know we may get offed, but at least we'll have done it for that much time and that many people will have been exposed to the ruse. I mean people flip out! This is a company, the American Broadcasting Company, WXYZ TV Channel 7 's studios are here in the same building with RIF, and I have a ring in my nose man, and I almost got offed the first day I walked in the building just for that reason. I mean people were just culture shocked out of their gores !