The development of community radio in Ann Arbor took a great leap forward last week as ex-poet, White Panther, former columnist (the Michigan Boogie) for the SUN and master migrant energy disc jockey the righteous Bob Rudnick journeyed out to Brassow Road at the unbelievable hour of 10 in the morning to do his first five hour show on WNRZ-fm.
The week before Rudnick was doing the all night slot on Windsor, Canada radio CJOM-fm, a free-form station that was attracting a growing audience from within the five states and two province range of its antenna. "The Big Chomper" was a welcome relief to the mostly programmed and plastic radio that oozes from the other "progressive" stations in Detroit (the only exception being WABX at certain times of the day), but it went Top 40 one morning when the dj's walked in to find an armed guard keeping them out of the studio. Rudnick was fired along with the entire staff (minus one secretary) of CJOM, keeping to his long tradition of being fired from radio gigs, a tradition that can hopefully now come to an end.
People here on Hill St. were in the midst of a massive mobilization to finish scraping and painting the outsides of our houses before the snow sets in when the righteous one blasted some dynamite sets out through the airwaves, music that inspired and energized us to paint on through to the end in time with the tunes. Really! Because that's what high-energy music DOES, it charges your body and gets it up either dancing or moving more perfectly along with whatever you happen to be doing at the time. And Rudnick will be around to charge up the day on NRZ from now on, starting at 10am Monday-Friday. We talked with Bob after he'd been on the air in Ann Arbor for four days in order to introduce you more fully to the voice that'll be coming in on your radio.
RUDNICK: CJOM was the equivalent of a pirate radio station, like the ones they had in England that were on boats miles offshore outside the legal limit. We were getting away with things you couldn't get away with in the states, as far as cuts we could play. We were in Canada which has a much more liberal government. We had programming content that was much more in tune with the realism of the people than the plastic soap operaish format of the American stations.
But I felt that something funny was happening, and Larry Monroe and I decided to meet and discuss the possibilities of me going to WNRZ This was the week before the armed guards seized the people's radio station in Windsor. I felt something coming because you see the station itself was disorganized. The staff was not operating as a unit. We weren't organized and things were floundering.
But Rudnick puts most of the blame for what happened on the station owner, Jeff Stirling.
He doesn't know radio, he was never in it, he's an owner, he has no idea. Station managers are part of the comprador class, they're like foremen in factories who have no idea how it runs, they just got the job because of a brother-in-law or a connection. That's how radio is, the people on top directing it have no idea - I mean you can see how out of it he is by looking at what he's going to do with the station now, with Top 40. He doesn't understand that there's a very sophisticated audience in Michigan and the Windsor area, who have listened to good jams for a long time. For example people on the streets in Ann Arbor could do better shows than the people now on the air.
You see one of the reasons radio stations fail is that the people who are planning the station never look at the importance of what they have. They look at the radio station as a product to sell and to make money. The radio should be the lifeblood of the community, it's replaced newspapers in a lot of areas. Everyone can tune it in, it's instant communications.
Stations first and foremost must serve their areas. Look at these fucking ABC stations, they're being programmed out of New York City, the granite island, and they're programming music for Detroit and everywhere else. That's a crime. And the way they bring in carpetbaggers, you see disc jockeys are a very migrant bunch of people because they have to keep looking for jobs and never really get into the community. That's one advantage of NRZ, where there are people on the air who are Ann Arbor people and who want to build this into a permanent thing.
People in Ann Arbor are developing their talents, they're being creative in a thousand areas that were just plastic before. The radio station has to be in tune with this, which means you don't have a plastic play-list, the disc jockey should be a part of the community and should be in tune to what the community is doing and where its head is at. Like what's going on with the fact that marijuana plays such an important part in the community. For a disc jockey to be straight and play any type of progressive music is a contradiction, there's just no way they can feel it. People who are high do better shows. Marijuana is a great liberator in opening up people's ears. I'd like to testify that marijuana was a main tool in helping me hear new music, new and wonderful sounds. So we have to be conscious of that here in Ann Arbor with the $5 law. We have to be conscious of the music that's coming out of the community, the bands here, we have to have more tapes of the bands in this area.
The people will support the radio station that supports them. A radio station builds its audience by playing music that people like and, most important, turning people on to new music, because they turn you on to have you turn them on.
For instance you start playing jazz; some people never heard it before or its alien to them, so you try and put it in a context so it's not too weird. You fit it in so it's easy for people to hear it at first and get into it. I talk specifically about jazz, because what I play is mostly rock and roll and avante garde jazz, free music, high-energy music, cosmic music.
The thing is not really to play music that people know, but to play music that they WILL WANT TO KNOW once they get a chance to hear it. And not to just reflect what's happening in the community but to try and turn people on to what's happening so they can be a part of it. The radio station should tie the area it reaches together. It should be a web, an information network.
Hired & Fired
In a profession known for rapid-fire hirings and firings and station jumping from city to city and gig to gig, Rudnick has an almost unique history of getting to a station and having to leave relatively soon thereafter for one incredible reason or another.
RUDNICK: I was born July 31. 1942 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. While in school at the University of Florida I wrote this homecoming satire, the audience loved it but the judge ruled it obscene, a problem that has reoccured throughout my career. In 1964 I became a part of the Democratic Party of Chicago, was taking LSD soon after. Soon the Vietnam War made it impossible for me to be a part of the "Democratic" Party of Mayor Daley so I started an off -campus coffee house. We had the first off-campus SDS chapter there, organized demonstrations against the war, had poetry, jazz and blues. From there I became Associate Editor of the Playboy VIP magazine, the one that goes to the members of the clubs. I got fired from that one for leaving on a deadline day to go the March 15, 1967 peace demonstration in New York.
In New York I was a chauffeur for Steve Paul, the owner of the Scene nightclub, where my old friend Dennis Frawley was the bartender. We both started writing a regular music column together for the East Village Other, one of the original underground newspapers. The column was called Kokaine Karma. We wrote about Coltrane, rock and roll, the MC5, we turned people on to things that were going on. Through the column we were offered a radio gig at a station in East Orange, New Jersey at WFMU. We worked for nothing - in fact it cost us $50 a week to do the show commuting to New Jersey. It was really a freeform station, no commercials even.
Then through John Sinclair, I came to Michigan because of the White Panther Party and the MC5 and the work Trans-Love Energies was doing here. I was introduced to John Detz, station manager of WABX and started doing a Sunday show there. A few weeks later Dennis and I started doing the all-night show together from 2-7am. We had a great deal of difficulty with the station manager there. He was very paranoid We'd get fired and rehired for the silliest reasons. He didn't really trust us. The last bummer was when we got fired for mentioning a benefit for John Sinclair, who had just been put in jail, without getting permission from Detz.
At the meeting to rehire us I refused to go back and Dennis decided to stay. They wouldn't trust me to mention a benefit without getting "permission" and they didn't support John when he went to jail in general. John was actually banned from the station premises during his trial. He had helped to make ABX a part of the community and the management turned on him. I could not relate to that at all.
Sweet Home, Chicago
At that point Cy Fruchter had bought time on WGLD in Chicago and I took the job there. We were really doing well, it was the finest real station in Chicago. And then a local CBS-tv station decided to do a show on us. On the TV show they showed me with a Mao button and Lenny Bruce records under my arms, walking in to work. They interviewed us and one of the staffers said yes we did play records that advocated violating the laws like smoking marijuana and dodging the draft and illicit sexual relations, whatever that is.
The station owner lived in Washington, one of the absentee owners in radio. He heard about the TV show and sent two telegrams to the station which they handed me during my show. The first one said that "disc jockies cannot comment on any current issues. Failure to abide by this will result in immediate dismissal." And the second memo said I could not use the name "Kokaine Karmel." They didn't even have the name right. I got the memos and opened up the microphone and said I have to comment on some current issues. I read the memos and played Steve Miller singing "don't let nobody turn you round" & a tape of the Stones in Chicago doing "Street Fighting Man" and then walked out of the studio and off the air. I held a press conference the next day and explained that I left because I could no longer be responsible to the audience under those conditions. Being on the air is a public trust the airwaves are natural resources, and the most polluted of all our resources I would say. A disc jockey should have the trust of the people and most of them don't.
So Cy and some other people bought time on WEAW, a right wing station in Evanston, Illinois where they had us on for equal time right in there with Paul Harvey and Rev. Cari McIntyre. We set up a thing called Radio Free Chicago. We involved a lot of people, bands like Wilderness Road, underground papers, the conception corporation. It was really exciting live radio until the fun went out of it, people started bickering, and I left to go to the West Coast to work at a new station, KOME.
But the management of KOME hated my music. They wrote dog shit over the Stooges album, they broke my John Lee Hooker album; they were playing Chicago and Barbra Streisand and I was playing high energy music and John Coltrane. The audience in San Jose was a lot like Detroit and there was a great response. But according to the management my show was crude, my style was hated, and too weird in general. See California is too laid back, the disc jockies sound like morticians. So they cut me down to one day a week and then a friend of mine was fired for bogue reasons. So I walked out at the same in support of him.
Next to LA where I went to work at a Metromedia station, KMET. But I didn't like that area. People are always hustling you, especially in the music business. LA, what can I say about it? I was very unhappy and was there because it was the only place I could get a chance to play the music. But there was no community participation, the station wasn't interested in that. Radio
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RUDNICK Continued from page 8
stations tend to be very elite, they like to be above it and look down at the audience. That's what I can't understand about Detroit dj's. The guys think their audiences are dummies, that's why they format their shows. I maintain that the taste of the people is much more advanced than the disc jockies would believe.
So I worked at KMET for six months and came to Ann Arbor to MC the Free John Rally last December 10 at Crisler Arena. Stayed two extra days to see my brothers come out of jail, which was a joyous event in the struggle to develop a socialist rainbow community. I got fired from KMET for staying extra without going through proper channels to get permission, even though I'd arranged for another jock to take my place. That carne as ns shock. I really wanted to come back here and work. And Cy Fruchter got me a job at CJOM on Sundays which expanded soon to the all night show.
So there you have it, an introduction to Bob Rudnick, who can now be heard on WNRZ-fm weekdays from 10am to 3pm. His show stands out in sharp contrast to the general blah morass of daytime radio and his arrival at NRZ is yet another in what has been a series of killer changes that have come down at the station in recent months. WNRZ is now one of the only freeform radio stations serving our people left on this continent. It needs your support in order to serve the community even better in the months to come.
-David Fenton, RPP
WITH BOB RUDNICK
IS ALIVE ON