.Radio Daze

Local DJs adjust the dial during a pandemic

Brian Griffith’s office has been quiet lately. A little too quiet. The host of 91.1 FM radio station KRCB’s Music Mornings program usually greets a full staff at the station, but for the last two weeks of sheltering-in-place, he’s been alone in the studio.

“Everybody but essential workers are working from home; the radio hosts like Doug (Jayne) and I are there in the studio,” says Griffith. “Mark (Prell), who hosts ‘Morning Edition,’ is there when I get there. He takes off, I take over. I wipe down the board with disinfectant, wearing gloves. It’s pretty surreal.”

Griffith’s program offers up classic rock, country, folk and other eclectic musical selections. On a recent Monday, he played a bit of a pandemic playlist featuring tunes like “Splendid Isolation” by Warren Zevon and “Storms Never Last” by John Prine, who himself is hospitalized with COVID-19.

“It’s harder than usual to pick music to play,” Griffith says. “You want something that’s not too depressing.”

Listeners have responded positively to Griffith and other radio hosts who are becoming more and more a lifeline for those stuck at home.

“It’s weird, because you’re in a room by yourself talking into a microphone, and you don’t know who is on the other end,” he says. “It’s nice to know that people are tuning in.”

Griffith notes the station also airs up-to-the-minute news, though KRCB, with other NPR affiliates, refuses to air the president’s uninformative coronavirus briefings. KRCB also offers comprehensive coronavirus coverage with its weekly hosted town halls with local experts and officials.
Not every station still runs this way—groups like Wine Country Radio, which run the Krush 95.9 FM among other stations, are automating during the shelter-in-place, meaning DJs like long-running bluesman Bill Bowker are stuck at home.

“We are going on a week-to-week basis,” Bowker says.

Some hosts, like Andre De Channes, are able to broadcast from home, but Bowker’s slot and others have become automated programs. It’s an unprecedented time for Bowker, who’s been on the air every week for 40-some-odd years.

“It’s an anxious feeling,” he says. “I’m still listening to new music sitting in my den, but I’m also wanting to be able to ‘spin them,’ as they say.”

Like most people, Bowker’s main concern remains on staying healthy.

“For Wine Country Radio to do a shelter-in-place, that totally makes sense,” he says. “We will get back to normal.”

Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.


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