Which Radio DJ Saved Your Musical Life?

noah | August 15, 2008 5:45 am

I’ve had the sports-radio yakfest Mike & The Mad Dog on for most of this afternoon, and it’s been distractingly compelling, thanks to today’s show being the last of the program’s current iteration. The show, an afternoon-long chat about sports between sorta-smarmy Yankee partisan Mike Francesa and frenetic Giants fan Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, had been on New York’s WFAN for 19 years, and served as something of a sports-talk juggernaut; last night, WFAN announced that Russo was exiting his contract and was off the station effective immediately. Today’s show, hosted by Francesa, has featured call-ins from fans all over the country, including the governors of New York and New Jersey, and a tearful goodbye to the fans from Russo himself. (There’s much, much more background and play-by-play at this hilarious blog dedicated to the show.) One thing that’s struck me has been how many people were crying–really, truly sobbing–over the end of this era; it’s a testament to how radio is such a personally powerful medium because at its core, it’s basically just people talking to other people, even if those people may be scattered all over a geographical area (or, in the current era, around a particular IP address). And it made me wonder if any of you out there feel, or have felt, as powerful a connection with any radio hosts who brought you music.

I might have a bit of a dog in this fight (uh, no pun intended) because I put in a fair amount of time in the college-radio trenches, but I do think that there are DJs who have a knack for connecting on another level with their audience even when they don’t have to fill five and a half hours a day with just talking, which was what Mike and the Mad Dog were charged with. On a national level, there’s Delilah, the nationally syndicated adult-contemporary host who serves as a sort of confessional booth for her (mostly female) listenership. Chris Molanphy spoke eloquently about his connection with Casey Kasem in his most recent “100 & Single” column.

As a high schooler who was slowly transitioning out of her hard rock fandom, college-radio DJs were really important to me, turning me on to bands like Tiger Trap, Lush, and Smashing Orange. But the transient nature of college radio and my own transition to the other side of the microphone resulted in the relationship being nowhere near as long-standing as the ones that the other personalities I’ve mentioned here have enjoyed with their audiences. Is it even possible to have that sort of fan-subject relationship with a DJ anymore? Or has something else entirely filled that void, thanks to the many problems terrestrial radio has had and the explosion of outlets that have taken on the mantle of bringing people music?