I first laid ears on Oxford’s WOXY 97x radio station as Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) crossed the bridge into Cincinnati on the way to meet is brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) in the 1988 film Rain Man. At the time I had no idea that the tiny FM radio station broadcasting on Babbit’s convertible car stereo, which was purchased in 1983, would transform alternative radio, changing my life, and the lives of countless other other listeners during its 29-year run. As the 30th anniversary of the station’s founding in 2013, Phil Lacefield Jr., an author in North Bend, WA launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds needed to support his book BAM! The Untold story of 97X, WOXY, and The Future of Rock & Roll. If the project receives at least $7,500 (on June 13 they’re at $2,068) in pledges by Friday Jul 6, 2:05am EDT, Lacefield intends to interview former employees, fans, and musical acts who were influenced by the modern rock radio station and provide a unique view into the world of WOXY. A pledge of $10 gets you an e-book trip back to “the Future of Rock & Roll.” For $1,000 you may get a kiss from the author and former on air personality Matt Sledge. Regardless, this is a project I’m willing to open my heart and pocket book for. Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Lacefield to ask about the book and this is what he told us…
Did you grow up in Dayton originally?
Middletown, class of ’87, but I went to Wright State and lived in Fairborn, Beavercreek and East Dayton until I moved out here in 2006.
When and under what circumstance was your first exposure to WOXY?
I grew up near the airport in Middletown, at the base of the Madison Township hill, which effectively blocked the 97.7MHz signal. I got my first boom box for Christmas 1984, and immediately set about tuning in various stations, and found WOXY that way. I never, ever stopped listening!
What are the earliest bands you can recall being introduced to by the radio station?
Violent Femmes, early REM and whatever was playing on Doctor Demento – I’m pretty sure that’s the first place I ever heard Weird Al!
Are you still a fan of those bands today?
Oh very much so! While we don’t have the woxy.com stream to listen to these days, we do have Spotify playlists made by fans of the various Modern Rock 500 lists, among others. It’s nice listening to the music, but we sure do miss the voices of the jocks…
When you tell your friends in the northwest about this book idea do they fully understand the impact WOXY had on music fans in the Midwest?
Yes and no. A few know what WOXY was first-hand, but up here the major independent radio station is KEXP-FM, whose program director Kevin Cole is a WOXY alum. While KEXP is a listener supported non-profit station, and runs a very different format than WOXY, the vibe is very similar and fans of KEXP are just as ravenous.
Which of the shows included in WOXY’s format were your favorite and why?
I always dug Local Lixx, and the Monday Blues Lunch was consistently a favorite. It’s hard, though, it’s like picking a favorite child!
Who is the DJ that you’re most anticipating catching up with?
I’m Facebook friends with a great many of them, so we’re not total strangers in each others’ lives, That being said, my most anticipated interview will be when I sit down with former station owners Doug & Linda Balogh, oh the stories they’ll have!
What was your reaction when WOXY called it quits?
Which time? I listened to the FM sign-off and the first online sign-off, and it was like being at a loved one’s deathbed. The pain of knowing you’d never again hear such a wonderful thing was overwhelming. I’m rather glad they chose to sign off the final time with zero fanfare, I doubt the listeners could have taken thestrain…
How did you come up with the idea for this book?
I’ve worked on and off in radio since 1984, and it is a medium I deeply love and respect. Sadly, radio of 2012 is a far, far cry from radio even as recently as ten years ago, with corporate greed, stupidity and conglomeration destroying radio as we once knew it. It’s very difficult to sit by and watch the piecemeal destruction of something I so deeply loved, with no consideration outside the bottom line; knowing what WOXY accomplished, and being a part of that massive extended family, left a lasting impression on me; that’s why I felt it was a story that needed to be saved for the ages, an account kept of what once was and the stories of how things were. The digital age has put every song ever made available at our fingertips on a moment’s notice, but in a sterile, almost industrial fashion; to me, true appreciation of a new song or breaking act comes from hearing a DJ tell me about it, hearing the excitement in his voice, and the feeling that I’m listening along WITH them, instead of TO them. That’s something you just don’t get with Pandora or Spotify…and I miss it terribly.
What has the response been to your Kickstarter from fans and people who were involved in the station?
So far, so good! Kickstarter is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, as projects tend to start out strong then level off, with a huge surge as time runs out. It’s been fantastic to see folks far and wide support the project, and I can only imagine what kind of reaction the book will get once it hits shelves. WOXY fans are the best in the world!
Will you still do the book if you don’t reach your Kickstarter goal?
Yes! I may wait a few weeks and re-list it with a more modest goal (even though the current goal is pretty modest in and of itself.) This is a story that demands to be told, whether or not the Kickstarter campaign pays off. I will find a way to get this book written, if I have to sell a kidney to do so. (Say, you wouldn’t know anyone interested in a perfectly good kidney, would you?)
Have you considered e-publishing it?
Yes, in fact the lowest level of Kickstarter sponsorship ($10) allows you to get the book in any e-book format you choose. I’ll be publishing it in every format that will accept me!
(Donate to the campaign here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/149307772/bam-the-untold-story-of-the-future-of-rock-and-rol?ref=users.)