This piece was written in late February. Last month, KUTX announced several programming changes; they also revealed that longtime Eklektikos host John Aielli had recently suffered a stroke. As the world continues to change this year, we’re offering this as a tribute to the enduring power of Austin radio.
It’s Monday, 8:15 a.m., and I get in my car to drive to work. A twinkling voice on KVRX is saying good morning and that it’s going to be a beautiful day. It’s Jane Elysium, college student and host of Monday morning show Cup of Jane. She puts on one of my favorite tracks by Austin band Go Fever, then something I haven’t heard, maybe a bright caffeine-shock from Japanese punk band CHAI. I think Jane has some of the best taste in this whole town, and I look forward to Monday mornings just to hear her playlists.
It’s Tuesday. I’m driving to work again, and John Aielli is hosting his KUTX radio show, Eklektikos, stringing together unrelated tracks with just the slightest thread of a theme as he has done for more than 50 years. Jane is a brilliant newcomer; Aielli is a stalwart tradition — but the Austin kind, meaning he’s a total weirdo and completely beloved. Almost every musician I know (hell, every artist of any kind) has been on Aielli’s show at some point or another.
It’s 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday, and I’m driving to my weekly therapy session. Laurie Gallardo is gushing about being a total music nerd and playing one of my favorite songs by the Replacements. And I know when I leave at 4:50, she’ll have 10 minutes left in her set, and at the end of it, she’ll tell me that Jody Denberg is on next and after him, the Wonder Woman of the Airwaves Taylor Wallace, whose taste always seems to align with mine. And then Laurie will sign off by telling me, "If you can, by all means …" and she’ll let the pause linger, and then she’ll finally deliver the kicker, "don’t behave." And every day it sounds a little different but also every day it sounds the same, in a good way.
I don’t know what I’d do without independent radio in Austin. On Friday afternoons, KOOP’s This Great White North plays Canadian tracks selected by Doug the Canuck and Justin the Canuck — because why the hell not! I’ve learned about so many rad artists that way. On Sunday afternoons, I turn to Miss Manners and Chris Harris of Hip Hop Hooray. The Girlie Show, Crate Digger’s Gold, Punk Melody Time — in so many ways, I mark my life by what’s on the radio.
Over on KUTX, I can also hear Gallardo’s voice as she pops in a few times a day for an Austin Music Minute, promoting local shows happening later that day. All through February, Miles Bloxson documented the stories of both the popular and the undersung Black musicians who have defined Austin music, from legends like Miss Lavelle White and W.C. Clark to relative newcomers Tameca Jones and Eimaral Sol. These radio moments give shape and identity to our music scene. They document, they create, and they celebrate.
It’s 6:45 p.m. on a Saturday. When I hop in my car to head to a date, I hear Riders Against the Storm’s "Holy Water" on KUTX, and I think, "Damn, I always forget how good this song is," and then when it ends, I hear Mayor Steve Adler’s voice and realize he’s the guest DJ for the My KUTX feature. He’s playing all music by Austin artists, just effusive as he talks about these musicians. Next, he puts on Daniel Johnston’s "True Love Will Find You in the End," and I begin to bawl, full of love for this city and everyone who gives it a soundtrack.
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