By Ken Krayeske • 10:50 PM EST
A regular installment in the Continuing Saga of Morning Radio in America's 28th or so largest media market - New Haven/Hartford.
Way back, a few months ago, before law school kicked in, before my time disappeared into text books, I hammered out a deal with Chaz and AJ, the morning crew on WPLR 99.1FM, Connecticut's so-called number one morning show.
Chaz and AJ granted me a pre-recorded minute every Monday morning for four weeks, to be aired at 6 a.m.
They set out some sacred cows, like that I couldn't go after their advertisers. PLR, a classic rock monster in Milford, is owned by Cox Communications.
I disagreed with limits on editorial content, and the next week, giving them credit for accepting alternate points of view, I went to work.
Week 1 - July 21
Good morning. This is Ken Krayeske with the40yearplan.com checking in with 60 seconds worth of not normally heard-on-the-radio news and views.
On Thursday last week, President-elect Al Gore challenged Americans to transition all electrical power supplies in this country away from fossil fuels and go to renewable sources like wind, solar and geothermal. And he wants us to do this in the next ten years.
A debate has ensued whether or not this will be included in the Democratic party platform for the 2008 presidential election. What is odd about this is not that I called Gore the President-elect, but that the Apollo Project, the 10-year plan to energy independence, was pushed by Gore's opponent Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election.
My notes for week one are in a notebook, and I don't have a sign off. I'm sure I did one. I'm not sure the response, because my alarm didn't wake me up. But one of my oldest friends in the world, Pete the Pole, called me up afterwards and said that I didn't sound good.
I vowed to improve. I wrote and rewrote and practiced and recited the words for week two.
Week 2 - July 28
Good morning. This is Ken Krayeske from the40yearplan.com checking in with 60 seconds about "Classic rock." The music we love – Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin – has its roots in Black America. Yet the PLR playlist fails to reflect the multicultural origins of classic rock.
Once a day, PLR listeners might hear a song by an African-American artist. Sly and the Family Stone? Maybe. Living Color. Perhaps. Lenny Kravitz. On occasion. Jimi Hendrix. More likely. Bob Marley. Try Landry's Luncheonette.
PLR caters the tastes of the white male audience. While that's okay, it does a disservice to history. So, let's make this rock world a little more colorful. How about a daily morning taste of the blues greats that shaped rock music? If we can spare one minute a week for me, who never inspired brother Jimi to Voodoo Child, certainly we must find five minutes a day or week for the likes of Robert Johnson, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Muddy Waters, Son House, Bo Diddley, Skip James, or B.B. King, to name a few.
Thanks for listening. Until next week. This is Ken Krayeske from the 40yearplan.com.
I woke at 6 a.m. to listen to the responses. They called me a weenie, a tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, spandex-wearing, liberal weenie.
One or two callers agreed with my criticism of the PLR playlist, others said I was clueless. Chaz and AJ said that PLR has been around for decades, and they have tried everything, including blues history bits and the current station programming is wildly successful and makes them scads of money.
How can you disagree with profitability?
They asked, I answered next week.
Week 3 - August 11
Good morning, this is Ken Krayeske with the40yearplan.com on profit with honor. Last week, Chaz and AJ and some callers used capitalism to justify the limited song selection and not-so-diverse playlist of PLR.
I'm not certain that unbridled pursuit of profit is the smartest thing for radio, or humanity. How about profit with honor? This weekend, Radiohead lead the three-day All Points West music and arts festival in Jersey City, in the shadow of Lady Liberty and lower Manhattan.
One of the most successful bands in history, Radiohead has toyed with not touring to save carbon emissions. At no small expense, then, Radiohead demanded All Points West – with more than 20 bands including Ben Harper and Jack Johnson – be carbon neutral.
Radiohead asked, so my friends and I joined thousands in a multi-modal odyssey from carpool to train to sidewalk to Liberty Landing state park. Others took a ferry across the Hudson. Once there, bands treated us to rock and roll virtuosity.
40 years ago, FM stations like PLR rode a political wave from Woodstock to the mainstream. This weekend, PLR missed the boat on All Points West because the profitability theory of playlists rejects Radiohead's popular sound and its ecological consciousness.
So Chaz and AJ, for profit with honor, how about spinning the title track from Radiohead's 1995 sophomore CD the Bends?
I'm Ken Krayeske with the40yearplan.com. Thanks for listening.
Billy said Radiohead blows. Someone else wondered about my sex life. Chaz and AJ pretty much declared my progressive Monday-morning minute experiment dead, and said that they weren't going to defend the PLR playlist every Monday morning.
They genuinely sounded disappointed that I missed the mark they were looking for, that they did want a progressive voice on the air.
Plus, I went 90 seconds, so they only gave me 30 seconds next week.
Week 4 August 18
Good morning. This is Ken Krayeske from the40yearplan.com to answer some questions from last week. First, I am a law student clerking at a small commercial litigation firm, where I help foreclose on dishonest businesspeople.
Second, I'd like to talk war, but 60 seconds is too short to probe the nuances of savage humanity. Nor can we stop war without altering our behavior here. So I used my airtime to explore our local environment, both mental and physical.
If you can't change your mind, do you even have one?
I didn't even sign off, because my time was so short. The 99.1 morning team tore me up for the next 10 minutes, attacking my private life, and going so far as to call me crazy, which I felt toed a dangerous line.
As I thought about it, I considered the whole exercise a set-up. Their segments are set up in 10-12 minute blocks, interspersed with traffic, news, music and ads. By having me record one minute in advance, they could spend the next ten minutes hammering on me without a chance to respond.
I contacted John the producer to explain my disdain, and he said Chaz would call me back. Chaz never did.
But the conversation with WPLR's Chaz and AJ is just starting.