Just tumbled across something I wrote sixteen years ago, that is just as true today.

I wrote this in 1999 for the KBEK Radio webpage, and just now tumbled across it again. I think it’s held up well.

“Radio used to be less segmented than it is today. When I was a teen my favorite radio station would play a song by the Beach Boys, followed by a song by James Brown, followed by Lorne Greene, followed by the Beatles.” – Dwight Twilley, interviewed in Blank Pages Magazine, spring 1999

“A surprise, you knew, was coming; you just weren’t sure when. Then, there it was —your favorite song. Up went the volume, and often up went your voice — this song you were going to pay attention to, to really feel. The pleasure of radio lay in anticipation: in knowing you would hear what you wanted, but having that pleasure seem spontaneous and unexpected.” – Susan J. Douglas, from her book Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination

“They just described KBEK!” – Me

A surprise on the radio can make my whole day. Here’s what I mean: I was driving along awhile back, boppin’ along with the radio as usual. Suddenly the announcer played a blast from the past, a song that totally knocked me out when it came out years ago, but oddly I hadn’t even thought about for ages.

Wow! What a treat! That song put a smile on my face for the rest of the morning, mainly because it was unexpected. (The song, by the way, was “So Far Away” by Dire Straits.)

Consider how unique that whole experience is compared to other types of entertainment. This wouldn’t have happened, for instance, if I had just popped a CD into the player. That song was on that morning because the announcer picked it, and his likes (and dislikes) are why I tuned in. On the other hand: when I turn on the TV, play a CD, go to a movie, or watch a DVD, I’ve pre-selected exactly what I’ll see or hear — no surprises there.

Part of what I love about radio is its immediacy and its capacity for surprise. There I was, in the right place at the right time – and as a result my day started a whole lot nicer. And if I like a certain station and announcer, I generally can count on enjoying what I hear even – or sometimes especially – if I wasn’t expecting it.

Hearing a good tune for the first time can literally make me happy for days. And if I like an announcer’s tastes, usually I’ll also like the “surprises” he or she comes up with: whether it’s a brand-new song, an oldie I may have overlooked, or that favorite I’d forgotten for the past fifteen years. What’s more: some of the best new songs can bring back memories of songs past, and sound almost like old favorites right from the beginning.

The good mood I was in that morning is what we try to achieve on KBEK: provide you with that “surprise” experience of rediscovering a forgotten favorite, and introduce you to a new favorite you didn’t know you had yet! We hope we’re accomplishing that — let us know.

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