JD Doyle, our favorite expert on GLBT tunes and performers, marks a milestone this month—his 100th Queer Music Heritage radio show. To honor this achievement, we asked him to provide some highlights and a list of favorite recordings and artists.
By JD Doyle
One hundred shows! Where to begin? The January edition of Queer Music Heritage on the 28th will mark not only my eighth anniversary show but also the 100th broadcast show. I make the distinction of “broadcast show” because there have been additional shows available only on my website. Also the total hours clock in at much more than 100, because many shows have longer versions and additional parts on the site, totaling around 150 hours online.
I might as well share my “how I got into radio” story. First, I had absolutely no radio experience, but a friend of mine, Jimmy Carper, had been hosting his KPFT show, After Hours, for many years. In late 1999, I started calling Jimmy during his show to request that he play a certain artist, or to just play more music, as his show is mostly talk format. My reasoning was that since gay and lesbian artists don’t get played anywhere else, he should play more of them. I kept this up for several weeks, until Jimmy finally said, “Why don’t you come on and play some?” So I did. I put together two half-hour segments, of old and new music, and included a little history behind the songs. Since I’m very comfortable with Jimmy, we had a good time. Jack Valinski heard us. He produces the show Queer Voices, which was then called Lesbian & Gay Voices, and invited me to do a monthly segment, which became Queer Music Heritage.
After I started my segment, my dream became having a site where the shows could be archived, so that anyone anywhere could hear them. Thus, Queer Music Heritage became a both a radio show and a massive website, which is now more than 800 pages, and growing. I view our music history as not only musical but also visual, so I wanted to share the album covers and artist pictures. Working on both the radio program and the website is a huge undertaking. This labor of love keeps me off the streets for more than 50 to 100 hours a month.
To mark my anniversary, OutSmart asked me to look back over the 100 shows and pick some highlights. That’s a hard task indeed, as I love so many genres, and there are different ways of looking at the subject. I started by just paging through my site, seeing what artists, songs, albums, interviews, and theme shows caught my eye. So here goes.
I love doing theme shows, which allows me to explore a particular aspect of our culture. If someone would ask me what show to listen to, if they could only check out one show, I have an easy answer. My June 2004 show, titled “Queer Music Before Stonewall,” was very satisfying to me and also won an award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, in the category of Local Music/Entertainment Program. I went to the ceremony in Baltimore to pick up the award. Gee, how many times in your life can you do something like that?
Other favorites of mine are the three-part special on Gay Country Music (March and April 2005 with a bonus online show), shows on Gay Disco (January 2005), Australian Gay Music (March 2002), Bisexual Songs (February and March 2004), Queer Blues (October 2007), and my recent four-part series on Transgendered Artists (May–August 2007). Of course, I have a lot of fun doing my Queer Xmas Shows every December.
I love interviewing the artists important to this history. If asked to recommend a particular show, I usually suggest the interview with alt-country artist Mary Gauthier (May 2005). To hear how she talked about her craft of songwriting was just fascinating. And it was a thrill to interview one of my icons, Tom Robinson, and to record him singing, just to me, his classic “Glad to Be Gay,” with a new verse about Matthew Shepard. This version has never been recorded by him, so presenting it on my show (August 2004) was a treat. Other favorite interviews have been with Janis Ian, Maxine Feldman, Romanovsky & Phillips, Ferron, Levi Kreis, Alix Dobkin, Tret Fure, and Tom Wilson Weinberg.
Who are my favorite queer artists? Choosing is agony, but I always first name Michael Callen, including his work with the group The Flirtations as well as his solo career. Also high on the list are Romanovsky & Phillips, Mark Weigle, Doug Stevens, the Kinsey Sicks, Jimmy Sommerville, Y’all, Sonia, Pansy Division, Jamie Anderson, and probably a surprise, the Village People. I got to interview Randy Jones, their original cowboy, and became friends with him. While a bit of a media whore, he’s a genuinely nice guy.
You want to know some albums that are iconic to me? These are a mixture of landmark historical recordings, and ones I just plain enjoy over and over, an even dozen, alphabetical by artist.
1. Margie Adam, Naked Keys (1980)
2. Michael Callen, Legacy (1996)
3. Cam Clarke, Inside Out (1999)
4. Steve Cohen, Silent Too Long (1997)
5. Therese Edell, From Women’s Faces (1977)
6. Dennis Hensley, The Water’s Fine (1999)
7. Doug Stevens, Out in the Country (1993)
8. Martin Swinger, Singin’ Out (1994)
9. Venus Envy, I’ll Be a Homo for Christmas (1995)
10. Mark Weigle, The Truth Is (1998)
11. Mark Weigle, All That Matters (2000)
12. Tom Wilson, Gay Name Game (1979)
Mark your calendar now: Martin Swinger will perform in Houston, on February 14, at Anderson Fair in Montrose. The Maine-based Swinger will perform at 8:30 p.m. with two Houston singer/songwriters, Ken Gaines and Wayne Wilkerson. The cover charge is $5. Tickets: www.andersonfair.com, 713/501-7131. On February 16, Swinger will perform solo at a local house concert. Admission: $15. Details and reservations: 713/501-7131.
My favorite old song? And by old, I mean before Stonewall. It has to be Ma Rainey and “Prove It on Me Blues,” from 1926. You can listen to the recording on my October 2007 Queer Blues show. To close, I’ll mention the new song I’m currently nuts about. This artist doesn’t even have an album released in English. The song is in English, though. It’s “Jesse,” by Israeli star Ivri Lider. The music video for it is currently very popular on Logo. I can’t wait for the full album.
Have a Listen
The hour-long Queer Music Heritage show, produced and hosted by JD Doyle, airs on the fourth Monday of every month at 9 p.m. as part of the weekly Queer Voices program broadcast on KPFT 90.1 FM. His monthly shows dating back to 2000 are archived at his website, www.queermusicheritage.us.
Doyle, who is a historian of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender music as well as a fan, also co-produces and co-hosts Audiofile, the monthly music review segment that is broadcast as part of the internationally distributed This Way Out radio news magazine, which is produced in Los Angeles.
In 2002, Doyle received the annual award from the Outmusic organization that honors non-musicians for their support of GLBT music and performers.