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Queer to the Ear

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‘Queer Music Heritage’ marks its 15th anniversary.
by JD Doyle

It’s all Jimmy Carper’s fault. I really miss Jimmy. We lost him a year ago, and he was a good friend and in some ways a mentor to me. I also credit him for giving me my start in radio—something I wasn’t even seeking. He had been hosting After Hours on KPFT for many years, and in late 1999 I began calling in during his shows, nudging him to play more gay and lesbian artists, as there was really no outlet for their music. After doing this several weeks in a row, he just said, “Well, why don’t you come on the show and play some?”

So I did. With zero radio background, I put together two half-hour segments of old and new music, and I “put a little history” behind the songs. As I was very comfortable with Jimmy, we had a good time, and Jack Valinski, the producer of the station’s Monday night show Queer Voices (then called Lesbian & Gay Voices) invited me to do a monthly segment. My first segment aired in January 2000, and it turned out to be a perfect outlet for my collection of LGBT music and my passion for digging into LGBT history.

Within a year I took my segments online in order to archive the shows, since history needs to be accessible. My fanatic approach has led to a website of over 2,000 pages and 560 hours of streaming music. As I have always considered our music history visual as well as aural, from the beginning I set up pages for each show that captured photos of the artists and recordings. I wasn’t playing Top 40 artists, but mainly indie ones whose work was difficult to discover. They were not heard on the radio and struggled to make their music available in the few coffee shops and LGBT bookstores that agreed to carry them. And as the show’s name would indicate, I loved going way back to feature the very early artists and songs that paved the way for the music of our culture. I am pleased to have been able to interview many of our pioneers, some of whom began in the ’60s and ’70s when recording explicitly gay songs was indeed brave.

In addition to the many interview shows, there have been a large number of “theme” shows and some that are centered on genres: country, jazz, hip hop, Christmas, gay musicals, and on my recent November show, “Obscure Queer Blues,” covering mainly the ’20s and ’30s—some very deep material that I loved researching.

Other unusual themes have included: Music Inspired by Harvey Milk, Singing Drag Queens, Music Inspired by The Wizard of Oz, Songs about AIDS, Same-Sex Marriage, Stonewall, Matthew Shepard, Anita Bryant, Gays in the Military, Drag Kings, Music by Bear Artists…and lots and lots on women’s music and transgender artists. There have been fanatically long shows of up to nine hours on gay choruses, Queercore, and gay Christian music. I am grateful that Queer Voices allowed me to air the first hour of these shows on KPFT every month. As I lack the discipline to do just one hour, additional hours can always be heard on my website.

As the name Queer Music Heritage may imply, I was trying to cover the history while also including current music. Five years ago, that led me to start a second show (when I retired from my job and had more available time) called OutRadio, just for current music. With January being the fifth anniversary of that online-only show, I am doing something I have never done—a show focusing not on our music history, but on my favorite songs that span over eight decades. So for those wondering about the music I personally adore, that’s my January show that you can find at queermusicheritage.com/jan2015.html, or by coming through the front door of the website at queermusicheritage.com.

Tune in to Queer Voices on Monday nights, 8–9 p.m., on KPFT 90.1 FM.

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