Meet KOOP’s “Pinch Hitter” – Steve Barber

Posted on: June 16, 2023
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Steve has been in radio a long time, in the mid-west and here in Austin. At KOOP, he has filled in often for programmers needing backup: “Back in the day I either subbed or engineered probably a dozen shows pre-Covid,” he says. We spoke on June 14.

Michael A. Brown: Tell us about some of your memorable pinch-hitting gigs here at KOOP.

Steve Barber: There have been numerous unique episodes, but filling in on programs where I’ve gotten to speak Spanish has been a challenging yet enjoyable experience. Joining Dennis Campa and Taylor Cage on “Adventures in Sound” channeling Liberace on his birth anniversary was a real hoot. So much laughter! It was a pleasure to be part of The Lounge Show collective back when Jay Robillard had an ongoing out-of-town project.

MAB: What recommendations do you offer for programmers preparing to sub a show?

SB: A sub needs to be familiar with what the regular programmer does on the show for whom he/she is subbing in order to maintain continuity. At least try not to stray from the premise of the program.

MAB: Before KOOP, you did radio elsewhere. Share some of that history please.

SB: I got hooked on radio at my 10-watt college station and decided from that point that a radio career might be the right direction. After sending out over 120 letters to assorted radio stations in pursuit of a future position, I wound up in Michigan at a station for eleven years and then in Milwaukee for the next 30. I was also a realtor associate in Michigan until the interest rates topped 13% (sound familiar?} but I found that flipping houses was more lucrative, especially when compared with radio!

MAB: How have KOOP’s music and N/PA programming evolved during your time here?

SB: The N/PA programs seem to have blossomed in my dozen years while at KOOP, thanks in large part to cohort Greg Ciotti who has managed to bring in numerous individuals for Reflections of Community Outreach. Many of those shows have branched off into different directions highlighting the performing arts and musical talent in Austin.

MAB: What are the key elements that cause shows to flop or succeed?

SB: I suppose if a programmer displays enthusiasm on his/her program as well as a knowledge of the material, the listener can detect that and thus enjoy a shared experience.

MAB: In your view, do syndicated shows detract from or add to KOOP as positioning as the “friendly neighborhood radio station?”

SB: I feel that programs like “This Way Out” and “Democracy Now” are a definite enhancement to the KOOP line-up. We are so fortunate to have so many locally produced N/PA programs, but the addition of nationally syndicated shows benefits the listeners.

MAB: What has been your experience with KOOP remote shows and events like those we used to host at Barrel of Fun at Alamo?

SB: I was privileged for two consecutive years to be part of Earth Day at Mueller. I had the good fortune of being able to interview exhibitors, not only for KOOP but also for the former Channel One Austin. The Barrel of Fun was a great time! Not only did it bring in listeners to promote a local band as well as the radio station, but it also was a place where KOOPers could mingle and enjoy live music at a fun venue.

MAB: When proposing new shows and/or events, what should programmers consider and avoid?

SB: Would-be programmers who wish to propose a show for KOOP will get a better reception if the concept for a new program is unique and if there’s not already a show of a similar ilk on the schedule. Sure, we have several programs that feature country music but each one is distinctive in its own way, each one filling a niche.

MAB: Where do you expect to be pinch-hitting next in the KOOP lineup?

SB: Looks like I might be filling in for my Cajun Cousin Tom Mahnke on “Fais Do Do” on a few occasions this summer. And I always get a kick out of subbing for Thomas Durnin on Czech Melody Time, having had a polka show for 34 years in Michigan!

Interview by Michael A. Brown