Now trending at KOOP – programming collectives! And in the Lonesome Stranger collective, Dave Jaffe is a fairly new member with an enthusiastic following. We spoke on December 14.
Michael A. Brown: Tell us about your early days as a radio fan.
Dave Jaffe: I grew up in New York in the ‘60s when there really wasn’t FM radio yet. We had AM stations like WMCA and you could hear – in a single hour – The Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdinck, and Frank Sinatra. All of those were variants of pop music. Two of my favorite DJs were Frankie Crocker on WMCA, who played soul music, and later on Dave Herman on the FM stations WPLJ and WNEW. Those guys had recurring features I especially liked. For example, every morning Dave Herman would play a “Bruce Juice” segment … Bruce Springsteen.
MAB: How did you discover country music among all the rock ‘n’ roll?
DJ: At night, when you could hear far-away AM stations, I used to dial in to WSM in Nashville on Saturday night and listen to the Grand Ole Opry. We didn’t have a country station in New York but I always loved country music, even when I was a kid. I had heard about the Grand Ole Opry and there it was!
MAB: How did you wind up in Austin?
DJ: I always wanted to live in Austin, going back to the ‘70s, when I was a big Willie Nelson fan. I came here in 1976 for a couple days and went to one of Willie’s picnics. I followed outlaw country bands, the “cosmic cowboys,” who played at places like the Armadillo. I finally had the chance to move here in 1988 while working with IBM when they were part of Sematech. I asked my wife if we should accept a 2-year assignment in Austin … we had a toddler and a baby at the time. But we moved here on a supposed temporary basis and we never moved back.
MAB: What do you like best about participating in the Lonesome Stranger collective?
DJ: We’re all encouraged to do our own take on country, alt country, and Americana. I love the individuality of all seven of us in the collective and how our views of country and adjacent music are so divergent!
Lonesome Stranger broadcasters (from left): Dave Jaffe, Claude Hopper, Jeff Keen, Saint Annie, Yance-man, Tim Hertenberger, Melinda Bee
MAB: What are some of the things you like to include in your shows?
DJ: I do recurring features like my “Taste of Jason” … Jason Isbell. Also, a feature called “Cover Me” where I play a great song by the song’s author and then a great cover version. I encourage the audience to let me know which they prefer.
MAB: The show’s page at the KOOP website says you play “rocknrollcountrysoul,” which seems very different from typical country music radio. Who are some of your favorite artists and their music?
DJ: I mentioned Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit. He plays guitar and rock, his themes are from the south, but it sounds very soulful. There’s a new band called The War and Treaty. It’s a Black couple, Michael and Tanya Trotter. They play country music and soul music and they’re rockers. But I don’t try to draw a distinction, because rock ‘n’ roll is really a fusion of country and rhythm and blues. And to me that’s the best kind of music.
MAB: What other activities are you involved in at KOOP and around town?
DJ: At the station, I do Peer Reviews, which has been really interesting for me because I get to listen carefully to other disc jockeys and some of the News and Information programming. Out in the community, my wife and I support HAAM, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. So we go to a lot of their shows. I also play Senior League Softball.
MAB: From what you’ve heard as you listen to all the different KOOP programming, in your view are we as unique as we think we are and as we say we are?
DJ: We definitely are! I tell people that if they don’t believe that Austin is still weird, just listen to KOOP!
You can enjoy Lonesome Stranger with Dave Jaffe or another of his broadcast colleagues every Thursday at 9am.
Interview by Michael A. Brown