Have you ever longed to hear something different on the radio? Something more than the same old, static playlists? If so, you're not alone. It's that longing that birthed a locally produced radio show that has slowly grown outside our borders and consistently given airtime to more independently minded artists. The show I speak of is Folk Salad, and it celebrates 10 years on the air this month.
If you're not familiar with Folk Salad, you won't be faulted. Featured weekly on the local National Public Radio station, KWGS (89.5FM), it might not get as much exposure and publicity as programs on mainstream stations, such as The Edge's Homegroan, but it has quietly built a growing and loyal audience.
Scott Aycock, one of the hosts of the show, said that the show was conceived out of conversations he held with friend and co-host Richards Higgs more than a decade ago. Aycock was (and remains) both a musician and collector, building an eclectic library of artists off the beaten path.
Higgs, on the other hand, was a music fan who believed that nothing good had been released since the late '70s. It became Aycock's personal mission to prove Higgs wrong as he opened his eyes up to a new world of predominantly independent, roots-oriented artists.
As Higgs developed a new excitement for music, the conversations grew as well, eventually working their way around to grousing about the state of modern radio and its generic, unimaginative playlists. According to Aycock, Higgs finally suggested, "Why don't we start our own show?" Aycock agreed.
"I told him 'Come on over and let's do it. I've got a four-track recorder at the house'," he said. "So, he did, and it took us hours to come up with the demo for that first show."
Once the seed was planted, however, Higgs was immediately ready to nurture it and see it grow. After ironing out the details of their vision, he drew up a proposal and presented it to local NPR station KWGS, who had just acquired a new program director and was looking for fresh new program ideas at the time.
"We agreed that we wanted to place an emphasis on what we called 'mixed greens,'" Aycock said. "Not just Americana, but bluegrass, Red Dirt, country, blues and singer/songwriter material. Basically, all types of roots-based music. We also liked the idea of playing an archival, scratchy, Woody Guthrie record followed by an artist like Beck, something that we've done on more than one occasion.
"It's not that we're against modern music or artists. It's just that we prefer ones that have studied their traditions and taken from them.
In fact, we look for that."
Once Higgs' proposal was submitted, the new program director forwarded it to the station's General Manager, Rich Fisher, who called back two days later, asking when the pair could start. The answer was immediately, with one stipulation.
Without pay, they only wanted someone to allow them to use the studio and demonstrate how to work the equipment. Fisher came in himself to teach them the radio basics, and they were on the air two weeks later.
That first program aired in October 1999 and has continued ever since, providing a taste of national and local independent artists to listeners for a decade now. It's a show that will not only pair Woody Guthrie and Beck, but place mainstream artists like John Hiatt, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan next to local and regional acts such as Sage Flower, Jimmy LaFave, Samantha Crain and Dustin Pittsley. Every week is an adventure--and a new lesson in music appreciation.
When coming up with a format for the show, Aycock said that he and Higgs didn't care to put stylistic boundaries on what they would play but felt like they needed to showcase both new talent and Oklahoma artists.
"Part of our mission statement is to get people heard," he said. "And we really like the idea of playing an artist like Lyle Lovett followed by Tom Skinner, and people realizing that they're both cut from the same cloth."
For 10 years now, Folk Salad has been doing just that, and now the program reaches beyond Northeast Oklahoma. With no end in sight and a growing listenership, the show was also picked up by KOSU in January, expanding its broadcast to cover nearly all of Oklahoma as well as parts of Kansas and Arkansas.
In honor of the show's 10th birthday, the Folk Salad Ten Year Celebration concert will be held Sunday, October 11, at Bob's, the second stage at Cain's Ballroom. The party starts at 4pm and goes until 11pm, showcasing a host of local artists in a full night of music that's indicative of what the show presents for its listeners.
During the course of the evening you can expect to see Red Dirt Rangers, Monica Taylor, Three Penny Upright, John Fullbright, Jeff Graham Band and Acoustic Mojo take over the stage as well as a handful of unannounced visitors and even a set by your Folk Salad host, billed as Scott Aycock and Friends. Dustin and Jesse's Higher Education will act as the house band. While some bands will step up and take the stage in full, other artists will play with the house band.
Although each of the acts were picked based on their talent and long-standing relationships with the show, Aycock and Higgs are particularly excited about the inclusion of Monica Taylor, who was included in Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion this past year, and John Fullbright. Fullbright is a 22-year-old artist from Okemah, of whom singer/songwriter Jimmy Webb has said "has more talent than most songwriters with 50 years experience."
Even with a stacked lineup, there were even more artists who offered to play the show, and Aycock expects many to show up and join the festivities.
"We can't really give everyone a set," he said, "but a lot of them will be a familiar with each other's songs. It will probably be sort of a Red Dirt thing, where people get invited up to sing harmony vocals or add a little fiddle or play guitar on a song or two--like a hootenanny."
If you're familiar with the Folk Salad program or simply a music lover who appreciates a mix of eclectic artists, you won't want to miss this free concert at Bob's. And if you aren't familiar with the show, you need to check it out when it airs at 7pm every Sunday evening on KWGS or Saturdays at 8pm on KOSU. It's "Certified Organic Music" that will cure the apathy that generic mainstream radio might have instilled in you.
This weekend sees the Tulsa State Fair come to a conclusion, but the music isn't over yet. The Oklahoma Stage caters to the classic rock, R&B, modern rock and jazz crowds with Blue Oyster Cult on Thursday evening, followed by Tony! Toni! Tone'! on Friday, Shinedown on Saturday and finally, Grady Nichols on Sunday, October 11.
This week is no different from the others, with plenty of options to choose from and as is tradition, we've got the highlights to get you pointed in the right direction.
The Brady district is the place to be this Thursday evening, October 8, for either the United Way's "Rock the 918" Battle of the Bands at Cain's Ballroom (check out more info for this event on page 49) or Honor Society with Esmee Denters at The Marquee.
Friday evening, October 9, is busy with Zeke Duhon's CD release party at The Marquee, The Night's Bright Lights at Soundpony, Alex and the Anders at Arnie's and My Solstice playing at Mercury Lounge. Of course, if you're looking for something a little bigger, you can check out the Johnny Cash Tribute act Walk the Line at Flytrap Music Hall or the return of '90s modern rock with Creed and Staind at BOK Center.
Saturday's spotlight show is the River Rush Concert with Joss Stone at the Blair Estate, but anyone looking for something more relaxed and low profile might want to check out Wink Burcham at Arnie's or The Soul Control at Soundpony. Also of note are Kittie, Soil, Arkaea and Straightline for the metal crowd at Flytrap.
Besides the Folk Salad Birthday show at Bob's, Sunday evening also offers up an interesting stacked bill with Family Force 5, Breathe Carolina, Cash Cash and Queens Club at The Marquee or The Show is the Rainbow at Soundpony.
Finally, the week is wrapped up with a trio of high profile shows as Miley Cyrus and Metro Station play BOK Center on Monday, and Cain's Ballroom presents Day to Remember on Tuesday and Brandi Carlile with Amy Ray on Wednesday, October 14.
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