From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: Take Me Down (To The Record Library)

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here


Gillard: Northeast Ohioans have always been lucky to have tons of great terrestrial radio stations to choose from. Cleveland in particular was an important market for nationwide artists to crack. WMMS and the Agora chain along with the Belkins really promoted new artists and propelled lots of careers. Todd Rundgren comes to mind.

In junior high and into ninth grade, I was in love with all things “new wave.” I even liked some of the commercial stuff like the Vapors and whatnot. I started to delve deeper, though, and found these “college” radio stations at the left end of the dial when I was doing my paper route. When I was visiting my brother Dave in both Alameda, Calif., and in Rhode Island (he was in the Navy), I’d stick a blank cassette in his nice stereo and record the stations I heard there. First hearings of “Warm Leatherette” and X’s “Los Angeles” on the cassettes sunk in. Back to the Cleveland stations—namely WCSB and WRUW. Hours and hours of listening opened my ears up to incredible things. Buzzcocks “I Believe”? Man, I have to get this new album of theirs! On and on. I would then tape the amazing things I heard on the Cleveland college stations. Staying up Saturday nights listening to mind-blowing shows hosted by the likes of Michigan Mom, Mark Edwards (later of MDID) and Larry Collins gave me an education and fueled my desire to be in bands that sounded like this stuff.

Living in a nearby city, we got WOBC, the Oberlin College station in pretty well. Oberlin was 10 miles away, and I heard about applying for a show there, as one did not have to be a student to be on staff. I had just graduated high school, and that summer I had a blast being a DJ. My show was on from 3-6 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday mornings, later moving to a Friday afternoon, where my show followed a young student named Chris Brokaw’s show. I got to meet people from all over the country who were talented musicians, and Chris had his own band on campus, Pay The Man, who in fact ended up playing a show with Death Of Samantha, a band I had just joined in Cleveland that same year as a senior in high school.

That fall, as I moved to Cleveland, I signed up as soon as I could for a show on WCSB. The record libraries of these stations provided one with endless discoveries. The Oberlin station even had the original Warsaw album. At WCSB, I remember looking around in the G section and stumbling onto three LPs by this band Groundhogs. Wow, what the hell is this? I soon knew. Blues filtered through blistering rock and psych played by a U.K. trio in the late 60’s/early 70s. TS McPhee was a monster of a guitarist and writer with a knack for hooks and a unique voice. Anyway, that’s only one example. My show, 20th Century Groove Angel, was a lot of fun, and also a lot of work. Planning out what to play each week was always on my mind, but it was fun to be eclectic and have special tribute shows every so often, etc …

I know I’m not the first to do this, but one week I played the Iggy song “New Values” back to back for the whole two and a half hours. The next year my friend Steve had the slot after me, so we played Iggy’s “Bulldozer” for the combined five hours. Hearing the same song for that long in a row has a sort of speed effect on the mind. It was fun to get creative with your show promos in the production room. We had two Tascam reel-to-reels with splicing gear, and splice I did. I still have one of the promos on a tape cart. (Anyone know where I can access a cart machine?)

Anyone who worked at a station usually got asked to interview a band coming through town to promo their show. A bunch of us lined the hallway, excited to see Tones On Tail come up to the station to be interviewed by our friend before their show. I was charged with interviewing two people from 10,000 Maniacs once during my afternoon show. The guitarist was quite nice and did all the talking, while whatsername faced the corner in her gingham dress with a scowl the entire time. I always did consider her rather talent-free.

WRUW at Case Western Reserve University started a day-long summer outdoor concert event called Studio-A-Rama—an expansion of their Live From Studio A show—around 1980 or so. I attended them since 1982, but in ’85, we got to play it as Death Of Samantha. I remember it being the same day as Live Aid. The tradition continues, and the station still puts on this event each year. One early highlight for me was seeing the band Love Tractor from Athens, Ga., play one of these.

I’ll never forget the times spent as a college radio DJ, nor the friendships I made at all of the NE Ohio stations.

Another photo after the jump.