Note from CM: It is Thanksgiving week in the U.S., and I’d like to take each day leading up to the holiday to share a few of the blessings I’m thankful for. I’ve decided this year to focus on some people and things that have had an impact on me personally, so you may find my list a bit quirky. Nevertheless we each have unique factors that have shaped us and made us who we are. You’ll meet a few of mine this week.
• • •
I’m Thankful for the Radio
That’s why God made the radio
So tune right in, everywhere you go
He waved His hand, gave us rock ‘n roll
The soundtrack of falling in love
That’s why God made the radio
• The Beach Boys
I’m thankful for the radio.
Garrison Keillor has been a “radio man” in the sense that performing on the radio has been his vocation. I call myself a “radio guy” in the sense that the radio has been my constant companion through life and a joy, encouragement, inspiration, and education for me.
My earliest memories of the radio took place when I was in early elementary school. I lived in Galesburg, Illinois, and our town was basketball crazy. The high school team was one of the state’s best teams, and we had Dale Kelly, one of the best players in the state. My dad used to take me to games, but when we stayed home, I listened to them on the radio, laying on the bed and keeping score. I still enjoy sports on the radio as a main means of access.
We moved to Dixon, Illinois a few years later, and a new kind of radio caught my attention and fascination. It was the mid-1960s and I began listening to music more or less constantly. I can still recall coming home after school, setting my transistor radio outside near me, and swinging or playing while WLS in Chicago counted down the Top Ten. I bought the occasional 45 or album, but it was the radio that I listened to most.
I had a rectangular, battery operated transistor radio that I used to take to bed with me at night. I laid it under my pillow, or sometimes directly against my ear, and fell asleep to the Dave Clark Five, the Monkees, Herman’s Hermits, and the Beatles. This was all before FM radio ever came on my radar. It was AM all the time, and at night strong signals from other parts of the country would sometimes fade in, giving me a sense of being connected to the wide world.
Of course, that all changed as I came of age. Then it was FM, album rock, and hi fidelity. And until radio became all corporate and programmed, that’s how it was.
When I began my adult life in Vermont, we had no TV. Cable was not available up in the mountains yet, and we weren’t so sure we wanted a television anyway. But we loved the radio. Whether it was the daytime programs, news, or reports from people like Paul Harvey or Earl Nightingale, or the local stations, we had the radio on.
That’s also when we started to listen to NPR shows like All Things Considered and Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. The local FM stations were eclectic and quirky, and we could always fill our evenings with interesting entertainment, interviews, or stories.
When Gail worked second shift at a small hospital in a little town over the mountain, I would go to pick her up and listen to a station that played old time radio dramas and mysteries. I loved sitting in my car and getting lost in those tales.
I’m still an NPR guy, and as I drive around the city going to visits I have it on most days. Today’s radio music stations are mostly a wasteland, as far as I’m concerned, but every once in awhile I’ll scan through and catch a song. We do have a station here in Indy that is less programmed and geared toward college-age and young adult listeners, and it’s pretty good. I mainly listen to find artists I haven’t heard before. Public radio has several good music shows: The Folk Sampler, Thistle & Shamrock, Live from Here, All Songs Considered, for example. I watch more TV these days, but occasionally tune in and enjoy these programs. And if I’m in a classical music mood, there’s plenty of that, especially on the Bloomington NPR station out of Indiana University.
As you might imagine, the best thing of all for me is listening to baseball on the radio. And this is a golden age for that. With MLB.com, I can subscribe to their audio feed and listen to any and every game all year long.
That’s my happy place: listening to baseball on the radio.
But whatever I’m listening to, I’m thankful for this fantastic technology, this medium that highlights the power of words, the human voice, and the gift of sound. I’m thankful that it has been such a faithful companion, such a friend, such a part of my life and being.