Hi, I’m Tim Parson, the newest edition to the WERU Morning Maine line-up. My presence as a volunteer DJ at WERU has its root in my lifelong love of a wide range of music. From the Top 40 as a kid in the late ’60s, to the Grateful Dead and country rock in high school, to punk and New Wave in college, to what I guess is called “alternative” now – it all still excites and inspires me. So this past summer when I heard an appeal for on-air help, possibly with the Morning Morning Maine show, I figured I’d give it a shot.
The first step in training was a broad station orientation for all types of volunteers, followed by receiving and reading the music programmer handbook, and then on to on-air personnel training with Joel Mann, Program & Operations Manager, which ended up being one-on-one. Joel and I talked a bit about music and then it was on to the production studio, which is pretty much a replica of the real on-air studio. There I was faced by a large control board with many buttons, gauges, slide controls and lights. Joel gave a once-over (or maybe twice-over) on procedures; I tried to take written notes, but he assured me I’d learn best by doing. A few days later I came in to experiment in the production booth, and roughly got the hang of popping CDs in and out and even spinning vinyl. I was comfortable with the music-choosing side of things, but the scary part was speaking into the microphone and imagining that thousands of people might be hearing my voice.
Joel watched this and a subsequent practice visit in a hands-off but encouraging way. After the second session, he declared that I was “ready for prime time,” meaning the Monday morning show; we’d co-host a couple of times and then I’d be on my own. He noted that Morning Maine is the most challenging show technically because the host needs to follow a set schedule mixing music with features like ticket giveaways, recorded short spoken-word features, and live national news from Democracy Now. The music is meant to be a base of “Americana” with some “free-form/eclectic” thrown in, using a moderate amount of new material and ranging from a mellow tone at the show’s beginning to more lively at the end. And the show starts at 6 AM in East Orland, meaning I’d have to get up around 4 AM to do it. I had absolutely no idea whether I could meet those requirements, but said I’d try.
The co-hosted shows went smoothly; I put a lot of advance time into picking songs, and Joel’s reassuring presence was there to cover mechanical issues. As the day of my solo debut loomed, I had two main worries: making a major technical error that would be broadcast all over eastern Maine and, slightly longer term, coming up with new music ideas every week. Then a solution occurred to me: enlist my son Ben as a co-host. Ben had a radio show in high school and is a technical whiz; he also has excellent varied taste in music and around 17,000 songs in his ever-expanding digital library. And he could help make sure I didn’t oversleep. Thankfully he said yes. The Tim and Ben Parson Monday Morning Maine show was born.
We agreed to split up song-choosing duties, so Sunday afternoon found us each perusing our libraries (me CDs and vinyl, Ben digital) to find 20 – 25 songs each. Monday morning posed a series of hurdles. We got up very early and drove to the station in the dark. Inside, all was warm and the New Age music of Sunrise Service (pre-programmed by Joel) played quietly in the background. The clock ticked down towards 6:00, and then we were on the air. My voice sounded shaky; Ben’s did not. The music went fine, with us shifting the DJ role every 4-5 songs. We survived doing the satellite hookup to Democracy Now, which must occur exactly at 8:00. Somewhere in the late part of the show a light on the wall flashed, which signaled a phone call. It was a listener, and they just wanted to say that they loved what we were playing.
We’ve done seven shows since then. I’m more at ease with the technology and with speaking on-air, but both are still works in process. I go to the station sometimes in off-hours to see what’s in the station’s extensive library of CDs and vinyl, and especially to check out new releases. On those visits, I’ll invariably run into someone interesting and the talk will turn to music, often quite quickly about specific songs on albums that could be new or 40 years old. The station has a relaxed, homey vibe; it feels a bit like a clubhouse, where people with different passions come together. The best part of DJing, however, are those occasional phone calls from listeners. One day I put on a song from deep in my vinyl collection, and the phone rang. The caller said “I can’t believe I’m hearing John Lincoln Wright on the radio,” to which I replied “Is that good or bad?” He assured me it was very good. We ended one show with “Get Ready” by Rare Earth, and a woman called to say she was dancing around her kitchen. It’s then that you know that the “Voice of Many Voices” is being heard!