Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy 35th Birthday KAXE!

by Steve Downing

My connection to KAXE goes back to before the beginning, long pre-dating even The Bird Is The Word. So I’ve celebrated every one of its 35 birthdays, and my KAXE memories just do not stop. Here’s one from sometime in the 1980s. True story. Date uncertain.
The Road Hog, a.k.a. Bill McKeever, had determined that it was time to launch his singing career. Two of my brothers and I were working as highly sought after studio-session musicians then; it was a foregone conclusion that the Road Hog would select us for his project.
The other foregone conclusion was that the Road Hog would select Bobby Goldsboro’s 1968 mega-hit “Honey” as the song that would send him off into the pop music stratosphere.
Remember: this is a song, sung from the husband’s perspective, about his young wife, Honey, who’s a bit too young at heart, kind of dumb and kind of smart, but, oh, he loves her so. The story has a measurable narrative arc: a Christmas gift puppy, robins singing in the spring and, of course, the twig Honey plants in the yard that grows, wonder of wonders, into a tree.
The story’s dramatic tension, verse to verse, turns on the husband’s coming home at odd times during the day and catching Honey crying. He thinks it’s because she just finished watching a sad TV show, or because the flowers in the garden are so pretty, or maybe it’s related to her wrecking the car, whatever. And this is subtly nuanced, this conflict: is it Honey who’s kind of dumb and kind of smart or is it Hubby? Because one day the guy comes home and, lo and behold, while he was gone, the angels came and took Honey away.
The Road Hog’s studio band made some auspicious choices: the string and brass instruments played the music in different keys, very intentionally, to underscore the song’s hard edge. The percussion was back-beat, and irrelevant. This was all about the voice, the vocal, the Road Hog’s signature liquid growly drawl. He didn’t so much sing “Honey” as gargle it. And I feel secure in claiming that you have not heard authentic lyric genius until you’ve heard the Road Hog interpreting the lines: “And, Honey, I miss you, and I’m being good, and I’d love to be with you, if only I could.”

Call in this Saturday, on KAXE's 35th birthday, to Between You and Me to tell us about your favorite KAXE moments.  Tune in from 10-noon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found KAXE accidently on my way to GR from Isanti area to visit family. I listen to Cities 97 and as it ran out of range, I searched for another station. Most seemed to be Country Western. That can be good music, too, but not what I was looking for. Luckily I found KAXE. Now I look forward to listening as soon as I can pull into it and keep it on until I can no longer hear it. I love the range of music, the novelty of the music. I love that it's Grand Rapids! It's now a 'remembered' link on my car stereo. And I think it's fated as Cities 97 is 97.1 and KAXE is 91.7! I do love number "coincidences."
Great job, Everyone! Keep on keeping on