HOLBROOK, ARIZ – I grew up entranced by radio. There was something about the magic of the disembodied voice, always deep-throated, speaking to me from a world I could only imagine. It was Vin Scully calling a baseball game, or the mystery of hockey play by play (imagine a kid lying in the dark with his little radio who had never seen a hockey game in his life, trying to construct a reality of blue lines and iced pucks).
One of my favorite movies is Vanishing Point, a cheesy muscle car odyssey circa 1971 in which a cat called Kowalski blasts across the country in a white Dodge Challenger with the cops on his tail. The reason I love the film is Super Soul, the blind radio DJ played by Cleavon Little whose patter forms the film’s backdrop:
And there goes the Challenger, being chased by the blue, blue meanies on wheels. The vicious traffic squad cars are after our lone driver, the last American hero, the electric centaur, the, the demi-god, the super driver of the golden west!
When I grew up, I used to love road trips on long dark highways in the West, picking up the big 50,000 watt AM giants up and down the west coast, listening to late night talk radio. Art Bell. Wack job radio.
Now that I’m old and slow and tire more easily, the road trips rarely last past sunset. My days of 24-hour beelines from Seattle to California are long gone. But I got a late start this afternoon, and ended up passing through Gallup around sunset, where I picked up a local disc jockey doing some fabulous soul and funk, real DJ music love stuff, and I was Kowalski there in my Honda Civic for 50 miles or so before KGLP faded into the desert.
So I switched over to AM and started hitting the scan button, and I found a station playing honest to God old Art Bell episodes from the ’90s, UFO sighting and abduction tales, vintage stuff, the magic of late night AM radio.