Update, November 2011: In April of 2011 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum contacted me about contributing recordings of my radio shows. I did, and here's the blurb from their library listing:ARC-0120 Steve Wainstead Collection, 1988-1998, 6.67 l.f.
The Steve Wainstead Collection consists of audio recordings, music logs, and listener requests during Wainstead's tenure as a dee jay on Cleveland State University's radio station, WCSB 89.3 FM, spanning the years 1988 to 1998. This collection contains over six hundred hours of audio recordings of Wainstead's radio shows Wainstead All Night, Cyclotron, and Punkin' Around. The bulk of these recordings are of Wainstead All Night, Wainstead's longest running and most popular show. The music logs and song requests are a mix of Wainstead's punk rock show Cyclotron and of Wainstead All Night. Local musicians from bands such as Death of Samantha, My Dad Is Dead, and the New Salem Witch Hunters appeared on the recordings for interviews and sometimes co-hosted the show. The Steve Wainstead Collection provides information about bands playing at local venues, is an example of college radio at the apex of its popularity, and offers a slice of the "Cleveland Scene" during the late 1980s through the late 1990s.
W.A.N started in the Winter of 1988. I was just starting out at WCSB and I wanted an afternoon show really bad. To get one I bargained with the program director Chris Kofron: Listen, I said, give me Tuesday afternoons and I'll fill the dead-of-night slot Friday mornings 4-7am.
Chris gave it to me. At the time I was under the mistaken impression that I started at 3am, and the programmer before me (Bill Gottlieb) didn't seem to care if he went home an hour earlier. So "Wake Up with Steve Wainstead" was born. I gave the show a dumb title since, to me, it was disposable anyhow. I started playing all Frank Zappa from 3-6am, and hardcore/punk from 6-7am.
Around then I hit on the idea of reading police blotters. I used to listen to my stepbrother Michael read them aloud when he found something really dumb, and "the really dumb" seemed fitting for the show. I have had a streak of the iconoclast in me for a long time, and doing parodies of commercial radio gave me a real kick. The idea was to deliver the police blotters in as "professional" a manner as I could. I started using a scratchy old sound effects record with a helicopter sound, and talked over the air through the phone and delivered fake traffic reports after the "news." At some point I observed Brother Jimmy (another WCSB programmer) playing the SF hardcore band Flipper's "song" Brainwash. He was dropping other records in the breaks and even put a caller or two over the air. I copied the idea and "Brainwash" evolved into one of the strangest features of the program.
Not long after I started Bill gave up his slot (about springtime of 1988), and noone wanted to do the 1-3am time. I bargained with the Program Director Mike Kole: Give me 1-4am and I'll fill 4-7am as long as you want me to. He agreed, and eventually said 4-7am was also mine as long as I wanted it. And so I changed the name of the show to Wainstead All Night, and it ran Thursday Night/Friday Morning 1-7am.
This would be the first incarnation. By about 1991 the show had quite a following: it raised $580 in 1988, $1070 in 1989 and $1690 in 1990 in the yearly fundraisers. Night shows typically get zero to $100. W.A.N. was a show for the third shift worker, since I was one as well (I mopped floors at a supermarket for years), and I billed the show as such. Week after week I reminded the audience my true mission was to entertain night workers since the rest of radio ignored them.
Due to internal politics at the station (I had fallen out of favor with the then-current administration), I was forced to give up the show piecemeal in 1992. (Recently I found the playlists for the last two Thursday night shows, and the date of the last one was April 4th, 1992. I didn't realize W.A.N. ran over 4 years on Thursday nights.) It turned out to be very painful. I was very dedicated to doing an afternoon music show at the time, and was given a choice of the three time slots I held (W.A.N. occupied two and "Cyclotron" occupied one, on Wednesday afternoons). I got a lot of calls from night workers who were really upset that I was leaving. "You were the only thing I had to look forward to all week when I came in to work," one told me.
I continued to do "Cyclotron" for about a year and a half (and drop out of school) while working for Scat Records. But I was too immersed in the music business and soured on the whole scene. When Saturday night 2-7am opened up in (late 1992?) (the hiphop programmer was kicked out) I applied, and more or less took the slot by force (giving up Wednesday afternoons). W.A.N. part two was born.
There had been a few other night shows on WCSB since I had left W.A.N., the most immediate being "Under the Influence" with Mitch Man, which took the old W.A.N. Thursday night slot. WCSB night shows were now growing in an organic way, and talk shows became the norm on late nights. The style of W.A.N. was always quite different from the others, maybe because I was less permissive in the use of Safe Harbor, although I was the first to take unscreened calls with no tape delay.
This time I somehow came up with the idea of thrift store record sets. One day I was in a St. Vincent dePaul thrift and was browsing the record bin. There was some pretty strange stuff in there. I began buying some, and doing sets on the air where I talked right over the records as I heard them for the first time (ala Mystery Science Theater 3000). Some of the records I found became staples of the show, like the Catholic sex education filmstrip soundtracks.
By 1992 my stint at Scat was not working out and I left. I returned to school to pursue my rediscovered love of computers (I coded BASIC on a Vic 20 in high school). The following Spring Quarter I was, to my surprise, elected General Manager of the station (I hadn't even bothered to vote for myself), and at that time I quit my night job after 13 years. I also gave up W.A.N. again, without any particular thoughts of returning. I felt I was no longer a third shift person and would not have the stamina to pull all-nighters anymore.
In October of 1994, Gilly asked me to read police blotters on "Night Talk," a freeform talk show on WERE 1300 AM on Saturday nights. I agreed, with some reservations, as this was my first step into "mersh radio." But going in every week and reading the blotters was a lot of fun, since I had to do little but buy the papers and edit them. In September of 1994 I had also started "31337" on WCSB on Sundays at midnight.
In the summer of 1995, C.G., the executive producer of "Nighttalk" asked me if I wanted to do W.A.N. on WERE, from 2-5am Saturday nights. At first I was ambivalent, being committed to managing WCSB, pursuing a degree in computer science, another radio show and a new job as well. More to the point, I was tired of giving away my efforts for free. I later thought, "When will I ever get the chance to do the show on commercial radio?" I agreed and W.A.N. was reborn in September of 1995.
Update Winter 1997:
It has been over a year now and looking back, I was awfully uptight about doing a show on commercial radio. The nature of college radio has changed a lot since the 1980's when I started; a lot of the people that work at WCSB now actually grew up listening to the station. This seems to have lead to a certain laxness in the air at WCSB, as though we can get away with anything. Also, there was never any doubt back then that it was us versus them. Commercial radio was, like, the enemy. Now I see a lot of people that worked in college radio actually working in radio or the music business in general.
I have also discovered that WERE has a smaller coverage than WCSB. It's interesting how people attribute a certain prestige to being on commercial radio that I would not sense when I was doing the show on WCSB. Yet I can draw a far larger audience on WCSB. After a whole year I have become far more relaxed with being on WERE, "deep in the camp of The Man." I even do Brainwash every week... on commercial radio!
Update for March, 1997.
I have once again retired from the realm of late night talk shows. After a year and a half on WERE I was growing bored with it. For one, WERE has very few facilities for doing a show: no library of recordings, one turntable, one cassette deck, one CD player. It's impossible to do any production work for yourself. They reduced the number of phone lines from a paltry four to a miniscule three!
Doing a new morning show (Thursdays 7am-9:30am on WCSB) has, on the other hand, been very energizing. I've always wanted to do a morning show and I really love doing a music show once again. I couldn't bring myself to play a single record or CD after I left Scat Records, back in 1992.
The true home for a show like W.A.N. is college radio. It needs a medium with a more permissive atmosphere. I can see doing a short wave version or an Internet-only version (the next most likely medium for W.A.N. is an Internet-only "radio" station.)
Update for February 1998.
I have moved to New York City and am not doing any radio shows, nor do I have any plans at the present. Radio is in my blood though so it might be only a matter of time...