Profile: Chris Darling, Host of "Us Folk"
Chris Darling, Host of WMPG's "Us Folk"
1. Where are you from originally?
Born in Providence Rhode Island, raised in two areas of Long Island,
NY (Rockville Centre, Sea Cliff, and Manhattan).
2. What brought you to Portland?
We used to pass through Portland on the way to Wiscassett every summer
for years since I was born, so I'd always had this fondness for Maine.
While living on a trimaran in Florida, the rest of the crew was on an
island in the harbor (Peaks). I joined them for a short time and fell
in love with Portland, It's a great town.
3. What do you do outside of your volunteering at WMPG?
My work now is health related, the musical-and health-related networking
happen all week; the show is a microcosm of those connections. My family
is the greatest gift. Magda & I are raising Karrina (Kiki) who I spend
a lot of my time with each day, Kiki is the light of my life. Sculpture,
art, and woodworking are my other interests. I love to bike, swim, and
hike now and then. Music keeps me pretty busy too
4. When did you first become involved at WMPG? In what capacity?
'89 was it '90? Peter Twitchell was still the manager, my first "on
the (volunteer) job training" was learning to do the board for "Out
in Left Field," with
Susanne Murphy and Cal Rogers. Tom Faux trained me on the board, and,
really, the credit for actually getting started in radio all goes to my
twin brother, Steven, who I would send cassette tapes to, with all my
current musical enthusiasms, and a taped letter. At the time he was doing
community radio in Portland, Oregon at KBOO, where he still lives,
so blame my twin, it's all his fault (ha ha).
Were you a listener prior to your involvement at WMPG?
what a great station! There are some constants in my life; WMPG has been
one since moving here. I remember turning all the saws off and listening
to Lorenzošs show in the afternoons out on Long Island (the Portland harbor
one), Barb Truex, Jim Pinfold, Blizzard Bob, Michael Danahy, and Eric
who did a great folk show for years. That wonderful Japanese show, the
Blues/Evening Sun Block, the Rock, the Jazz. For a long time there
was one place to get the music of Color in Southern Maine: WMPG.
6. How do you define your show?
a broad spectrum view of acoustic blues- and folk-related artists that
includes forays into singer/songwriter, bluegrass, country, americana,
spoken-word, and dialogues with artists who are passing through the area
who can stop in and play live. I feature new releases in the folk world
and that includes (by my definition of folk, again very broad) Texas,
hillbilly, swing, experimental, gospel, maritime, Woody Guthrie &
Pete Seeger, traditional, some pop for good measure once in a while,
some jazz licks too. Primarily live in-studio performance from local,
regional, national, and international artists. I often favor live recordings,
and I sometimes "field-recorded˛ interviews.
Do you play any musical instruments?
No (other than tapping out the beat on the console), I used to play recorder
What are your earliest memories of music?
parents were music enthusiasts my brothers & I, were raised on Odetta,
Edith Piaf, the Weavers, Lead Belly, Peter Paul & Mary, some cool riff jazz to work in my father's studio
(all the legends of jazz,the Duke, Cannonball, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy, etc.).My
parents took us (my three brothers and I) to Carnegie Hall to see the
Weavers (w/ Pete Seeger ) in '57. I was five, the "folk
bug bit!˛The neighborhood
where we came up was very mixed racially, so from my earliest recollections
I saw a steady diet of soul music posters and heard all the music that
went along with it. I have been down
Brownsince before I could pedal
a bike! So a steady diet of jazz, folk, gospel, funk, and soul.
9. What was the first album you purchased?
What was the first concert you ever attended? What was the best?
above mentioned Weavers concert at Carnegie Hall in NYC, a riveting introduction
to Folk Music. I got the chance to thank Pete Seeger at Woody Fest
last summer (and discern what year it was that Town Hall had "blacklisted"
The Best? Well, I have seen some "killer shows," but the best concert was in 1969, I went with some
high school buddies to the Singer Bowl (on New York's 1962 World's Fair
grounds), an open arena, and saw a six-hour show. It was incredible; the Soft Machine, the Chambers Brothers, Janis
Joplin w/ Big Brother & the Holding Company, and the Jimi Hendrix
Experience -- all for something
like $3.25. Yup; some show! But there have been others, too: Chistopher Parkening in Tucson, Cal
Tjader in SF, Jerry
Jeff Walker at the Great American music Hall in SF, Joan Baezšs mid 1980's show at CCCC was riveting, Dylan
at the State. Keiran Kane at Jay's Church.
Any guilty pleasures in your music collection youšre willing to reveal?
much time and space do we have? No really, since I've developed a rapport
with many artists, they send me a lot of advance CDs and refer many new
players to me so there are literally new people each week I become aware
of. Letšs see the recording of David Franceydebuting his Far
end of Summer on Us Folk, Jeff Lang
live in studio, some one-off tunes, and some recordings that the artists
say, check this out but do not air.
What one album should anyone who listens to your show own?
Tree by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammar. It's bristling with songwriting genius &
Have you been involved with WMPG in other capacities/ shows?
Yes, I used to do the board and produce the Whole Self Medicine Show,an
evening talk show hosted by practitioners in various modalities of the
treatment of us humans beings. I did that for close to two years, I hosted
a Jazz show for several years in the evenings and had a previous folk
program which hatched Us Folk. I have been on the Board of directors for
a several year stint, and done other projects related to other programs,
the Valentine's piece with Jessica Lockhart and some stints doing a few
parts on the hilariously funny comedy show, I also produced the
first six editions of the Original "Speaking for Virtue "
with Wolf Richards (who I met at WMPG). I also did the Scene Report(back
in the days of splicing tape) for close to 2 years. I also built the CD
cabinets in the Library room.
Do you have any favorite Us Folk shows/moments that really stick out? Any memories
youšd rather forget?
When I first saw the question, I knew there are likely too many to list,
but here's the short version; David Francey playing live on the show (twice,
once after winning his first Juno Award, the previous time that award-winning
disc was premiered in America on WMPG. (his Torn Screen Dooris
the debut disc of the decade!) Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer Playing
live on Us Folk.(sadly, they were scheduled to play several years ago
for a 2nd time, but Dave collapsed and died a week before their Maine
date). Aussie Jeffery Lang Playing live on Us Folk. Dave Mallet Cindy
Kallett, Paul Geremia , Pat Donohue, Don Ross, Guy Davis, The Scottish
band RISE , JP Jones, Gordon Bok Mark Erelli w Jim Henry playing
live on Us Folk, The Fogg Brothers. The coolest was when Julian Dawson
& Kimberly Rew (of "Walking on Sunshine" fame came
up from Boston. These two prolific British artists played so well; two
of the tracks were issued on a British compilation Julian Dawson' Live
Cologne Again Or). Ellis Paul is also a favorite guest.
Shows I'd rather forget? The two word phone interview w/Luther Guitar
Johnson, never should have agreed to it, he was all too distracted
and just wasn't into it, and there are the rare "No Shows" (I'll
spare the artists names).
15. What are some of your favorite programs on WMPG?
Home Dad (Since I "R" one) w/ Chip Edgar he has an exceptional
radio presence/personae and weekly content. Eire Waves with Jessica,
Ed Murphy's Monday Edition of the Evening Sun (should be a college
course in the Blues 101!) Johnny Cool's Positive Vibrations
show, Artur Kaptelian's Gons-S-Buduna is, overall, one of my top
music faves for it's breadth, Danski's Idlers Corner (most especially
the "Funk Breakdown") Jacques French program, Democracy Now,
Grace Street, Big Talk, Brother Jon's Groove Yard Shift. Michael
Cutting's This Better Be Good, GET Hot or GO Home with Matt,
Valerie's Echoes in the Wind, Sound Ecology, Barb's CrossFade,
Blizzard Bob's Blue Country, Saltwater Farm . . . Hmmm shall I
go on? Reasonable Music with Jim Pinfold, David Pence's Radio
Junk Drawer. I think Dave Wade has become the best Jazz DJ in southern
Maine.It is to Laugh, Lincoln's show SXSW is
always good for another lesson in "the real" Country music You'll
Dance to Anything, Ron's Stuck in the 80's show. I guess the
thing that always gets me about WMPG is that these are all shows by volunteers
and they are great! There are others but, generally, WMPG is in front
of most of all radio in Southern Maine .
16. On average, how many CDs are sent to you each month for consideration
for airplay on Us Folk?
from 30 to 70. It really varies. Those that don't fit or seem destined for
others, I try to give a heads-up to the other DJs.
What past shows or events stick out as some of the best during your time
Tom Faux's Piano Drop, the Record Sale is where you get to meet people
who really care about music, a real gathering of the community. The
First Annual International Theramin Symposium was absolutely
one of the top events for me personally, The Homelessness Marathons,
The Folk Waves Series of concerts. As far as shows the now, sadly,
defunct Rub Board Review Constellation Gleam. And Stephanie's
Evening Sun shows. Although I could not make it to the event, the
out-pouring in honor of Phil Hersey was especially moving. I'm sure there
are others; I mean, I've been here almost 15 years!
18. If you could host a live on-air performance on WMPG by any artist or band, past or present,
who would it be?
Johnny Cash with June Carter Cash.
19. Why is WMPG important to you?
Well I am enthusiastic about music and really believe it to be important to
have freedom of speech, as well. WMPG has a balance of community service
via fostering radio creativity in the community with shows like
Blunt. What a great experience this is for local
teens, the level of excellence (which sometimes surpasses local NPR reportage),
true Public service shows like Big Talk , Grace Street (other
than all the darn busts in the news where do you hear about recovery and
treatment for Heroin or the Oxy addiction on the radio?), the idea that
Democracy Nowis so popular "witnesses" the community's
belief that the major media is so often so dumbed down and often
censored or sensationalized. WMPG, on the other hand, introduces us all
to a true community of players who week after week are inspired to show
up play and speak their individual passions. The main reason WMPG is important?
Look what's on the rest of the dial.
20. How would you describe WMPG to someone who had never tuned us in?
WMPG is an audio cornucopia, a Radio Oasis, a cultural beacon, a true asset to Southern Maine, to the
USM community and part of the World community via the net.
21. Dave Bunker, Program Director, has said you create more good radio with fewer resources than
just about anybody hešs met. How do you do it?
Well Thank you Dave. The internet is key, really, and writing to people
and almost being fearless about asking. "I have this show on a great
community station in Portland, Maine, you want to play or do a phoner?"
Those first artists told other artists and, before I knew it, I was part
of this very big family. I believe to have WMPG on the map, someone has
to maintain touch with labels, artists, promoters, and venues. It's pretty
much self funded. Although artists contribute for CDR burns of my show
and the station has been really helpful. But they also have 200 volunteers
to support. The most important thing is listening; that includes what
an artist produces and what they say and what they deliver live in the
studio. Staying connected and being available to connect with new folks
and knowing who's available to be a part of the show and who's not.
I just seem to have a knack for it , coupled with a tremendous love and
respect for music and the people who "Fill the silence with their
22. What plans do you have forUs Folkin the future?
One of my goals is for the show to have it's own website and newsletter.
I'd also like to archive some of the cooler tracks on the WMPG site, continue
to foster that rapport with the traveling musicians. Finding some interns
who want to be a part of putting the show together. Being, for the most
part, a one man operation makes doing or reaching all the goals certainly
a challenge. Doing a series of "Best of" CDs to benefit WMPG.
Keep these ears opened up the ears to discover new artists.
23. How many artists would you guess have appeared on Us Folk?
Live in-person and phone interviews included, I stopped counting at 500.
24. How do you define folk music?
As a very, very large umbrella under which many, many artists fit. I think
of sitting around a campfire, sharing songs accompanied by a variety of
instrumentation, songs with content, songs that invigorate, enlighten,
challenge, and mostly feed the soul. Folk is music of the people and the
world, it is a universal language that moves the mind as well as the feet,
often leaving one with a grin and a bop of the head. It is a VERY broad
spectrum. I am daunted by the number of artists performing today. Therešs
always a discovery.
25. Parting shot/comments to WMPG listeners?
Thanks for listening. Tune in, participate with communication, suggestions, and
action and keep this incredible community asset called WMPG alive and
happening. And go out and support live music! All the artists (especially
the ones from across the country or "across the pond") all say
to me "Does your community realize what they have here?"
I hope so! See you on the air!