Volunteer Profile: Chris Darling

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).

5. Were you a listener prior to your involvement at WMPG?

Absolutely, 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 Lorenzo¹s 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?

Definitely 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-recorded² interviews.

7. Do you play any musical instruments?

Currently No (other than tapping out the beat on the console), I used to play recorder & Guitar.

8. What are your earliest memories of music?

My 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!²The 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 with James 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?

Beatles, Rubber Soul

10. What was the first concert you ever attended? What was the best?

The 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 Weavers).

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 Baez¹s mid 1980’s show at CCCC was riveting, Dylan at the State. Keiran Kane at Jay’s Church.

11. Any guilty pleasures in your music collection you¹re willing to reveal?

How 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. Let¹s 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.

12. What one album should anyone who listens to your show own?

Tanglewood Tree by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammar. It’s bristling with songwriting genius & musicality.

13. 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.

14. Do you have any favorite Us Folk shows/moments that really stick out? Any memories you¹d 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?

Anywhere 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.

17. What past shows or events stick out as some of the best during your time at WMPG?

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 Sunshows. 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 he¹s 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 art”

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. There¹s 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!