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Broken Sound Fast, Loud, and Sometimes Emotional

DJ Wanda | Howdylicious!

23 September 2013 Host Spotlight

by: Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, host of Writers on Writing

This fall it’s the anniversary of Howdylicious! How’s that feel?
I honestly can’t believe the time has gone by so fast. It seems like yesterday that I was in training and learning how everything worked, and suddenly, 15 years went by.

Talk about what prompted you to start it.
I actually started working in college radio back in 1993 as a hobby during graduate school. I wanted to do something different, something social and non-academic. I’ve dj’ed at every college I’ve been to since, finally landing at KUCI in 1998. I’ve always loved this music ever since I was a little girl, so the choice of a show seemed natural. When I was a little girl my dad used to sing old Tex Ritter songs to me and play the mandolin. I still love those songs!

And your DJ name — where’d that come from?
My name was given to me when I started doing college radio at KCPR in San Luis Obispo, CA (Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo) by a friend who thought I looked like a young Wanda Jackson. She called me “Big Haired Wanda” and it stuck.

What’s been the best thing about doing your show?
I always said I would only do my show until it stopped being fun. Seriously, it has not stopped being fun since I started at KUCI. The best thing is being around like-minded people that love music. I don’t think it really matters what type of music, just that they love music and love sharing it with other people.

And the worst?
At one point, I was encouraged to be a “club” dj and play at venues. I didn’t care for that at all! I also dislike dj’ing weddings. Just because you are a radio dj doesn’t mean you want to dj all over town. I enjoy KUCI and the show that I create for listeners, but that’s a unique experience.

You’ve held staff positions at KUCI. I hesitate to ask you what the best and worst aspects of doing that was, so how about highlights of your tenure at the station?
I’ve held a lot of staff positions at KUCI. I started as Assistant Training Director 1998 – 1999; Training Director 1999 – 2000; Program Director 2000 – 2001; General Manager 2002/2003 and 2003/2004 and most recently, Genre Assistant  country/folk 1998 – 2012. Whew!

The BEST aspect of doing that was contributing to the station, either by training new djs, scheduling all the shows, or managing the more than 100 volunteers that make KUCI such a great station.

The WORST part was being woken up in the middle of the night with station staffing issues. Eventually, I was able to tell someone how to turn off the station (if they needed to do that) practically in my sleep. The other day I found instruction for powering down station transmitter in my nightstand.

Where do you find alternative rockabilly, psychobilly, alt-country, and old time western music?
We get a lot of new station sent to us at the station by bands that want to get their name out, and by labels that want to promote their bands. I’m always listening to new music and on the hunt for new “old timey” stuff. Recently I just heard a band called the B-Stars (from San Francisco) who have a great old-time sound and are putting out vinyl and digital music. There is also a band called the Hukilau Hotshots that is made up of members of the Lucky Stars and the Dave n’ Deke combo that are putting out old time Hawaiian vintage music on vinyl and download.

Do you have favorite bands?
My favorite genre is 1940s western swing music. Artists like Hank Penny, Hank Thompson, Adolf Hofner, Bob Wills, Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies, and others of that era. Western swing never fails to make me happy. I also love the Sons of the Pioneers and cowboy music like Tex Ritter, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers. I love a lot of new bands, but those would have to be my favorites.

What about clubs — are there clubs you like to go to that play this music?
No, sadly there aren’t many bands that play Western Swing, unless you go to Austin, or Nashville. There are a some younger bands that are embracing the earlier sounds, but large Western Swing bands are hard to come by!

What do you do when you’re not at the station?
Everything! I’m incredibly crafty and love to make things — sewing, gluing, glittering, stitching — I’ve always got a bunch of projects going. I don’t own a tv, so I like to listen to my music and make things.  It’s such a relaxing way to spend time. I also garden and work out, and play with my three cats: Figaro, Miss Kitty LeMew, and Benjamin Kittenyahu.

What stations are set on your car radio?
KUCI, of course!

What do you wake up by?
Nothing. I like to hear the silence of the house in the morning and when I get home from work. I think there is too much white noise everywhere all the time, and everyone has their cell phone or their ear buds in constantly. We need more silence. I have a ritual where for the first drive of the day (usually to work), I don’t listen to anything and I fill my head with positive thoughts and affirmations. It’s something I’ve been doing for years, and it has made a huge difference in shaping my outlook for the day.

What’s one thing few people know about you that would surprise your listeners, and even people at the station?
People are always surprised that I like such old music and am relatively young (which is quite silly, actually) and that I understand a lot of the technical aspects of the station.

— September 23, 2013


Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is host of “Writers and Writing” Wednesdays at 9 a.m. PT. She is founder of the Pen on Fire Writers Salon and author of Pen on Fire. Her story, “Crazy for You,” is anthologized in Orange County Noir (Akashic, 2010). More at penonfire.com. If you’re a KUCI DJ or Public Affairs host, and wish to be featured in this spot, email email Barbara .