Many times, over the past five decades I drove between Southern California and the Salinas Valley on El Camino Real, aka the 101, and so am very acquainted with the stretch of asphalt from Santa Barbara to SoMoCo. Now, like motorists everywhere finding a radio station that serves one’s purpose, be it news, sports or, for me, music, can be a real distraction from other aspects of driving a motor vehicle, such as staying on the road and out of contact with other vehicles.
Today knowing what I know I would have departed the Riverside city of Corona around 6:30 in the morning and arrived in Santa Barbara about 9 o’clock, where I would turn on the radio and until I reached my destination in King City, I could have listened to the same three-hour music program. If I had only known.
The Morning Cup on National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate KCBX in San Luis Obispo is hosted by Neal. Neal is cool. He offers up, weekdays, a wide variety of musical genres that any music lover has just got to love; even when you hate it. Neal is a fount of musical knowledge, giving his listeners a musical smorgasbord, so it is natural not all dishes will be palatable to all. No offense intended, Neal.
For example, I have no love of certain types of jazz. Dixieland Jazz I get, but much of the jazz genre is just so much noise to me. I am not musical enough to understand the intricacies of jazz, so it sounds like the players are either just learning their instruments, or if they know how to play are having trouble tuning them, or if tuned then it sounds as if all are playing a different song. But that is just me; for those who get jazz I am sure what Neal plays is very pleasing to them.
In the 173 miles of the trip, I would have to do a little tuning myself on radio knobs and buttons. Beginning with the tuner set at 95.1fm and re-setting to 90.9fm, 91.1fm, 90.1fm and finally 91.7, I would not miss any of the wide range of songs played on The Morning Cup. And that would not be the end of music found on KCBX, not nearly the end.
But before I move on to a couple other musical offerings, let me add this about Neal. I had a ticket to see Ringo Starr and because I really wanted to visit the venue outside Paso Robles prior to the show (I like to do a bit of reconnoitering, ya never know what may happen) and Neal gave me that opportunity when one day I was lucky Caller Number Seven and won two tickets to see Buddy Guy at that venue. Thanks again, Neal.
If you wish to know all the local SLO team and what they do, then check out the KCBX website. (A bit of disclosure here: I am a sustaining member of this NPR station.) Both local and national shows offer up something for every musical taste. Classical, Blues, Rock, Broadway musicals, Boogie-Woogie, Jazz, Swing, Country, Mexican and Irish and Universal and everything in between and all around.
A few of the local shows are Janelle’s The Broken Spoke, Brad’s Across the Tracks, Neal again with Night Train and The Ride Home hosted by Marisa; you can check when these shows air, you will not be disappointed. And filling the weekly schedule are local and national shows American Routes, Classical Showcase, Pacific Standard Time, Sunday Baroque, Global Spin, Pickin’ up the Tempo and a dozen more. One of my national favorites is Thistle and Shamrock with host Fiona, who has a voice I would like a pillow made of. And there is Rhythm Retrospective’s Carl “Sonny” Leyland; whose show is national but I believe he is residing in the San Luis area. Here is a little story about Sonny.
My half-brother Glenn Eugene Wilson was a rather well-known Dixieland musician in New Orleans and elsewhere, and over the years I had lost contact with him. Knowing Sonny had wide knowledge and acquaintances in that world, I emailed him, and though he did not know Glenn himself, he got in touch with a friend who did know his last residence; and that he had passed. That information put me in touch with another contact, which led to an obituary. Glenn passed away in 2017 at age 85 years and seven days. So besides being a nationally known rhythm and jazz musician, Sonny is also a hellava nice man.
Now, please do not take the above as anything more than what it is, a few words about some alternate music available locally. If you, like so many others in South Valley, are a KRKC listener, then do not take this as proselytizing but just as occasional musical alternative; so stay with what you know, just be aware something else is out there. ‘Nuff said.
With a few upgrades still happening across the river on the Jolon Road onramps the only remaining work ongoing, it seems the long period of construction upheaval is coming to an end; finally. Now we may all take the patience, and sometimes impatience, we learned from that experience and apply it to Broadway. It is August and the work there may not be finished until, gulp, after the new year. But, like the 101 around town, Broadway will be better off for it.
If I may wax a bit metaphorically, let us consider the city as a large bus and all of us citizens are riders in this bus as it makes its way along life’s byways. Well, recently the bus hit a pot-hole and a few of us got bruised a bit but no lasting injuries, and we are now cruising along again with knowledge next time on how to avoid that patch of roadway. It is nice to be back.
Take care. Peace.