Hey, Turn It On Man

By William Brents

I share a similar dream with many local music lovers. And that dream is to have a fresh and fearless radio station right here in Louisville. A station that would refuse to succumb to the ever higher walls of official rock radio and one that you could count on for many unexpected musical twists.

Picture this. You're riding down the expressway fumbling with the radio and suddenly you lock in on an unknown station playing NRBQ. Bewildered and intrigued, you keep listening. Frank Zappa, the Pixies and even Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens soon follow. Now I realize this situation will never materialize. But if it did, wouldn't that be great?

One such person who thoroughly agrees is Cary Willis. Cary is the host of The Flip Side, a splendid two-hour show that airs every Saturday night from midnight to two a.m. on 89.3 WFPL.

Disillusioned with the sterile and derivative programming by local stations, Cary decided to do something about it.

"My friend Dan Gediman worked at WFPL and he encouraged me to make a demo tape for the program director, which I did and subsequently I've had my show for over three years," Cary Willis, told me in a recent interview at The Rudyard Kipling.

Cary's eclectic musical selections touch on everything from punk, funk, rock, rap, reggae and even traditional ethnic folk music.

"There is an outstanding amount of great music being produced these days and a very high percentage never has a chance of being heard; I just try to play as many great songs as possible."

Besides playing a lot of great music, Cary gives out the latest concert happenings and has had occasional guests.

Members from local groups such as Shaking Family, King Horse and Government Cheese have visited.

"As for the local music scene, it comes and goes. Louisville does have several bars that specialize in live music and that's very important."

Cary majored in telecommunications at the University of Kentucky and works full time covering the court system for The Courier-Journal.

The show's audience is just as varied as the music. "I have everyone from thirteen-year-olds to lawyers calling the show and greeting me with positive feedback; it's just amazing."

What's not so amazing is the show's time slot. I've been listening to the show for nearly three years and usually I can only listen to the first hour before I doze off.

"I'm not thrilled with the time slot, but I understand why the show's there," Cary explained.

Cary receives cassettes and CDs from the smallest independent labels right up to the major record labels and only through an endless listening process does he select the tunes for his show.

"Sometimes it's a pain putting the show together, but when it comes time to do the show I get real excited."

So if you're ever in the mood to hear some adventurous pop music, I suggest you check out The Flip Side. Believe me, it's worth losing a little sleep over.