Jim Drake’s Entertainment Blog: Local musician gives voice to The Countryside

Since last April, drummer turned DJ Jeff Minnick has been broadcasting the classic country sounds of the 40s, 50s and 60s with his two-hour Tuesday night program The Countryside, live on the air and over the internet from 7-9 p.m.

From studio B of Y102 FM The Dalles, Minnick plays songs from his extensive record and CD collection, and takes caller requests, which he appreciates because it has made him discover a whole other world of music.

“I love honky-tonk music, but a lot of my callers are old-timers who live out in Eastern Wasco County and up in Goldendale, and they really like the old stuff like Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, and the Gene Autry. I’ve been listening to music my whole life but I have not been paying attention to these artists as much as I should have been, and I appreciate people requesting these songs. It’s always so great to discover or re-discover somebody,” Minnick said.

When you tune into Jeff’s show, you’ll definitely notice a change in the musical era, because there’s a good chance you’ll hear seldom played artists like Kitty Wells and Little Jimmy Dickens.

“I spend my life cherishing and learning these songs, and since I got into this show, there’s always so many people you miss listening to, so I’m really enjoying hearing people I haven’t got to hear a lot of. Since I bought a turntable, it’s a lot like seeing a bunch of old, long-lost friends,” Minnick said.

Although the honky-tonk style of songs is on the playlist in the form of George Jones, Merle Haggard and Johnny Paycheck, Jeff likes to include some “newer” artists that he thinks is keeping in a classic country style, so Crystal Gayle and Willie Nelson show up in the mix as well.

“Throughout the week I listen to my records and my CDs in the house here, and I just kind of decide who I want to start with. On Monday night I put the whole show together. I like to keep this music that I love and cherish alive. People can tell I love the music I’m playing,” Minnick said.

Jeff’s interest in being a DJ host stems from wanting to recreate the by-gone era of radio broadcast when bands performed live on the radio. He wants to utilize the studio space to bring in some local musicians to play.

“The Countryside show has taken up a lot of my time, and I’m getting the hang of it. Eventually, I’m going to be doing some live broadcasts from the studio. Just like the days when those old radio stations used to do live broadcasts — I’d like to bring that back into our small town here,” Minnick said.

He plans on working with local guys from Hood River, and The Dalles, and hopes to work live music into the show this year, at least once every other month.

One artist that has inspired Jeff to carry on this tradition is Hank Williams.

“I’ve been listening to a lot material from Hank Williams that has been resurfacing — old tapes of live radio broadcasts that were sponsored by the Mother’s Best Flour Company. He played his music live, and then talked in between the songs, and it gives you a good idea of who he is — his manner of speaking, his voice is just compelling. He’s one of these guys who just draws you in. It’s like listening to someone like John Lennon talk,” Minnick said.

Minnick admits that being a DJ host is not the easiest job he’s had, but he has maintained a passion for keeping the tradition of live radio.

“I’m really happy that I’m doing this. I think that even though I’m living in a small town like this, radio is a little more alive and well here than in the big city. I know people are listening, because they call in to my show. It’s not easy and I’m new at it, but I feel passionate about it,” Minnick said.

Eventually, Jeff hopes the radio station will be able to start archiving his shows, because he knows about hectic schedules people can have.

“I would like them to start archiving the show, so people can listen anytime. A lot of people are watching Wheel of Fortune during my slot on the air (laughs).”

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