Thursday, July 21, 2011

Clint Robinson - KULP Radio

A few days ago when I wrote about the Dance Hall Boys' StrašidloI was having difficulty remembering stuff from fifty years ago -  like the name of the Disk Jocky on radio KULP in El Campo, Texas - the one my mother took me to meet.   Crandall Notes is a geneologist who is good at digging and rooting things up.  She read over Strašidlo and messaged a phone number and a link to a web page to me right away.  Ding!!! Why didn't I think of that?

It was late, so Tuesday morning I called the number she found for me. After a very courteous greeting from the man who answered the phone, I learned that, yes, my disk jockey's name is indeed Schwartzkopf. Chuck Swartzkopf had come to visit his friends at the station the day before.  My old hero is in his 80's and still kicking.

Clint Robinson
In a couple of minutes I got another treat.  I was passed over to  Clint Robinson.  Wow.  Clint Robinson, another of the Texas greats, and he was actualy on the phone with me!  We set up a time for a  brief chat.    I learned that Texas Polka Parade was the very  oldest, longest playing radio show of any kind in Texas history. The Texas Polka Parade has been on the air continuously since 1948.  

Now, in case you didn't know it, while a lot of the world thinks of Hollywood perhaps as the communications captol of the world, down here in Texas we lead the word in electronic communicaton.  Heh,  the most listened to radio station on earth, bar none, head and shoulders above all the rest, is a Texas radio station, KFAN-FM in Johnson City, which broadcasts on the air and over the internet.

As a matter of fact, you can listen to KULP all day from anywhere on the planet that you can find an internet connection and you can listen as Clint Robinson hosts the Texas Polka Parade live between 8:00 and 9:00 AM Central Time Zone (U.S.)  Monday through Friday every week  Clint Robinson knows a lot of the bands he features up close and personal.  When he is not on the air, Robinson is a performer himself.  He started playing guitar at ten years of age.  He's played with the Drifters from Victoria and the Taylor Brothers Band among others.  While most of the music on his show is from Texas polka bands, he does have some music from "up north" and some from Europe. He told me, "we are here to entertain the people.  What they want is what we play."

Chuck Swartzkopf wasn't the first Polka Hour DJ on KULP and there have been a few between Chuck and Clint.  There were names like Jerry Halls, Al Kozel who was a morning regular for 37 years, Sablatura -  names all  well known far beyond the local El Campo, Texas community.  There was a blessed silence between Robinson and me about another name.  I didn't want to ask.  I couldn't tell if he wanted to tell, so we didn't talk  about Bobby Jones.  Jones could be the topic for another day.  KULP's on the air range during the day is about from Crosby, Texas to Beeville and not quite to Austin, about a hundred twenty miles or so in every direction, but the DJs on KULP's Texas Polka Parade have all been well known and loved and have become institutions really throughout most of the Slavic community in Texas.

Joe Nick Patoski 
I snuck over to "Texas Monthly" where Joe Nick Patoski writes quite a bit.  (By this time you really didn't expect an Irishman to be writing about Texas music, did you?)  Besides having been a broadcaster, Patowski was a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman and once upon a time a stringer for the Roling Stones. I wish I could write like Patoski,  oh man can he write!

Back in the March, 1999 issue of Texas Monthly Patowski says:   "The tower with the blinking red lights on the edge of a small town has the distinction of being the tallest man-made object for miles around—taller than the water tank, the courthouse, and the grain elevator. It signals the presence of a radio station, the electronic heartbeat of any community,  the chronicler of local concerns and local eccentricities in the absence of  a daily newspaper or a television station. That concept may be an anachronism in the modern media climate of lifestyle formats and niche  marketing, but to loyal listeners, it’s the way it always has been and always should be ,,, It is music selected by the disc jockeys themselves...Now, you just can't say it much better than that. 

The radio was our internet before there was such a thing as the internet.  Storm clouds would pop up on the horizon.  Papa suddenly loved the radio. "Turn that thing of yours on" he would say. "Check KFRD": "snap, crackle, pop". "Now check Brenham", "snap, crackle, pop," "Now check KULP": ~~nice sweet music and no snap crackle pop~~.  Almost instantly we knew the storm was wide spread and coming in from the north. Now we look at the weather channel on the internet and even there, radio is part of our internet  experience. So guess what?  Now we turn on the computer and we watch the radio. My laptop is lot smaller than the old family Philco.  There are more colors than just orange and white too.

About KULP and Clint Robinson, Patowski says "This great station in Texas' rice belt radiates stability. Music director Clint Robinson was playing his version of the Americana format—an eclectic mix of Texans singing  country, rock, and folk—before it had a name" An article in "Experience El Campo the Pearl of the Prarie" for 2011 quotes Robinson as saying: "I guess being at the radio station keeps me updated ... and performing live ,,, keeps me aware of what people are dancing and partying to, so  one always influences the other."

Fifty years ago Chuck Swartzkopf said "dobrodošli" to a young man who was awed.  Fifty years later Clint Robinson actually conversed with me, and you know what?  I'm impressed. Music is near the heart and soul of who we are.  Clint Robinson keeps our music going out.  Governors come and go.  Presidents of the USA come and go.  Whole countries come and go.  It's people like Chuck Swartzkopf, Al Kozel, and Clint Robinson who help us keep on being who we are. That's important.    

KULP - El Campo Texas

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,

Canovals a.k.a. Slavonac

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