Theme Time and other radiophonic devices

Chris JonesI have tended to shy away from themes in my radio work. With the classic bluegrass show I do for SiriusXM called Truegrass, I’ll occasionally do tributes to some of the bluegrass greats in honor of a special occasion like their birthday, their death, or their standing over my shoulder while I’m doing the show. Periodically I’ll do a version where we play two in a row by each artist, or play two different versions of each song. I guess now that I think about it, I’m doing a show that features banjo players this Friday. I came up with these radical ideas all on my own and didn’t once have to consult a radio consultant in Atlanta for help.

That’s pretty much it, though, for themes of any kind. It’s not that I don’t like themes for shows, it’s just that I have a fear that if I start using them, eventually I’ll run out, and then people will think there’s something wrong when they just hear regular music that’s not tied to a specific concept, like fishing, murder, or girls named “Sadie.” At that point I’ll seem washed up and even more uncreative than I’d seemed before I started using themes.

The good news for DJs who may be caught in the theme treadmill, feeling like they’re about to reach the bottom of the well (you have no doubt heard about the famous treadmill wells in Indiana), is that I have a number of unused bluegrass radio theme ideas which I’ll never use, for the reasons stated above. I’ll list them here and you’re free to claim them with very little obligation. All I ask is that if you use one or more of these and your listeners hate them, please don’t turn around and blame me as if I somehow forced you to use them (coercing DJs into using radio show themes against their will went out with payola and the FCC license exam, and it’s a practice that I strongly oppose).

Bluegrass Radio Show Themes:

  • Songs about pigs or pork products of any kind
  • Songs beginning with the word “now” for no apparent reason
  • Songs containing a man’s name that isn’t  “Willie”
  • Jimmy Martin songs about Europe
  • European songs about Jimmy Martin
  • Songs about dead horses
  • Songs about living horses
  • Songs about disobedient mules
  • Songs containing the adjective “well-beaten”
  • Songs by brothers who can’t stand each other (this could be a 5-show series)
  • Songs containing reptiles and children
  • Live recordings with unrealistic applause dubbed in from much larger venues
  • Bluegrass songs with modern technology references like “internet”, “GPS,” and “automatic transmission.”
  • Songs containing fashion advice

(e.g. “Now when you go a-courtin’ there’s something you should do
That long tail roustabout you wear don’t do a thing for you.”)

  • Drinking songs about different temperatures of corn
  • Songs that make no sense at all (e.g. The Cuckoo)
  • Instrumentals named after food
  • Songs that are nothing but one giant guilt trip (e.g. Bury Me Beneath the Willow)

Next week: “Any publicity is bad publicity.” How to make sure you’re never mentioned in the media for any reason at all.