10 Questions with ... Jimmy Buff
March 25, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
1984 I was lucky enough to be an intern for WNEW, a legendary Rock station in New York City. I was assigned to the morning show exclusively. Within a year, I was hired as a production assistant for the show (and still have the first pay stub I ever received from WNEW as a memento of that auspicious occasion).
By 1986 the morning show had been fired - except for me. I was kept on to produce the new Dave Herman Rock and Roll Morning Show. We had five good years and then left for WXRK. In the time I at was at 'NEW, they had grown much more conservative in their music approach. Thusly, in 1991, New York City was left without an outlet for new and emerging artist. My morning show colleague Curt Chaplin (now on "The People's Court" TV show) and I thought we could do something about that and so we raised some money, bought time on an ethnic radio station located in Chinatown and launched Radio Free New York. For nearly a year, we did a weekday show from 6-9a and introduced to New York City acts like the Wallflowers, Barenaked Ladies, the Cranberries, Blind Melon and a myriad of other less successful bands. We garnered more press than anyone in radio except Howard Stern. And then we had a dispute with the owners of the radio station - who were more landlords than radio visionaries - and RFNY was no more
New York Rock radio was still stale in 1993 so I headed north to Woodstock to WDST for my first tour of duty. I went back to New York after a year, perplexed by mountain life. But after a couple of years, I was equally perplexed by city life so I left radio and became a carpenter's assistant for a year. But radio is in my blood and Woodstock came calling again, so back north I went. This time, though, I was ready for the change in pace and truly felt at home. It was 1997 and the Internet was just firing up big-time; by 1999 I had an offer to go back to the city to join an Internet-only radio company called eYada.com. When the Internet went boom in 2001, so did eYada and I found myself out of radio again. I ended up working in television for the Outdoor Life Network, co-hosting an adventure news show (outdoor adventure is my passion). At the same time, I moved back to the mountains and when the TV gig ended, I found myself a job as PD/middays at WKZE/Sharon, CT. The year I spent at 'KZE was the most unusual I've ever had in radio - and that's saying something - so when the chance to come back to 'DST presented itself, I took it.
I have been back since January 2005 and am currently PD.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
I've always loved music and radio. I grew up listening to a couple of legendary progressive radio stations: WPLR/New Haven, (whose signal easily crossed the Long Island Sound) and WNEW. So in my early 20s, I figured I'd give radio a shot and enrolled in broadcasting school. I didn't learn much there but it got me an internship at 'NEW where I learned everything.
2. WDST has been around a long time. How would you describe the current music mix on the station?
Our music mix currently features a core of classic artists and tracks, as well as a healthy dose of emerging artists. Sprinkled in are depth tracks from classic artists and some of the strong local talent we have here in the Hudson Valley, such as the Felice Brothers.
3. What are the music meetings like at your station?
With Carmel recently leaving to go work at WFUV, I guess the meeting is largely just me listening to music and deciding what fits the station's sound and how much airplay we can dedicate to those songs that fit.
4. How do you keep a balance between competing in the Poughkeepsie market and maintaining your Woodstock mystique?
Good question. We have a powerhouse Classic Rocker in our market and we want to share some of their audience so we share some of that music. Yet, at the same time, we need to shore up our Woodstock spirit, which we do by introducing new artists to the mix.
5. WDST and Radio Woodstock are very active online. Tell us a bit about that.
We've been streaming since 1997 and we have seen the value in extending the Radio Woodstock brand via the Internet; it is something we are strongly committed too.
6. What are some of your biggest challenges as an independent station?
Resources. In the market, we are faced off against Cumulus and Clear Channel and where they have seven station vehicles and the power of a corporate infrastructure, we have a van and a 12-year-old psychedelically painted VW Bug and a small (albeit dedicated) staff.
7. In what ways do you tie into the vibrant local music scene?
We support local shows and music events as well as producing and promoting shows ourselves
8. Tell us about this year's big Mountain Jam Festival.
Mountain Jam -- our ninth -- will be amazing again this year with acts such as Phil Lesh & Friends, Gov't Mule, Widespread Panic, Primus, Dispatch, The Avett Brothers, Gary Clark Jr., Soulive, Jackie Greene, Deer Tick, ALO, David Wax Museum and many more. We broadcast from the mountain (Hunter Mountain, a ski area) and when I look out of the lodge window from our onsite studio, I think "not bad for an independently owned radio station from little ol' Woodstock!" Truly, though, that credit goes to our owner Gary Chetkof.
9. What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
Relevancy. If we can be replaced by Pandora, then where does that leaves us?
10. What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
There is always good music being made. Back in my 'NEW days I remember one of the legendary jocks saying just the opposite as he was reading a horse racing tip sheet and surrounded by stacks of unopened and unlistened to CDs (and it was then I knew it was time to leave).
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
I am an avid outdoor adventure enthusiast: Trail running, mountain and road cycling, snowshoeing and kayaking are a few of my passions. Currently most of my time is spent in distance off-road running.