Nikola Tesla experimented with radio frequencies around 1892. In 1895 Guglielmo Marconi built a wireless system capable of transmitting a signal over a mile. It just seems like Steve Palec has been on the radio ever since.
But the fact of the matter is that his program, "Rock & Roll Roots," every Sunday morning on WKLH, has been on the air in Milwaukee for 25 years. Sunday, Aug. 18 from 9 a.m. to noon, he will try to do what Tesla and Marconi really didn’t care much about: match a visual to the "magic" of radio.
Now, it may seem that the inventors of a little thing those of us with media savvy call television has been doing that for some time. And in some circles, putting a literal visual image to the songs or the anonymous voices on radio might seem counterproductive to what our imaginations provide. Maybe even too limiting.
But in the case of Palec’s special edition of Roots featuring "Real Women in Songs," it’s a welcome addition. And it might be a trend setting interactive use of social media for what some call the dinosaur of terrestrial radio.
Here is what is happening:
Steve will devote the entire show to songs that were inspired by actual in the flesh real life ladies. And some of the stories may surprise you.
"Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," from the first Crosby Stills & Nash album, is about singer Judy Collins.
The Toto song, "Rosanna," takes its name from Rosanna Arquette, who had dated one of that groups members. Yet, he really only borrowed the name.
Peter Gabriel actually wrote the huge hit "In Your Eyes" about Ms. Arquette.
There really is a Sharona from the Knack song "My Sharona." At the time she was a 17-year-old girl who is now a real estate broker in California.
Many assume The Rolling Stones song "Angie" is about David Bowie’s wife (it actually isn’t). But the woman referenced in their tune "Brown Sugar" is a real person who was actually featured on the album cover of the British version of the soundtrack for "Hair."
Of course, even if Palec makes the stories sound compelling in his usual articulate fashion … it pales in comparison to actually seeing the photos of these real life ladies. Palec’s idea is to use social media not to turn radio into TV, but to use a real time unobtrusive way to give you either the choice to see the visual or to respond to it. "As soon as we play a song and reference who it is about, I will Tweet the photo (@stevepalec)."
At the same time WKLH will retweet those photos and offer it up on their Facebook page," Steve explains. (Also, we already feature Palec’s tweets on our homepage).
" Even if I just mention and throw on a quick clip about Chris DeBurgh’s ‘Lady In Red,’ a song we’ve probably all heard a hundred times, wouldn’t it be interesting to see the actual Lady in Red?"
Palec also talks about the Boyd girls.
"George Harrison wrote ‘Something’ about his wife Patti. And Eric Clapton wanted George’s wife so bad, he wrote the painful plea ‘Layla’ as an encouragement for Patti to leave George. She did. Clapton later wrote the song ‘Wonderful Tonight’ about her after she had married Eric. A woman that intriguing should be seen, don’t you think. So I will tweet her picture as I tell the story. Not only that, but did you know Patti also had a sister who was married to Mick Fleetwood and had a song written about her by Donovan? I feel it my civic duty to show you her as well."
While the songs are plentiful and even without this unique niche, Palec’s show is consistently entertaining, he may have stumbled on to something that isn’t usually done and may have a future in this always changing world of social media: The ability to instantly reference a visual and involve the audience in responses.
Although with all the stories Palec has to tell (and he says there are hundreds of examples of these biographical songs) he may not have time to read all the responses and dialog he creates on Sunday.