WKAR's Bob Blackman retiring from "The Folk Tradition"

EAST LANSING, MI – Bob Blackman, the host of "The Folk Tradition" on Sunday nights here on 90.5, hosts his last show on Sunday (4/23/11). He recently spoke with WKAR's Melissa Ingells about what he's enjoyed, what's changed in folk music, and what the future holds for him. | SKIP down to article
IN PICTURES - Bob Blackman: A Retrospective
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BOB BLACKMAN: Well, I've been doing it for 27 years, it's been great fun, but it seems to be even more time consuming now than it was when I started, maybe because there are so many more records to consider, and my standards have gone up. And at this point it takes up almost my entire weekend. And lots of people don't realize that I have a different full-time job, Monday through Friday. I'm a computer programmer. The radio thing has always been a hobby, and it's great fun, but at this point it really takes up almost all of my weekend, almost every weekend through the year, 51 shows a year. I only do one rerun a year. And I just finally felt that I needed my weekends back for other things.

MELISSA INGELLS: How do you feel folk music has changed over the 27 years that you've been doing the show?

BLACKMAN: Oh, it's changed in a lot of ways. One of the great things is the ways that, instead of musicians being limited to a particular kind of music and thinking of themselves in one particular category, there's so much more intermingling than there used to be. You'll get somebody like Tim O'Brien, who started out in bluegrass but also loves Irish music, will go over to Ireland, perform with Irish musicians doing kind of a hybrid of bluegrass and Irish music. He'll write some of his own songs but he'll also do old traditional songs. Joel Mabus here in Michigan is the same. He'll take influences from many different kinds of music and mix them together, both in his own songs and in traditional songs that he'll do in concert or on record. So, that intermingling of genres I think is a really healthy and wonderful thing and that's certainly been a big change over the years.

INGELLS: What do you feel that 27 years of listening to and bringing folk music to people has brought to you personally?

BLACKMAN: Wow well, I would like to think that I've had some influence on the healthiness of the folk music community, and that has given me a great deal of satisfaction. If I can go to a concert at the Ten Pound Fiddle, let's say, that is well attended, and people come up to me and say, "I'm at this concert because I heard this performer on your show, and I heard about the concert on your show," that certainly gives me enormous satisfaction, that I've played a role broader than just doing the show on Sunday nights because I've actually helped influence people's taste. In terms of myself, I've just had the pleasure of listening to thousands of great performers. So my musical education has continued to expand and grow over the years. And I've developed personal relationships with so many of my favorite musicians over the years, who I've gotten to know through the radio show, and through some of my other activities. The fact that I get to actually hang out with them and call them a friend is really extraordinary to me.

INGELLS: Do you have plans for your first weekend, post-show?

BLACKMAN: I don't really have anything specific. Really, my plans for retirement really involve getting back to a normal weekend. So, to be able to read the Sunday New York Times and do the Sunday crossword puzzle, even to listen to the radio more myself, to listen to A Prairie Home Companion and Weekend Edition, to do chores and fix things up around the house, all those kinds of things and just feel more relaxed, that to me will be a wonderful way to spend my weekend retirement. So I'll probably just do that, starting from the very first weekend.

INGELLS: I guess you'll be leaving your listeners with a message as of your last show, but is there anything in particular that you'd like to say to the folks who've been following your show all these years on WKAR?

BLACKMAN: What I've been trying to say to people is, the music is still there. My show may be off, but I don't create any of the music. I've picked it out for the show, and I'm very grateful that people have enjoyed my selections and my way of presenting it. But the music is still there. It's going to be on our Sunday evening lineup with our replacement show, Folk Alley with Jim Blum from Kent, Ohio, who plays a very similar range of music to what I play. And it's at the Ten Pound Fiddle, and it's at the Great Lakes Folk Festival, and it's on A Prairie Home Companion. The music is all still there, so if people have enjoyed my show, I certainly hope they will continue to seek it out on the radio and in person wherever they can.