Sunday Morning Radio: Great Big Radio, Walla Walla, WA

One hit wonders. Novelty tunes. Cheesy ballads. ‘So bad, it’s good.’ You can hear all of these on most radio stations every once in a while. But what if there was a station that played hits, near-misses and the misfit toys of radio pop all together, all the time?

Well, there is, and it’s called Great Big Radio.

Great Big Radio is the brain child of one Howard Hoffman, whose voice you’ve heard in countless TV ads, network promos, and if you’re old enough, AM Radio (he was the last DJ on the air at New York City’s WABC before it abandoned its top 40 format for the talk radio format in 1981). While he makes his bread and butter from production work and voiceovers, his labor of love is Great Big Radio.

And what can you hear when you tune in? The sample hour I listened to started with their ‘Beatles at the Bottom of the Hour’ (‘Free As A Bird’), Joan Jett’s ‘I Hate Myself For Loving You,’ ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ by Average White Band. Sounds relatively…normal, right? But wait – there’s ‘Epistle To Dippy’ by Donovan, ‘It’s A Heartache’ by Bonnie Tyler, ‘Right Between The Eyes’ by Wax (who?), ‘Love In The Shadows’ by EG Daily. You get the idea – this is a station where pop radio titans rub elbows with the odd ducks, all formatted like the great radio stations of the Sixties, when Top 40 ruled the land.

While you’re listening, you’re liable to hear ‘GBR Flashbacks’ – snippets of Howard’s old air checks from back in the day (the one I just heard was from his days at KAUM in Phoenix, AZ). When you hear them you’ll understand why Howard was in demand in Top 40 radio – his high-energy delivery and clearly warped sense of humor was guaranteed to get you wide awake and out the door for your workday.

More music – ‘Let It Rain’ by Eric Clapton, ‘Wavelength’ by Van Morrison, ‘Room to Move’ by Animotion, ‘I Want You To Want Me’ by Cheap Trick, ‘So Into You’ by Atlanta Rhythm Section, ‘Windy’ by The Association. Imagine a slightly tipsy music fanatic wandering through Tower Records, grabbing everything that strikes his or her fancy from the racks, and you’ve got the equivalent of the Great Big Radio playlist. The song choices are straight out of left field, the promos are often howlingly funny, and it all hangs together like the Great Radio Station That Never Was But Should Have Been.

Great Big Radio’s slogan is ‘Oldies Gone Wrong.’ But in a world where the traditional ‘Oldies’ format is beginning to disappear, GBR is is a picture-perfect representation of an Oldies station, programmed and voiced by a guy who was there long before what he was playing even became oldies. This station is well worth a few hours of your time.

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