Photo by Jack GouldMeeting Muddy Waters as a young'un was all it took for Gary "The Wagman" Wagner to fall in love with the blues. Nine years ago, he parlayed that love into a career when he became host of the popular Nothin' But the Blues show Saturday and Sunday afternoons on KLON, the otherwise all-jazz public radio station that broadcasts from Cal State Long Beach. During his tenure at KLON—pretty much the only frequency in the greater LA region still programming jazz and blues with regularity—Wagner's voice became synonymous with the station, a standard matched only by his colleague (and certifiable jazz-DJ legend) Chuck Niles.
But on May 7, a day after what would become his final broadcast, Wagner abruptly quit KLON, citing—among other reasons—a general distaste for the way he was made to solicit money from Nothin' But the Blues fans during the station's periodic on-air pledge drives, only to see the funds funneled elsewhere.
"I am completely frustrated with the process of selling blues to listeners who are willing to pay to hear blues, then seeing the lion's share of that money spent providing jazz programming," Wagner wrote in his resignation letter to KLON General Manager Judy Jankowski. "It is absolutely wrong and in my opinion amounts to the kind of 'bait and switch' that is illegal in most other types of businesses."
"I'm lying to people, that's why I quit," Wagner told the Weekly. "I couldn't lie anymore. I just think people should know that the money going to KLON does not necessarily go to the shows they think they're supporting."
Another factor that figured in Wagner's decision was that certain jazz shows on the station were performing so badly during pledge periods that management was no longer requiring the hosts of these programs to hold membership drives. Wagner says he was told that KLON was actually losing money by staging member drives during the hours these poorly producing shows were on the air.
"That's when I said, I'm outta here. If they don't have to do it, why should I? It's very hard work to hustle money from people, but I was good at it. In just 10 hours per week, my programs raised 30 percent to 40 percent of the station's dollars consistently. On my last day, my show brought in more than $40,000. Yet the station won't increase the number of hours they devote to the blues."
Chalk that up to jazz elitism, Wagner charges, an anti-blues attitude he says permeates KLON's board of directors. It's a particularly interesting criticism in light of the station's high-profile sponsorship of the annual Long Beach Blues Festival. "They're all older white guys on the board—a bunch of jazz Nazis who have their heads up their jazz ass," Wagner said. "They look down at the blues, except when it brings in money. There was once an idea to change KLON's slogan from 'America's Jazz Station' to 'America's Jazz and Blues Station,' but they vetoed it for some reason."
In a press release, KLON's Jankowski says that Wagner "was a valued member of the KLON family for nine years, and we and his many devoted listeners will miss him greatly. But at KLON, the music must continue. We remain committed to providing innovative blues programming on KLON."
Wagner says he leaves KLON with no sense of vengeance or regret—"I worked hard. I couldn't do any less than that"—and predicts he'll resurface on the Internet. (Fans can e-mail Wagner at email@example.com to find out more.)
Meanwhile, Nothin' But the Blues will keep rolling weekend afternoons with a new host, local blues player Doug MacLeod. (Rich Kane)
They've had them for the Beatles, for Kiss, even for freakin' Depeche Mode. Now let it be known that the first Orange County band with its own fan expo is none other than . . . Stryper! Surely you remember the OC-based band that dominated the Christian metal scene of the late '80s—okay, well, so they pretty much were the Christian heavy-metal scene. They were famous for their shows, in which band members Oz Fox, Tim Gaines, and brothers Robert and Michael Sweet tossed Bibles into the crowd; their huge, of-the-era poodle hair; their hit power ballad "Honestly," which crashed the Billboard Hot 100 in the winter of '88, peaking at No. 23; their several gold and platinum albums; their Grammy nomination; and their skin-tight black-and-yellow-striped spandex costumes—perfect for displaying the writhing, serpentine packages with which the Lord endowed them. There was also their uncomfortable fascination with gender-bending. Really, out of all the hairspray metal acts of the time, Stryper were some of the girliest-looking boys around.
The band broke up in 1992 after a brief, misguided flirtation with grunge—just like all the other poodle-hair bands! Now, years later, Stryper has completed that long march from Trendsetters through Obscurity to Nostalgia Act. Hence, the Stryper Expo on Friday and Saturday at the Felix Event Center at Azusa Pacific. On the schedule: autograph sessions with original members; Q&A sessions with Stryper "associates"; a skateboard demo; and performances by Priesthood, Joshua, Disciple and Sin Dizzy, among others. Just a wild guess here, but d'ya think these bands might be Christian, too?
This is actually the second Stryper Expo. Last year's inaugural event was inexplicably held in New Jersey, and it even more inexplicably attracted fans from as far away as Sweden, Venezuela, Argentina and Australia—go figure!
"If it's going to be anything like the last Expo," Fox says in a press release, "you can expect to see people crying from the emotion created by us playing again." Yes. Crying. Yes. More info can be had at www.stryperexpo.com. (RK)
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