Brad Paul | Folk on WGBH


Brad Paul  Brad Paul

"The best part of my job is when someone calls me while I’m on the air and asks, 'What was that song you just played? I loved it!'"

Background:  I am originally from Belmont, Massachusetts, where I started my radio career as a high school intern at WGBH FM in 1975. I graduated from Emerson College, where I started the popular program The Coffeehouse, in 1980. I have since produced and hosted folk shows on WUMB-Boston and WEVO, New Hampshire Public Radio, and now back to where it all began for me, WGBH 89.7.

Nickname(s):  None that I can share.

First album I ever owned:  Something New by the Beatles

Five desert island albums:  I don’t think I would want to take five records on a desert Island for fear that I would soon get tired of my favorite albums.If I could take my iPod, I’d be all set with 10,000 songs!

Favorite podcast:  NPR’s All Songs Considered.

Greatest place to see live music:  Locally I would have to go with Johnny D’s in Davis Square, Somerville. It’s run by some really great people, and I prefer the intimacy of a small club vs. a theater or arena. That said, there’s nothing like a great festival location such as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado or the Vancouver Folk Festival in British Columbia. They book great music, and the locations are stunning.

Most memorable concert:  It’s a tie. I saw Mario Bauza at the Blue Note in NYC. Mario was the original Mambo King. Seeing him with his orchestra  was like being transported back in time to Havana in  prerevolutionary Cuba. I don’t recall the date, but it was only a year or two before he passed away. The other would have to be Charles Brown at a Public Radio Convention party, hosted by Felix Hernandez of the NPR program Blues Stage. Charles played with his trio in the Queen Anne Suite at the Westin Saint Francis Hotel in Union Square in San Francisco. It was the combination of the grand view of the San Francisco Bay and the intimacy of hearing one of the great R&B legends in a small setting, no sound system, just the musicians and their instruments up close and personal.

Favorite movie about music/musician:  A tie again. It’s between Almost Famous and This Is Spinal Tap. Both films are based on fictitious bands, but there is more truth in them than anyone in the music business would care to admit.

Favorite book about music/musician:  Mansion on the Hill. It’s an intriguing history of the music business from the early '60s through the mid '90s. A lot of the landscape covered is the early folk and rock scene in Cambridge and Boston and the radio, print publications, and concert promoters that drove them.

When not listening to folk music, I listen to: One of my favorite sayings is; “Life is too short to listen to one kind of music.” So I listen to almost everything. Jazz, salsa, classical, world music, all manner of rock 'n' roll, R&B, blues, you name it.

Finest moment on the air:  I’d say my finest moment on air came when I was host of The Coffeehouse on WERS, Emerson’s FM radio station. It was early in the life of the program, probably 1981, and I had no idea if people were listening to the show or not. One day, I was musing on air that we had no thermometer at the studio to tell what the outside temperature was. I said, "If anyone is listening, send in a nickel or a dime, and we will see if we can raise enough money to buy a thermometer for the station." The next day, nickels and dimes and quarters and even dollar bills began flooding into the station. I realized then that I was onto something.

Most embarrassing moment on the air: I was interviewing Norman Blake, a guitarist and songwriter from Georgia. Norman had brought his band to the station for a live  studio performance. When I asked him to introduce one of the band members, Norman said, “The gentleman to my right is a melon picker from southern Georgia.” I asked what kind of melons does he pick, at which point Norman and the rest of the band broke up laughing. It was hard for this Northerner to discern the Southerner’s accent. When Norman said, "mandolin picker," I heard "melon picker."

If I weren’t a radio host, I’d be an investment banker or a ski bum. More likely the latter because I don’t know the first thing about investment banking.

The best part of my job is when someone calls me while I’m on the air and asks; “What was that song you just played? I loved it!”

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