Rockin' & Jumpin' the Blues with Gary Nissley - The Former KPCC Radio Host Brings His New Show to Internet Radio
By Dan Jacobson - Published in the April 2012 issue of Southland Blues - Southern California's Blues Magazine Since 1990.
Gary Nissley started hosting his blues radio show back in the early '80s from the studios of public radio station KPCC in Pasadena, California. His new show with the same title, "Rockin' & Jumpin' thue Blues," can be heard streaming live on Poobah.com every second and fourth Friday of the month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Past shows are available as podcasts from the website. I spoke to Gary recently about his background and his new internet blues radio show. Read More
DJ: How did you first become interested in blues?
GN: I've always been interested in all kinds of music. When I was a little kid I always collected records. Ever since I can remember that's what I would spend my money on. The other kids in the neighborhood would go to the dime store for candy and model airplanes and I would go to Thrify and Woolworths and buy the cutout 45s, ten or twenty for a dollar, and juke box overruns and that's where I was first hearing these old records with Howlin Wolf and these records on Chess and Specialty.
My father had a friend that knew somebody that worked at KXLA which turned into KRLA and this was back in the late '50s and he had a couple of boxes of old 45s that were destined for the trash so I pretty much pleaded, "can I have 'em?" All those records were rockabilly and country so I was just always into music.
Later on, I would say about '68 or so, we lived around the corner from a Spanish language station, KWKW in Pasadena. My mom took me up there one time just to see if they would let me see everything. And they just kind of took me under their wing and I got to hang out there as much as I wanted. They would give me the English records and they said 'we're going to put you to work and all these records gotta go to the trash or you colud take them home or whatever.' But I took them home and it was all mainly swing blues. Then I started classes at KPCS.
DJ: Yeah, I was just going to ask how you got started in Radio.
GN: Yeah, well at KWKW they taugh me how to do tape duplication and wind carts and I knew how to cue up records so I learned all that from KWKW.
So by the time I got to PCC (Pasadena City College), I remember Ken Johson, the engineering instructor said' OK when it comes to editing tape I'm just going te let Gary teach everybody because he knows how to do it already.'
At that time KPCC was pretty much block programming so we had a pop show, then a folk show, then a country show, then a jazz show and clasical big bands and I was doing pop, but with the interest and love I had for swing music that I got from KWKW I started doing that.
I did that big band show for a few years and then Larry Shirk, the program director, said 'How would you like to be moved to Saturday night and do a blues show?' I said fine and I think it was called "Blues in the Night" at first, then later it became "Rockin' & Jumpin' the Blues." Then I moved to Friday nights and that was great because people were on their way to the lubs and they got to hear music and I would do the club updates that I still do on this new show.
DJ: What years was your original show on the air?
GN: "Rockin' & Jumpin' the Blues" was from the early '80s to the very early '90s.
DJ: You are now doing the new internet version of your radio show from Poobah Records in Pasadena where you have worked for many years.
GN: I brought my old turntables down from KWKW. Right now we're doing the show from the balcony overlooking the store. We just started in November.
DJ: So you are on every second and fourth Friday?
GN: Every second and fourth Friday from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. and all the shows are archived so you can go to the website at www.poobah.com and play any of them anytime.
DJ: OK, so if someone tunes in give me an example of what they'll hear on your show.
GN: I don't really play the hits. I play all the stuff that was lost in the shuffle. I play Jerry McCain & The Upstarts, I play a lot of stuff on the Excello and Specialty labels, but it's all uptempo, all jumpin' with some mid-tempo but fast stuff. The styles I cover are from the late '40s through the '50s and then skip over most of the '60s and then start up again and then youl hear William Clarke, Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers, James Harman and then the new rockabilly acts too: Domestic Bumble Bee; Omar & the String Poppers. So I play a lot of jump blues, rockabilly, uptempo doowap, I'll touch on some zydeco, cajun, hillbilly, country boogie, and every so often if it makes sense you'll hear some gospel on there.
DJ: Do you ever give information about live gigs going on?
GN: Oh yeah, all the time I just go down who is playing out of Southland Blues. So I just go OK, Friday night, and I just read off everybody and list the clubs. We want to let musicians know that if you have a band or CD out and would lie to be considerd for "Rockin' & Jumpin' the Blues" send the CD, a short bio and where you guys are playing to: Rockin & Jumpin the Blues, Poobah Recrods, 2636 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107.