“No one knows my history”
Someone of renown said this, but I don’t remember who it was. The history of Soul Talk Radio is not so mysterious. One could make a good case that the origins of the program go back to my childhood days, when I ordered a small reel to reel tape recorder from some catalog, and began interviewing my family.
My first paying job was being a paperboy in Lexington, Virginia. This was in the late 60’s when the collections were made door to door. I had many elderly folks on my 100-customer bicycle route. It was not unusual for me to only make two or three collections in an afternoon after school, because I was in there listening with rapt interest to the rich stories these people would spin.
In 1991 I moved to Austin, Texas. My good friend (and Episcopal Priest), Bill Miller, repeatedly approached me proposing that we should produce a show to contrast the ludicrous and embarrassing fare that so often passed for religious broadcasting. I liked the idea. We put together six programs, which aired for about six months on Austin Access TV.
The show was called “Losing Your Religion.” It was filmed during dining hours at Hut’s Hamburgers on Austin’s celebrated 6th Street. Hut’s was and continues to be a funky sacred space for Bill and me. The show consisted of a 15-minute interview, an awards segment, a question -and-answer time, and a sermonette tagged, “The Bottom Line.” The awards alternated weekly between “The Earth Angel Award,” given to someone who was doing something life affirming in the community, and the “Balaam’s Ass Award,” (Numbers 22:21-31) bestowed on an individual or group involved in something laughable in the name of God.
We didn’t create any programs beyond these six, because it cost us $800 to hire the camera crew and producer. I was hurting for coins, and Bill was getting too busy in his new church to add another project to the list. I loved this experience. I filed it in the back of the noggin’ hoping to get back to it someday.
By 1994, I was established financially in my work as a “free lance minister” and began to scratch the itch “Losing Your Religion” had caused. By now Bill was really snowed under with his congregation, so I decided to fly solo. I made a demo tape of a thirty-minute interview program, which I dubbed, “Soul Talk.”
I had become enamored with the writings of Thomas Moore, and in particular his volume, “Care of the Soul.” I felt this terminology best captured where I was coming from. I combined this with the street and musical notions of “soul” to concoct the flavor of the program.
The demo was sent to several commercial and noncommercial radio stations. I chose radio because I believed this venue offered the best opportunity to develop the idea with some depth, and I felt I might be easier syndicate the program in the future. For many months the phone and mailbox were silent.
I had moved to a new apartment, and one evening I received a forwarded letter from KOOP, 91.7 FM, community radio. The form letter from station manager Jenny Wong, dated January 10, 1995 read, “Thank you for your program proposal. We are pleased to inform you that the following proposal has been tentatively scheduled as follows: Soul Talk, Friday, 4 – 4:30p.m.” For several days my ponies didn’t hit the ground!!!
Soul Talk’s first broadcast was on an icy February 2, 1996. I was unsure that my guest or I would be able to reach the studio. But, it would take more than an ice storm to deny the birth of Soul Talk. Hymie Sameulson, the 77-year-old owner of Slax Menswear in Austin, and avid diary writer, was my first guest.
He read from his self-published book, “I Search For I,” a collection of spiritual meanderings. To this day Hymie is the quintessential guest for Soul Talk. In fact, he was the interviewee for my demo tape, and hopefully will be the first person to grace the airwaves of Soul Talk Radio.
Since that freezing winter day, I have produced over 600 Soul Talk shows. The character of the program has remained steady. The only changes will be length of the broadcast (from 30 minutes to 1 hour) and its breadth (from local to global).
In college my first major was Mass Communications. Later, I shifted my emphasis to Psychology, the discipline in which I earned an undergraduate degree. I then went to graduate school in ministry. Now I am a minister, chaplain, and counselor, who produces a radio show. They say the best wines take time to ferment! I hope you will join me in continuing to mature a full-bodied wine, whose bouquet gets fresher through the ages.