Interview: Steve Daub of WRPI-FM’s “Stormy Monday Blues”
Story and interview by Wanda Callagy
Photograph by Robin Murray
Steve Daub has been busy in the last few weeks.
Not only did he enjoy some time in New Orleans, he had a birthday and was honored to be a judge at the recent Downtown Albany Business Improvement District’s recent Downtown Albany Blues Music Competition to help determine which bands would perform at the Local Blues Night of this summer’s upcoming Alive at Five concert series. (The winners – Blues Sanctuary and the Tom Healey Band – are slated to perform at Albany’s Riverfront Park at 5pm on Thursday, July 25).
Daub has been an influence in the area for several years, volunteering his Monday nights to promote local musicians on his “Stormy Monday Blues” program heard from 8-10pm on Mondays on college radio station WRPI (91.5 FM) out of Troy. The musicians he has hosted on his program stretch from regional and local artists to visitors to the Albany area, such as Peter Tork and Rory Block.
The radio show has been running for over 10 years now, and Daub says that he got into it quite by accident. A boss’ girlfriend suggested he get involved, simply a music lover. The position grew from being a co-host to running the show weekly with the assistance of audio engineer students who set up and operate the sound system for live performances on the show. With the summer ahead, the students will be gone until the fall, but Daub has plenty of vinyl to play, and though most of the music he plays is focused on the blues, other favorites or new bands are also often presented.
“Community radio is a way to expose people to music they have not heard before,” says Daub. “When I have guests in, I usually go with the flow. They may want to talk about their new music or what they have been doing, and I give them that time. Other than my opening theme song, the show is never the same. I take requests, and play new and old music and often have surprise guests. Local photographer Robin Murray has been to a lot of my programs, and her photos aid in the promotion of different musicians as well as supporting me with my efforts to just get new local music out there.”
Surprisingly, when he himself went to college, Daub had no interest in college radio. Now his Monday evenings are spent on his show, and he enjoys giving away some of the tickets and CDs he receives, as well as just rifling through the music at the station. Last year he was honored to be inducted into the New York State Blues Hall of Fame for his efforts in promoting local blues musicians.
One local band he has had on the show several times is Holly & Evan. He invited them not long after their Memphis experience at the International Blues Competition in January.
Bassist Evan Conway says it has become almost a routine… he and guitarist-vocalist Holly Taormina will often bring another musician with them to play, and each time, it has been someone different.
“It has been kind of a running joke,” Conway adds. “We always bring someone different, and we always have something new we are doing to talk about.
“Our Memphis experience, now looking back at it, has really influenced what we have been doing recently. Holly has written two new songs since, and I think the history of the Memphis area was just so impressive. The Beale Street events that week were overwhelming with all that music everywhere, but as a duo we found folks to be supportive and encouraging in the events themselves. There was so much energy! I could not get over some of the acts – the musicians playing several instruments at once were almost overwhelming. I enjoyed seeing and meeting a banjo player from Canada who left me speechless.”
They included a couple of sight-seeing trips, too, visiting the tape room where Al Green sang “Let’s Get Together” and checking three destinations in their search for Robert Johnson’s true burial site. Conway can tell that story better than anyone, and if asked, one should be prepared to get goose bumps. Strolling the side streets and looking at the neighborhoods where so much of their favorite music originated will continue to influence their music in the days ahead.
“Steve Daub is a great guy, and we always look forward to another opportunity to be on his program,” adds Conway. “He does so much in promoting local music.”
Other recent visitors to “Stormy Monday Blues” include George Fletcher, George Kilby and Jimmy Wolf.
“I enjoy it,” says Daub, summing it all up. “I have a large collection of music myself, but at the station there is so much more that I can find to play. The experience has exposed me to all kinds of music, and I just tell folks to tune in for a listen. They may like or not like what I play, but they’ll probably be exposed to something new that they wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to hear. It is amazing, the local talent we have right here.”