In Praise Of PBS

Now put a nickel in the jukebox, baby / and let’s dance to the rock and ro-oh-oll…

When I woke up this morning, all foggy-headed in a foreign bed, I didn’t know that Gary Clark Jr. was being called “the saviour of the blues.” Indeed, I’d never heard of Gary Clark Jr., and I had no idea that the blues were even in need of saving. I learnt both of these things in the car on the drive home, but I also learnt something more important: that the blues are worth saving; that they are worthy of a saviour. Driving from Brighton to Footscray, I learnt the beauty of the blues.

PBS 106.7FM is one of several community radio stations operating in Melbourne, dedicated to playing “little heard music,” as their slogan says. It is run by a small team of professional staff largely funded by roughly 7000 subscribers who pay a small membership fee – just a nickel in the jukebox, in the scheme of things – to support their radio station. Supplementing this team are around 200 volunteers, without whom PBS literally could not broadcast – 95 percent of the station’s current studio at Easey St in Collingwood was built in 2001 by volunteers donating their time and skills.

Volunteers also present the shows. PBS broadcasts twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, on the back of a team of broadcasters whose sole motivation for turning up every week is an irrepressible desire to share the music they love with the people of Melbourne. These announcers are insiders, intimately connected with their respective musical communities, and it is the knowledge and fervour of true insiders that they bring to their listeners, linking us with Melbourne musical subcultures that most of us probably never knew existed.

It was that infectious, irresistible passion for the music that was the key to awakening my newfound appreciation of the blues this morning. The presenter’s evident and profound joy and love for his music was what made it so appealing to me, as listener and as enraptured pupil, to learn from him and share some of that love.

PBS plays a huge variety of music, and I know for certain that I don’t like all of it – it’s probably fair to say that very few people could. But listening to these presenters discuss it with such animation and depth of knowledge, it is impossible not to share some of their obvious gratitude for the music they love, and to feel a similar gratitude for the existence of a radio station that plays it.

Phillip Damon

The author Phillip Damon

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