1. All things considered, he’d rather be a DJ than an author. As part of the relentless media blitz for his recently-published book The Best Of The World Cafe, Mr. Dye has been jet-setting from one affiliate to another, planting the flag in exotic capitals of commerce and culture such as Akron, Louisville and Milwaukee. There, he is invariably greeted by a grateful populace as the man who brought water to the arid, choice-less deserts of the airwaves over middle America; a welcome, earthy alternative to the grating crackle and slick drivel of corporate radio. Having just touched town in the literary mecca of Pittsburgh, Mr. Dye is supine on a bed in the Comfort Suites and eyeing, with some suspicion, the hot tub in the center of his hotel room. Hopefully he turned down the bedspread. Pro Tip: they never change or wash those things and everyone’s business is all over ’em. Just sayin’. On a happier note, Mr. Dye reports pretty impressive numbers. Two hundred showed up for the book singing in Akron. “You know, I am grateful,” says Mr. Dye. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a Barnes & Noble only to see Larry Kane sitting all by himself at the book signing table.”
3. Mr. Dye has a penchant for “really good foreign mystery writers” like Denise Mina. He savors them like truffles.
4. The worst interview Mr. Dye ever conducted was with one of his favorite bands. “Now, I love NRBQ as much as the next guy, but they insisted on being interviewed laying flat on their backs. Which we did, and it was just terrible. This was back in 1992, back before we knew better.”
5. Mr. Dye once got into a fight with Jewel. “I had to interview Jewel,” says Mr. Dye. “And I meant to say something like ‘laid-back hippie from Alaska’ but what came out was ‘you don’t seem terribly ambitious” And she immediately responded with “You don’t seemed to be particularly well-groomed.’ This was live on the air, in front of an audience.”
6. The best interview Mr. Dye ever conducted was . . . well, who can pick just one? But Neil Young in Nashville was up there. “First of all, I am such a huge Neil Young fan, and then in the middle of the interview somebody started making noise in the other room and Neil got up and walked over, opened the door and yelled something like ‘hey can you guys shut up, we’re trying to do an interview in here.’ He was very protective of the interview, I was touched. Turned out it was Jonathan Demme dragging in this huge Trans Canadian Highway sign that he found walking around Nashville and he was gonna give it to Neil as a gift.”
7. The Boss likes him. No, he really likes him. “Believe it or not, there was a time when you could proselytize to people about ‘this guy named Bruce Springsteen‘ and people wouldn’t have any idea what you were talking about,” says Mr. Dye. “I first saw him perform at the Main Point in like 1973, and the next time he came through I would host the show and the time after that and the time after that. I remember one time I asked him to stay over and go on the air with me the next day and he had to call his manager and see if it was OK to spend the money to get a hotel room — if that gives you any indication where he was in his career. And then it just blew up, cover of TIME, it just got too big, for me anyway. I moved to Maine to take a DJ job and did not see or speak to him for the next 25 years. And then when he came through town Columbia had this pre-show meet-n-greet thing. So I am standing in line, not knowing what to expect and I get up there and he recognizes me right away, ‘David!’ Big hug. That was a good feeling.”
8. After four years of starving in the public radio wilderness of Maine, Mr. Dye returned to Philadelphia in 1978. He took a an on-air job at WMMR, only to be dispatched with most of the extant staff during one of the station’s periodic purges. He wound up on WIOQ, where he did an oldies show that was “strangely successful” for 10 years.
9. One fine day in 1990, Mr. Dye walked in the doors of WXPN and volunteered. “After about a year, they were able to pay me a $100 to do a weekend shift,” says Mr. Dye. “And then a grant came through to do a national show. I was given the title of ‘Administrator of the Grant,’ which is how they justified paying me. What I was really doing, was music-testing — calling up people and playing them every genre of music known to man. You see, we knew we were a going to be a national show, but we didn’t know what kind of national show we would be. That’s why the show is called World Cafe. It was decided on during the ‘Great World Music Scare‘ when everyone was sure that world music was going to take over. Well, our testing showed that people HATED world music. But they did kinda like female singer-songwriters.” And that, Virginia, is how the World Cafe got its groove on.
10. Mr. Dye is married to Inquirer columnist Karen Heller. They have two children: Nick, 14, and Cece 11. Today is their sweet 16th wedding anniversary. They have a good When Harry Met Sally story about how they met. “Karen was, as she likes to tell it, in her ‘Year of Dating Dangerously‘ and mutual friends were trying to hook us up. And she took the initiative and totally used her job to meet me. She said she wanted to interview me. Now, I had just been interviewed by the Inquirer like three weeks prior but she was like ‘Don’t worry, I’m a columnist, I can do whatever I want.’ So she winds up coming by the studio during a pledge drive. I’m tired and in a t-shirt and didn’t know that this was a set-up. Well, Karen was NOT impressed at all. And then, it turns out her editors told her she couldn’t do the piece after all. So she calls me up to tell me the story is killed and offers to buy me a drink to make it up to me. We wind up meeting at the Tank Bar at Friday, Saturday, Sunday.” And they all lived happily ever after. [AS TOLD TO JONATHAN VALANIA]
TOP FIVE THINGS NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT DAVID DYE BUT ME
1.) David’s middle name is Record. Honest. He’s named after his uncle Ralph Record, who was — wait for it — a journalist.
2. ) He has great legs. Better than mine.
3.) We have agreed to disagree about the Eagles, though we concur on the later stuff. He loves Bob more than Bruce and he knew Bruce from the beginning. I think he is relatively unmoved by U2. From his days at ‘IOQ and the Chestnut Cabaret, he has played and heard enough Motown to last a life time. However, we still worship Marvin Gaye and believe Al Green to be deity.
4.) He plays James Brown at least once every Funky Friday. When he did Sleepy Hollow, he always played Richard Thompson at least once, and usually Bruce Cockburn. I think the first thing that actually impressed him about me was that I love Steve Earle.
5.) In the warmer months, he drinks gin, and I drink vodka. In the winter, he loves single-barrel bourbon and I drink scotch.