The Good Show's Tom Urquhart: "Robyn Hitchcock Says Music Is Communion, and I Believe That"
Tom Urquhart's Saturday KTCU FM 88.7 radio show, The Good Show, is up for another nomination in this year's Dallas Observer Music Awards, for Best Radio Show. It's exactly what Fort Worth needs a little more of: A vehicle to make their local music scene all the more cohesive and accessible.
Steve Watkins Urquhart in the studio
Urquhart caught my attention recently when he posted he was on the lookout for a job. It wasn't much of a surprise, considering all the job market shake-ups, and radio is certainly no exception. In the process of reaching out, we unintentionally started what became a Q&A for this column. While Urquhart does blow a little horn onstage for an act or two (mainly a really cool Oingo Boingo tribute band), I still felt he worked behind the scenes, and deserved a little light shed on his efforts.
You and I started talking again when I noticed you were looking for full-time work. Is something up at KTCU? What can you tell us?
First of all, I want to clarify something. I haven't been fired from KTCU, not yet at least, hopefully not for a long time to come. In fact, I started replying to this as I was loitering at the studio Sunday night. I don't have an assigned shift then, but I hate hearing the station go off the air before midnight, and I wanted to use the studio while I learned a couple new songs. I am looking for full-time work now. As much as I love being on the air at KTCU, pretty much programming whatever I chose with as little static from management, it doesn't pay well enough to cover all the bills. KTCU is largely a student lab, kind of like other forms of school media, like a newspaper, run by students most of the time. I'm just a hired hand to fill in the gaps, a guy with a feature show on the weekends now.
You've never accepted compensation to host The Good Show, anyway. Correct?
I've never accepted payment from KTCU for hosting our weird little feature show, The Good Show, since it launched back in 2000. Listeners, maybe a venue owner or two, have donated a few bucks here and there over the years, which usually went into printing posters or bought CDs, but haven't been on the payroll for doing the feature show. I do get something slightly higher than minimum wage for covering other folks' shifts during holidays and summertime, which keeps me in beer and slide oil money from time to time.
These are indeed tough financial times for many American families. But there is more than one value system at our disposal. Music is one of them. It may not pay the bills in a timely fashion, but if you let it, it can heal your soul. That's important to me and I'm glad to offer what little piece I can to that venture. Robyn Hitchcock says music is communion, and I believe that with all my heart, probably more so today than ever before.
Your start as a local music fan sort of happened by default, and led you on some endearing Fort Worth adventures early on, I understand?
I wasn't always what folks would call a local music fan, although I grew up with a few local rock heroes. Their bands opened for the better-known acts I gravitated to, usually. But when I started volunteering at KTCU, I was introduced to great local unknowns one after another, to the point I couldn't deny there was something truly special about North Texas, a resource left untapped, eclipsed by imports and cowboy singers, some better than others. As soon as I was old enough I went to shows, snuck in to a few. Didn't know it at the time, but I was crashing some rather famous places: Zeros, The Blue Bird, Blossoms Basement in Fort Worth. Got to see Stevie Ray Vaughan play a birthday party or two in the loft of Mama's pizza on Camp Bowie. Didn't have my first beer until I was a senior in high school, but by then had already seen dozens of great little moments in local music.
It seems like the art and history of what you do, and have experienced, would be widely received if more were able to hear it. Is that a hope or a goal as you look for more to do out there?
I wouldn't exactly call what I do on-air art, but I feel better not relying on the vehicle I do radio work on for a paycheck. It allows me more independence from promoting a brand or agenda I'd rather not, so I figure my prospects in the current DFW commercial market are probably limited as it is for grumpy folks like me. Which is strange, because The Good Show has been nominated again for this year's Dallas Observer Music Awards. Somebody seems to like what I'm doing on this little show on a 10,000-watt station on the far-side of the county line. I feel like we're somehow holding a torch for music fans who like a variety of music, don't mind taking risks tuning in, whatever, on the outpost of DFW. We're like the David on a prairie filled with Goliaths. Besides, who doesn't like a good Cinderella story?
Cinderella stories like The Toadies' first show? You weren't there, but you were right outside, right?
I finally confessed to Lisa and Todd that I missed their first show as The Toadies. Well, not completely missed it. I was there, tailgating in the parking lot before the Lemonheads' set at the Axis Club.I knew Lisa and Todd were in a band, probably seen them play a couple times before. Now they were opening for the band we were planning to be beer-faced for that night. I did hear Lisa's bass through the brick wall of the club, but that doesn't really count. What does count, in my mind, is that I try to never again underestimate the potential for the moment when a local band suddenly becomes subsequently less local.
It wasn't too long before you were doing your own local shows, and even stepping up yourself sometimes and blowing some trombone with the bands.
A few years later, volunteering at KTCU, I started working with local promoters like Melissa Kirkendall (who was close friends with The Toadies at the time, was probably even inside The Axis when they were opining for The Lemonheads), which introduced me to bands like Vibrolux, Legendary Chrystal Chandeliers, and Baboon, which may have lead to the initial spark in adding horn to alive performance outside the conventional. My buddy James Reimer (a couple years later James would travel the globe with a circus known as Polyphonic Spree, playing his horn) managed to get my horn, bring it to one of the shows we were hosting with Mel's help at The Ridglea, and quietly set up the opportunity for me to play trombone during the Baboon set. He did this so quietly that I thought when he paged me to meet him at the stage it was for some quick meet-and-greet thing. But when I got up there and saw Andrew and the lads plugging in, I saw my horn cued up and ready to go behind one of the main speakers. So, during the chaos late in their set, during their song " Bring Me the Head of Jack Skinner," I was ushered out on to a stage in front of a couple thousand cheering fans. In retrospect, doing radio from the safety of a broadcast booth is much easier than playing in front of a couple thousand music fans, although they were very accepting and certainly helped blaze a great memory for me.