Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Boogie Monster and other adventures....

At the end of May 1986, the Air Force transferred me from San Antonio, Texas, to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where for the 1st time in my 3-year AF career I was finally gonna get the chance 2 write 4 a real base newspaper.
To celebrate, my then-wife & I took a 2-week "great circle" tour thru the Plains & the Intermountain West -- across west Texas, thru New Mexico & Arizona, then north up thru Arizona & Utah, across southern Idaho 2 see our folks in Boise, then back east across Idaho & thru the wilds of Wyoming 2 Cheyenne.
We stopped at every National Park we could find along the way -- the Grand Canyon (which is really stunning), Bryce Canyon (which isn't really a canyon), Zion (which was as awesome & as much like going 2 church as Grand), Craters of the Moon, Yellowstone, etc.
By the time we got 2 Yellowstone we were pretty tired & pretty bored with the whole thing: "What, another scenic climax...?"
When we finally got 2 my new base -- Francis E. Warren AFB on the western outskirts of Cheyenne, then the biggest intercontinental ballistic missile base in the country -- the folks at FEW put me & the Mrs. in temporary housing til we found somewhere 2 live. Their temporary housing was more like a huge cabin -- over a hill from the main base, down by a creek, surrounded by trees, quiet -- like still being on vacation.
The cabin had all the essentials -- beds, couches, TV, radio, kitchen, etc. Naturally, I turned on the stereo the 1st evening 2 C what kinda music I'd B forced 2 put up with in Cheyenne. I was dreading that it might all B Country, something like being back home in Idaho.
Instead, 1 of the 1st stations I found was (I think) KOA AM outta Denver, playing some rare R&B track from the early '60s. & then the DJ came on. He called himself The Boogie Monster.
At 1st I thot he was some kinda 2nd-rate Wolfman Jack -- same deep voice, same kinda jive come-on, a little cheezy, in a good way. But soon I realized he wasn't 2nd-rate at all. The stuff he played I'd never heard anywhere B4. & he sure had a lotta fun with it.
In fact, it soon Bcame clear that listening 2 The Boogie Monster was like some kinda lunatic had escaped from the asylum & locked himself in2 the studio with a pile of ABSOLUTELY GREAT previously forgotten records, & he was gonna play EVERY ONE OF 'EM, & you were gonna LOVE ALL OF THEM. & that's how it was gonna B 'til the police kicked down the door.
Now here's the catch: I don't remember 4 sure ANY of the stuff he played. I didn't keep any lists like that back then. I know it was all great. I think I mighta heard Brewer & Shipley's brilliant "Witchi-Tai-To" 4 the 1st time on his show, & some long but intriguing number by a short-lived late-'60s "supergroup" called Sweet Thursday. But I might B wrong. It mighta bn some other syndicated "forgotten oldies" show.
I know I listened 2 The Boogie Monster sevral times during the 3 years we lived in Cheyenne. But I know I also kinda took him 4 granted, figuring he'd always B there, & that I'd always B around (I told LOTS of people I'd stay in Wyoming til I retired if the AF would let me), that I'd have plenty of time 2 listen 2 more at my leisure. But it didn't Xactly work out that way.
Besides, I had other things on my mind, like how 2 write in English for an Air Force newspaper, how 2 run the whole thing myself, how to write, photograph, layout, & distribute the thing all over the base on Friday morning. Usually alone. Sometimes in 2 feet of snow.
Sometimes I had help. I invited 1 of my co-workers & his wife over 2 the house 4 dinner in an effort 2 make the office/work atmosphere more comfortable. Then I stumbled over the issue of What Music To Play? My co-worker & his wife were rather fundamentalist Christians, & I had no gospel or sacred music in the house. But I wanted something that rocked a LITTLE.
So I tried 2 turn them on 2 Fairport Convention -- which they said was "too morbid." That'll teach me 4 starting out with "I'll Keep it With Mine." Shoulda opened with "Listen, Listen," or "Come All Ye." Or maybe tried something else instead. The Moody Blues? Hey, if they wanted morbid, I shoulda put on Nick Drake. Or I coulda played King Crimson & just scared 'em the hell outta the house....
We also hadda couple of broadcasters in the Public Affairs Office (at 1 point we had 3, Ghod knows why), & they moonlighted with off-duty jobs at local radio stations. 1 of 'em invited me 2 drop in on him while he worked at 1a the local Album Rock stations.
So I drove over 1 nite after work & watched him do his thing as "Steve Cheyenne" on the air 4 a coupla hrs. It was pretty cool. We both cracked up about how obvious his on-air name was, & we were both frustrated by how tight the station's playlist was -- because the ramshackle studios were CRAMMED with albums -- there was vinyl piled & scattered EVERYWHERE. It was a freakin treasure-house of tunes & there were only maybe 200 songs on the station's playlist.
Just being IN the station was cool, especially at nite -- it was not at all the brightly-lit high-tech place I Xpected -- in fact, the rundown dark-shadows condition of the place was almost an Xact match 4 the station described in Gregory Nicoll's spooky 1989 horror story "Dead Air," 1 of my horror faves.
While I was in Cheyenne, a co-worker dragged me along 2 a writers' workshop in Denver, where I got 2 meet a couple of my favorite science fiction writers, Edward Bryant & Connie Willis. I found out that pro writers put their pants on just like every1 else. I raved 2 Bryant how knocked-out I'd been by his great Wyoming story, "Strata." I was pretty incoherent tho, probly sounded like an idiot. He said only a couple of people had ever noticed that story before....
Tho there was some job-related stress, I didn't realize til later that I was Living The Good Life. The X & I were no longer homesick 4 Idaho (like we had been in Texas), & despite the brutally cold winters, Wyoming was pretty great. We were pretty happy. Our son was born in Cheyenne in 1988.
But I made the mistake of telling 2 many people I'd stay permanently. & the AF sent me 2 Ankara, Turkey, at the end of 1989. That was also an adventure, but it's a whole diffrent story.
When I left Cheyenne, The Boogie Monster was still on the air. But I've never been back there, or NEwhere close 2 Denver, so I don't know if he's still on the air 20+ years later & still crankin out those great forgotten tunes. In these days of the Internet where nothing is ever forgotten, The Boogie Monster doesn't have a Wikipedia page, & I'm not even sure I got the KOA call-letters right.
But I remember. Sort of. I remember....

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