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Local sounds hit home

Music brought them together; now they face each other over a soundboard every Saturday, pouring local tunes onto the airwaves during "Hometown Sounds." On one side sits Scott Johnson, Superior musician and businessman. On the other is Ted Elm, pr...

WWJC
Scott Johnson of Superior, left, chats with local singer/songwriter James Moors, right, as Ted Elm, center, looks on during a taping of "Hometown Sounds" Saturday afternoon in the WWJC studio at the foot of the Oliver Bridge in Gary, Minn. The show, which features area musicians live on air, is in its third year of production and has created the springboard for a new music festival in July. (Maria Lockwood)

Music brought them together; now they face each other over a soundboard every Saturday, pouring local tunes onto the airwaves during "Hometown Sounds." On one side sits Scott Johnson, Superior musician and businessman. On the other is Ted Elm, president and manager of WWJC radio, 850 AM.

With Johnson's co-host, Kyle Mellum, and guests ranging from solo folk artists to six-piece rock bands, the show offers something unique.

"What I like about the show is it's local, it's live and it features musicians from all different genres," Elm said.

The family-friendly program also provides a bridge between musicians and listeners.

"It gives local performers a place to be heard," said Johnson, who is also a member of the band Arcadia.

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Superior singer/songwriter James Moors, a returning guest, said prior to taping Saturday that the live interviews are enjoyable, and provide a nice service.

Minutes later, he launched into a catchy new tune, "Virginia."

Elm sat smiling and nodding his head to the music, occasionally tweaking a setting on the sound board. Across the partition from him, Scott Johnson kept up a cheerful banter, discussing songs and gigs with Moors and occasionally dropping the names of local businesses - Culver's Restaurant, Pizza Man, RE/MAX 1 and his own Northwoods Music.

"I like to keep it simple, keep it real," Elm said. "Hometown Sounds" does just that.

When Johnson first mentioned to the station manager that he had thought about doing a live radio program - similar to that in the television show "Frasier" - Elm, whose daughter was taking guitar lessons from Johnson, was interested.

"He wanted something fresh for the station," Johnson said.

They settled on local music as the format, and "Hometown Sounds" was born.

"At the beginning I was trusting Scott knew what he was talking about," Elm said.

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Johnson admitted he was terrified the first time he sat behind the microphone.

"I didn't think it would last a year," he said. Instead, WWJC listeners embraced the show, now in its third year. During the last taping of 2009, the hosts began giving away tickets to this summer's inaugural Northwood's Music Fest, to be held at Barker's Island on July 17. They gave away 28 tickets during the hour-long show, which averages to one call every two minutes.

"They were listening, waiting and wanting to participate," Johnson said.

When you're live on air, just about anything can happen. Johnson gets tongue-tied once In a while. One day, he started his live show the same time a taped show began to play.

"There were double Scotts," he said with a laugh.

But the Superior man has learned to enjoy improvising.

"Part of live radio is being a little bit edgy, raw," Elm said, and that energizes the show as well as those participating.

The station manager has been impressed with the music he's heard, the majority of which is folk rock.

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"It's pretty cool," Elm said. He recalled one performer who did nine things at once - from playing harmonica and a number of electronic devices to singing.

The well of local talent to tap for "Hometown Sounds" is, Johnson said, "almost endless." The Twin Ports is a hub for gifted singers and songwriters - from folk rock and blues to Christian and heavy metal.

"They do it because they love it," he said.

"Hometown Sounds" airs from 3-4 p.m. every Saturday on WWJC. Johnson encouraged people to give it a try.

"You're going to end up listening to an hour of real original, real pleasant music," he said, homegrown and live. "It reminds me of when rock was starting."

Related Topics: MUSIC
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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