30 years of KJHK: Derek John

When were you involved with KJHK, and what was your role at the station?

I guess I started around 1998 or so. I remember anxiously awaiting to see if I'd been accepted as a Jazz in the Morning DJ, my first gig at the station.

Where are you currently, and what do you do?

I graduated in May 2001 from KU and moved to New York in August of that year looking for greater opportunities. After Sept. 11, which I watched live from my Brooklyn rooftop, I developed an insatiable appetite for news. I dabbled in TV a bit, most notably on Bill Moyers' PBS program, and also tried my hand at print, but I kept coming back to radio.

After a volunteer stint at the local Pacifica community radio station (WBAI) I learned the ropes and eventually managed to score my first freelance story with NPR on Weekend Edition Saturday a couple of years ago. Since then I've been freelancing steadily for a bunch of public radio programs on a variety of cultural topics [search my name at www.npr.org, www.studio360.org, & www.onthemedia.org for examples]. I also do a fair amount of production work for WNYC, New York's flagship NPR station. But it's hard to pay rent only freelancing, so currently I'm a contributing producer on staff at Studio 360, a weekly arts & culture program based out of WNYC that airs nationally. In the meantime, I'm getting my masters at NYU in cultural reporting & criticism in an attempt to hone my skills further. I've kept busy to say the least.

How do you remember your experience at KJHK?

I always tell people that it was by far the best thing I ever did at KU. And it really was. I have fond memories of everything: the music, the people, the hijinks ... in short, the freedom to express yourself through the magical medium of radio. It was an amazing experience.

What were some of the bands you remember playing while at KJHK?

There are too many to remember since I DJed about every format imaginable during my time: Jazz in the Morning, Rock Rotation, Breakfast for Beatlovers; and the special programs Bump & Hustle, Reel Music, and Reel Talk. I do distinctly remember the gradual injection of more beat, electronica, and hip-hop music into the regular mix though during this time. I thought the concept behind Breakfast for Beatlovers was brilliant.

Who do you remember working with and are you still in touch with them?

My main man at the station was DJ Steve Mosher, the founder of Digital Retreat and my co-host on Bump & Hustle. But jazzers Cliff Allen and Seth Mehl were also solid guys. I remember Ramona Denies, who specialized in latin sounds. Ty and Matt Hoerman who were always tireless rock jocks. Curtis, I recall, had the best Beatlovers show. Of course, Steve Yantis, who never seemed to want to leave school. Mean Dean the Metal Machine. Oh, and how could I forget the fellas at Hip Hop Hyp! CGZ, Kareem, Smoke, etc. I know I'm forgetting tons of folks. And finally my current wife, Sabira Taher, who went by the handle "Caramel Delight" and DJed a late night slot with her twin sister who called herself "Brown Sugar."

Do you recall any defining moments in KJHK history while you were with the station?

I remember meeting Jurassic 5 when they came up to the shack, I remember constantly showing up late for my 6am jazz shift, kicking back late at night with my girlfriend/wife-to-be, hanging with crazy Cliff Allen and his 12-pack of Fat Cat beer, the first couple of Wax Clashes, installing the KJHK booth at the Union, and just cruising around Lawrence listening to the station at any and all hours of the day. And of course the often hilarious monthly station meetings with the diverse consituency that was the jocks, exec staff, Gary Hawke, etc. - great stuff.

Do you have any interesting KJHK stories?

It was interesting every moment I was ever there. (sorry, my memory's already going...)

What impact (if any) did KJHK have on what you're doing now?

Quite a bit, actually. Number one, it helped me come out of my shell.

Number two I grew so much more sophisticated as a listener and appreciator of music. Number three, my long hours as production director were invaluable in helping me prepare for my current work in public radio. It's not like I planned it that way but that's how it seems to have turned out.


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