When it comes to the success of the Listen Project (and success is surly a subjective concept here), there is no way that I would have been able to put together and present all of the music from our shared past without Jim Benson. For over 20 years, Jim WAS the Local Artists Show on WBWC 88.3, Baldwin Wallace College’s (now University’s) radio station starting back when one needed to park a car in the student union parking lot next to the station so you could hear a show. He hosted hundreds of artists and bands and managed to capture the full richness of the NE Ohio music scene for two hours each week. Certainly, my band would not have received airplay without Jim’s belief that we had a good record and his willingness to play it. Jim also was a contributor and co-host for Inner Sanctum, the Sunday night local music show on the old WENZ 107.9 “The End” when that station played great music. He served three terms as President of the old Cleveland Music Group, a non-profit organization created in the late 1980’s to promote the NE Ohio music scene at events such as the College Music Journal’s Music Marathon in NYC, the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas and the Undercurrents event held here in Cleveland for a number of years in the 1990’s. Jim also managed Youngstown, Ohio’s Ivet bringing that band to the verge of a major record deal before the usual rock and roll “influences” caused them to flame out.
Jim stepped away from the local music scene in the 2000’s but his love for NE Ohio music has never wavered. I knew immediately when I started the Listen Project that I had to have Jim on-board. His music archive is incredibly comprehensive and spans the period of time on which the Project focuses, and his encyclopedic mind has forgotten more about the local scene that probably any of us can really remember. We’ve been in and out of contact over the years, but social media has allowed us to really stay in touch over the past decade which is surprising because the man doesn’t event have a cell phone and I’m pretty sure he hates the concept of digital music outside of the compact disc.
This month’s podcast is the podcast I really intended to do out of the gate. It took some work to get Jim to agree to go back “on air” so to speak. Originally, it was a solid, “No. Too much work” so I decided to go outside of my normal comfort zone and press on. I had a glimmer of hope when he accepted an invitation to help co-host a local music marathon on WBWC this past July 4th as part of the station’s annual summer marathon series. Of course, I had to show up and see Jim back in those studios behind the mike where he belongs. So I waited…in the weeds and asked him out of the blue in October to co-host my monthly podcast with me in December. Jim picked the songs (including what would have been the first single on Ivet’s never released major label debut) and the playlist order. After a false start due to technical difficulties, we completed this podcast from the comfort of his kitchen.
My sincere hope is to get Jim to do three or four of these a year with me. It really is fascinating to hear his take on the golden age of the NE Ohio scene. I’d be nowhere without the access to his music collection that he’s given me. I hope you enjoy what is the longest podcast the Listen Project has produced to date and if you want to hear Jim Benson more frequently, drop a comment below or at our Facebook page.
The Listen Project – December Podcast
“I’m A Rocker” – Raspberries (from Pop Art Live)
“Dance the Night Away” – Exotic Birds
“Just Got a New Guitar” – Ronald Koal & the Trillionaires
“Devil or Angel” – Nation of One
“Let’s Face the Music & Dance” – Pony Boys
“Metro Metro” – System 56
“Red Light” – Indian Rope Burn
“Wash Away” – The Jellybricks
“Winona” – Rotary Ten
“We’re One for the Show” – Anna Nausea
“Play the Game” – In Fear of Roses
“Supersonic” – Paranoid Lovesick
“My Backyard” – The Walk-Ins
“Pin Your Head to the Drywall” – Nation of Teflon Souls
“This Is Supposed to Be Fun” – Sosumi
“World on a String” – My Dad is Dead
“Big World” – Terrible Parade
“Sidewalk Paths” – Jehova Waitresses
“Bust Some Skulls” – Bluto’s Revenge
“Final Solution” – Pere Ubu
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Euclid Beach Band
“Grindrod” – Ivet