Radio Free Charleston has finally reached its 200th episode, and it does so in a grand manner with four never before seen performances by the area’s top bands, plus animation, short films and more. Your host, Rudy Panucci, presents songs from Farnsworth, The Laser Beams, HarraH and The Velvet Brothers. There is a short film from Frank Panucci, a movie trailer from Jake Fertig and the first new animation featured on RFC from Third Mind Incarnation since 2007.
This episode of the show is called “Blues Brothers Shirt,” named after a shirt which your host received as a gift from his new wife, Melanie Larch, the day after they got married less than four weeks ago. This milestone episode of the show is a monument to procrastination. If I had continued producing Radio Free Charleston at the pace that I did between 2009 and 2012, we would have hit episode 200 last November. I wanted to make the show really special and came up with grandiose plans and panicked as the date approached.
As a stalling tactic, I created the RFC Mini Show. This would allow me to slow production of the full length episodes down to one per month or less while I figured out what I was going to do. It turns out that The RFC Mini Show has taken on a life of its own and the format of featuring two songs by a single band is very popular. My original plan of retiring The RFC MINI SHOW with episode fifty has been scrapped, and now the plan is to roughly alternate between full episodes of Radio Free Charleston and episodes of The RFC MINI SHOW.
The RFC MINI SHOW turned out to be a very good idea, because it allowed me to keep cranking out at least some version of the show while delaying the inevitable arrival of episode 200.
Which is a good thing, because my original plan for Radio Free Charleston 200 was not even remotely practical and crashed and burned like a flaming toy zepplin. Originally, I wanted to take the singers from popular area bands and switch them around to perform one-off songs. While this may sound like a very entertaining idea, logistically, it makes as much sense as trying to assemble a wristwatch with your tongue. It’s simply too much to ask bands to break up and re-assemble and properly rehearse songs that will only be performed once. I had a few bands interested in it and it would have made for some killer performances but it was just not logistically possible. Some of the bands who expressed interest may still wind up doing a scaled-down version of this idea on a future episode of the show.
My second idea was to take old songs that were popular in the days of the Radio Free Charleston radio program and have them covered by newer bands who have made their name in the video era of RFC. I’ve always loved it when bands in the local scene cover each other’s songs. Again, this was a truly wonderful idea yet also a logistical nightmare. It is quite an imposition to ask a band to learn and rehearse and record a song that they have never heard before.
As outrageous a favor as this was to ask, two bands actually came through for me. The Laser Beams covered a Go Van Gogh song while HarraH took on a Three Bodies tune. The results were tremendous fun and we are proud to bring you those two performances as part of episode 200.
Go Van Gogh was one of the most-popular bands of the original Radio Free Charleston era. With rock-solid songwriting, great musical chops and loads of charisma, the two teams of brothers that made up the band became frequent guests in the RFC studio and remain good friends to this day.
Stephen Beckner and Mark Beckner, currently of The Nanker Phelge, share the songwriting credits for “Shut Up, I Love You,” which was the most-requested local song on the old RFC radio show, and I thought that it was a perfect fit for The Laser Beams.
The Laser Beams sprang up as the backing band for The Wayward Girls School of Burlesque. When Pepper Fandango teamed up with her fellow Wayward Girl (and guy), Cat Schrodinger and Leo Tuxedo, they gelled as a band and created the amazing tribute song and video about West Virginia’s Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey. They eagerly learned the song and came into The Empty Glass to record it for me.
Go Van Gogh’s version of “Shut Up, I Love You” can be seen on episode 14 of RFC.
“Shingles and Tar” is not a song that was actually played on the old RFC radio show. It was written after we went off the air, but Three Bodies, the band that recorded it, ranked with Go Van Gogh as one of the top bands in town back in the day. In 1992 Three Bodies booked studio time to record four demos, and asked Spencer Elliott and me to produce the sessions. My main job was to get the band ready before we went in the studio, so I managed to get us into The Empty Glass on a Saturday morning, where the band practiced their four songs for six hours, one day before we hit the studio.
With lyrics by Jon (Kris) Cormany and music by Kris and Brian Young and Brian Lucas, “Shingles and Tar” was my favorite tune of what was a great batch of demo recordings. We featured a music video for Three Bodies’ version way back on episode three.
I thought the song would be perfect for HarraH, Charleston’s masters of metal who are currently preparing to triumphantly reintroduce themselves to the world after what has been a pretty lousy year. We brought the band into The Blue Parrot, where they tore through the song in two takes. This is the first recording of the band with their new second guitar, Josh Blair, and to be honest, they have never sounded better. By the end of the year, HarraH will be a force to be reckoned with on the local music scene.
I was able to pull off getting these two cool cover songs for our milestone episode. However, the juggling act of producing what is essentially a weekly program while planning a top secret trip to Chicago to get married and writing a very popular (and now imitated) pop culture blog on a daily basis, plus taking care of other professional commitments left me a couple of songs short of a full show.
This is not the first time people have said that about me.
Luckily, I had also taken on the assignment of producing a Beat Club-style music video for the band Farnsworth. The guys in the band wanted something special and retro for their debut vinyl release. They specifically wanted their video in the old standard definition aspect ratio.
With their permission, I created an alternate widescreen version, which is exclusive to Radio Free Charleston. It’s the same performance, but a drastically different edit of their song, “20 Days.”
This left me with one more song to finish the show and luckily, the heavens opened up and rained their musical manna down upon me when I learned that The Velvet Brothers were going to reunite and play a show at Bruno’s in early September. The Velvet Brothers were the first full band that I featured performing live on the Radio Free Charleston radio show way back in 1989. The studio wasn’t big enough to hold the entire band, so we ran cables all over the building with the drummer in the hallway, the bass player in the production studio, and the keyboard player in the newsroom. With the guitarist and vocalist in the FM studio with me, they managed to create magic live on the air for about twenty minutes at three o’ clock in the morning.
So the chance to feature one of the bands that was so strongly tied to the origins of Radio Free Charleston was too great to pass up. We are proud to feature The Velvet Brothers, all eight of them, playing us out on our 200th episode with their original song, “All I Know.” It was an incredible night and I don’t recall ever seeing Bruno’s so packed. It was the my first time shooting video from a Lounge mosh pit while straddling a palm tree.
Our musical peformances for this episode would not have been possible without the huge amount of help from many folks. Eric Meadows, Voice of Appalachia Radio and WVSU EDC made the Farnsworth video possible. Jason “Roadblock” Robinson, The Empty Glass and Chris Chaber enabled us to record The Laser Beams. Tom Crouse and The Blue Parrot played host to us for the HarraH shoot, which was the final piece of the puzzle. We also want to thank Bruno’s for not kicking us out when we showed up to record The Velvet Brothers (and for the great cheeseburger).
We are also proud, if that’s the word, to feature a moving short film by Frank Panucci. Frank is, of course, my brother and an RFC Big Shot who has contributed to every episode of the show. His film is a subtle, deep meditation on the recent changes in healthcare in this country and our role in the new world economy and how man affects the planet.
Jake Fertig and his Vandalia Studios have been part of the RFC animation corps for about a year now, letting us bring you episodes of “The Flocking” and other cool stuff, and he was planning to give us a big animated special for episode 200, but he had another big production that was rush-released on September 3, and with a new daughter taking up his time, we decided not to chain him back to the animation table yet. Luckily, the multi-talented Mr. Fertig has yet another cool project in the works, a feature film, and he let us include the trailer for “The Feast of Flies” in RFC 200.
One of the controversies early in the run of Radio Free Charleston was the major tiff between me and the creator of Pentagram Flowerbox, an animated series that we ran on the show. The exchanges got so heated that we simply went our separate ways and I excised his work from the program. I always regretted that things ended so poorly, due mainly to poor communication on my part.
A few years ago, the person in question took ill and passed away. On his deathbed he expressed regrets over the nastiness and said it would be okay to restore his cartoons to the show and use previously-unseen shorts. The only condition is that his real name not be used. So these are credited to Third Mind Incarnation. I don’t think it’s violating his wishes to point out that the actual animation was done by RFC Big Shot, Brian Young. We bring you two cartons starring the Monkeyshines Car Wash crew in this episode.
That’s pretty much the story of Radio Free Charleston 200 and why I’m so glad to have it in my rear-view mirror. I think we put together a great show for you and now I can settle into a routine where maybe we start producing the show on a more regular basis.
I also have to take a moment to thank my lovely wife and co-producer (and RFC Big Shot), Melanie Larch, without who this show probably would not have made it past five episodes. She sings on most of the jingles, runs camera for the musical performances and has shot 90% of the host segments on the show. Just last month, we (finally) got married, and we look forward to continuing to produce Radio Free Charleston as a married couple.
If you listen carefully in the outro, you will hear me mention when I will stop doing the show. I hope that this Earth-shattering news doesn’t devastate too many of our fans. You have to realize that I can’t do RFC forever.