John Stout starts this night’s KSPC (88.7 FM) broadcast the same way he has for the last three decades: “Good evening and welcome to the show. This is Boss Guy in Claremont with music from the late 50s, 60s, and 70s.” He jumps right in, begins taking requests and sits back to enjoy the music. Pomona’s campus radio station has hosted the The Boss Guy in Claremont show since the fall of 1983, and though much has changed since then, John still lugs eight boxes of records and CDs to the station every Sunday for his show, which lasts from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Afterwards, John hosts the World’s Music Without Boundaries show from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m.). The station’s crew reaches beyond students: Stout is part of a group of community members who fill key slots in the station’s schedule, offering a mix of music — ranging from polka to a show devoted to movie soundtracks — that might not find a home on commercial radio. Here, Stout talks about how it all began, what it’s like to host radio and how it felt to recently reach the milestone of 30 years on the air.
Q: How did you first get involved with KSPC Radio?
“What happened is I met Fred Vogler, he was one of my first customers in my record shop. Him and his buddy would come in, you know, a lot of college students were coming in and buying my used records. We sort of hit up a friendship. After a while he said, why don’t you come down and bring some of your cool records, and I said sure. So I started coming down, and eventually it was, why don’t you go on the air since you know all this stuff and you can talk about it. He kind of just threw me onto the turntable and said all you have to do is turn this, cue up your record like this… and the whole time I’m shaking. I did it and survived and then they gave me a half hour of their two hour show.”
Q: Where does the name “Boss Guy in Claremont” come from?
“In the fall, Fred and I decided to do our own show, originally it was the Two Boss Guys in Claremont. I was trying to find a term that was used in the sixties on Top 40 Radio. Instead of rad or awesome, “boss” would have been the word back in the sixties when you thought something was really cool. Then there was a restaurant called Two Guys from Italy, and I always thought that was funny. I thought, well we’re two guys from Claremont, so that’s how that started. We did the show together for three and a half years. I was going to have to rename the show obviously, so I just said I’d be the Boss Guy in Claremont.”
Q: How do you choose what to play on the show?
“I never plan anything except the first song. I always have something I want to hear right off the bat, and after that it’s just what people request. I sort of wing it, that’s the fun part of it, there’s no rhyme or reason to it. You’re not stuck with a theme. I bring my own stuff and I bring tons of it because I want to be able to maneuver wherever I want to go into all the sub genres. It’s not just rock and roll, it’s folk, country, psychedelic, garage, blues, punk, etc.”
Q: Have you ever missed a show?
“I’ve never missed a show; I’ve not done a show but I’ve had somebody fill in for me. I probably missed a dozen shows in thirty years, and usually that’s because of a concert that was happening on a Sunday. I turned down a lot of things because I’d rather do my show, that just shows you how much I like doing my show.”
Q: Why do you like hosting radio?
“I think it’s just because I love playing music for people. I don’t find myself to be a real social person. Radio is about community, and it’s funny how you can have a persona where people don’t really know who I am. I like talking to people about bands, who was in the bands, and the joy of not having commercials is wonderful. It’s the one thing I enjoy at the end of my week, no matter how good or bad it’s gone; it’s the one refuge. The fact that KSPC has allowed me to do this for 30 years is incredible, and I do just love coming down here. As soon as I get down here I forget everything else, it’s all about what’s the next record going to be. There’s a real joy in that. My favorite thing is just the joy that I know the listeners are getting from the songs I play. That’s what it comes down to, sharing the songs, sharing music. It’s really fascinating that there’s people that really look forward to listening to my show and that makes me happy.”
Q: Who are your listeners?
“In the beginning it was very few college kids. It was the baby boomer age that was a lot of my listeners for a long time. Over time, the kids of the baby boomers are now interested in music, and you find out they’re 15 or 16 but they have an interest in the roots of rock and roll. The community listens to the station quite a bit, and they want to be exposed to music they wouldn’t get elsewhere. There are people out there that have been listening from the get-go and that’s just amazing. That’s dedication, radio is kind of an old thing in some ways, but people will actually sit and listen to all five hours.”
Q: Do you have any good stories from over the years?
“There was one couple, back before all the Internet stuff, these two listeners ended up getting married through my show. Listeners would call in and make a request, so I’d always announce the person’s name. Tom was like, I really like this girl’s requests. Would you mind giving her my phone number? They kept listening and going back and forth and making these requests. She called, they started chatting, and I guess they started dating. I saw them at one of my record shows. It just shows you how it can actually draw people together in that weird way.”
Q: How does it feel to reach your 30th year on the show?
“I’m not nostalgic because I don’t think of the time that went by. Sometimes people remind me by saying what are you doing on your 30th anniversary, and I go, what? I didn’t think about doing anything special for it. It’s nostalgic only when you talk about it, it does seem like ancient history when I start thinking about only turntables and a phone, and you think about how primitive it was, but that was state of the art back then. I never really go backwards, and I never really think forward, it’s just next week, here’s my show. I just take it as it comes. With personnel changes you never know what’s coming down the road, but I feel really fortunate that KSPC has allowed me to do my shows. I want to do it as long as I can do it, until they cart me away or something.”
(Photos by Michelle Chan ’17)