s a young adult living in the San Francisco Bay Area in the '80s, KPOV radio host Mike Ficher got to learn all the rock 'n' roll dances: the Hand Jive, the Twist, the Stroll, the Bristol Stomp, the Watusi, the Hully Gully and the Madison, to name a few. Eventually, he became one of the youngest dancers on a local weekly television show, the KOFY TV 20 Dance Party. The show featured adults dancing to the music they listened to as kids growing up in the early '60s—a contemporary "American Bandstand," if you will.
That was Ficher's main introduction to the rock 'n' roll music that he would come to love and share. After the show, he would hang out with the older dancers and listen to stories about the music. Nowadays, Ficher shares those stories with listeners of his syndicated radio show, The Ultimate Oldies Show, airing Friday nights, 6 to 8, on KPOV, 88.9 FM. (The show is rebroadcast on Sundays, 6 to 8 am.)
"I want to make sure that their stories get out there," Ficher says. "I don't want this music to get lost. I want to make sure that not only the music doesn't go away, but the stories behind the songs, which are sometimes more fascinating than the music itself."
Ficher and his wife at the time, Tina, moved to Bend from the Bay Area in 2003 to raise their son before he entered the first grade. He's now a junior at the University of Oregon.
Ficher recalls that back then, he read in the Source about a new community radio station looking for radio shows. He pitched his proposal and went on the air in June of 2005. "I came late to the game," he says. "I wasn't very good when I started. Hopefully, I'm getting better."S
ince July, Ficher's day job has been working as a pricing analyst in the purchasing department at Les Schwab. For five and a half years before that, he worked for Bend Broadband. He has a degree in business management with a minor in journalism from San Francisco State University. Ficher also has been a contributing writer for the Source in years past.
On The Ultimate Oldies Show, he plays the hits but likes to "dig a little deeper and share the stories of the songs." When introducing each song, he also announces the charting information and the name of the record label. He mentions the label name to give older listeners a chance to reminisce and recall what those old 45 rpm labels looked like.
"We don't have a contemporary version of that," he says.
Ficher is a treasure trove of musical lore, telling me how the feedback on The Beatles' "Daytripper" was an accident that happened when John Lennon stuck his guitar in front of an amplifier and Paul McCartney asked producer George Martin if they could keep it in the song.
He also recalls how one-hit wonders The Champs (named after Gene Autry's horse), had 15 minutes of studio time left to use and decided to knock off a ditty they played in their live shows. The song, "Tequila," was first released as a B-side before it became a massive hit, selling more than six million records. And, Ficher recounts, Tommy James and the Shondells were in their New York City studio having trouble coming up with the song that would become "Mony, Mony," when James looked out the window and saw a sign for Mutual of New York.
"Those stories make the music more human," Ficher says. Each show he produces has a theme, and Ficher says he still has a lengthy list of themes yet to do.
Ficher says his favorite decade of music is the 1960s, including The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Phil Spector, Motown, Stax Volt, the psychedelic groove and the British Invasion, along with the influences of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, and the drug culture.
"It's an absolutely stunning wealth of music that came out and it all still sounds great."O
ver the years, Ficher says he's been fortunate enough to interview a number of music insiders, including classic songwriter Jimmy Webb, James of the Shondells, Emilio Castillo from Tower of Power, and the queen of backup singers, Darlene Love, now a headliner in her own right.
Ficher feels it's a no-brainer that most of his listener demographic is older folks, although, "I have had some younger listeners who have gotten in touch with me and said they like the music."
Ficher also keeps busy acting in several local theater groups and is a sportscaster broadcasting local high school games on COTV.
So which medium does he prefer: TV or radio?
"I love both, but radio is the most fun—it's theater of the mind. You're putting visuals into a listener's head."