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Grandfather Rocks!
24 Years of Rock N Soul Gospel At WCWP
By Bert Saraco

Flashback: May, 1968 – Years before the world would hear Robin Williams shout “Good morning, Viet Nam!” a young serviceman in Southeast Asia breaks into the airwaves for the beginning of what would be a 23 month-long stint at the Armed Forces Radio Network’s KCGN.

Back in the real world, in June of 1978, that young man finds himself once again behind a microphone – this time at WHME radio in South Bend, Indiana – a long way from Saigon.

Six months pass, and a New York radio station in Babylon, Long Island, changes format and becomes a Christian talk and music channel: WNYG. From Viet Nam to Babylon, the radio days of Chris MacIntosh, aka Grandfather Rock, were just beginning. 
Although he might’ve looked less grandfatherly 24 years ago, MacIntosh brought to Greenvale, New York’s WCWP a wealth of knowledge of not only ‘Christian’ music, but of rock, folk and soul as well, giving birth to the show’s original name, ‘Rock n Soul Gospel.’
The WCWP studios are located on the grounds of C.W. Post College, broadcasting at 88.1 on the FM band.  Grandfather Rock has been hosting an eclectic mix of spiritually oriented music of various genres at WCWP for almost two and a-half decades – as a matter of fact, September 16 of this year marks his 24-year anniversary at the station. 

From vinyl LPs to cassettes, to CDs…Through punk, metal, hip-hop and the other trends that have come and gone, one thing has remained in place for 24 years: Rock & Soul Gospel, hosted by Chris MacIntosh – now more readily known as “Grandfather Rock.” Through the years, the show has evolved from a mainline CCM format to the premier radio source for under-the-radar treasures by some of the most talented, but often unheard, artists around today. It’s not unusual to hear talented local artists in-studio, often being coaxed into live performances, and Grandfather Rock’s collection of independent label CDs is impressive, indeed.

“…No, you’re never too old to rock & roll.” …. Tull was right!

I asked Grandfather Rock twelve questions – one for every other year of his time at WCWP (ok, ok – that wasn’t really my formula - I could only come up with twelve good questions!):

How Has Your Show Changed In 24 Years?
Grandfather Rock: The biggest way that the show has changed in the 24 years it has been on is in the outlook of the program. I am not concerned with evangelizing or proselytizing, I just want to do a good radio show that a listener would enjoy and an artist would be proud to have their material played on.

How Has ‘Christian Music’ Changed In 24 Years?
Grandfather Rock: Christian music has changed drastically. Not only is the production value as good as or in some cases better than mainstream product but also the artists are writing better material. At least the independent artists are, the artists tied to the "Christian" labels still have to fit a certain profile. For the most part they are looked on as ministers first and musicians secondly. I think in some cases that are doing a disservice to the individual. They may not be called to be a preacher or a great theologian, but they might be an excellent poet or composer.

What Will You Not Play On Your Show?
Grandfather Rock: I will not play what is commonly referred to as worship & praise music. It's a radio show not a church service and although all of the artists that I play are Christians, I don't even consider it to be a Christian program. The emphasis is on putting out a great program. 
If You Could Interview Only One Figure In ‘Christian Music’ – One Guest – Who Would It Be?
Grandfather Rock: The one person I would love to sit down and interview right now would be Dave Bainbridge of the band Iona. I think that they are one of the best, most intelligent bands around.

What’s Out Now That We’ll Still Listen To 24 Years From Today?
Grandfather Rock: The list goes on & on but a shortlist would include: Terry Taylor, Mike Roe, Derri Daugherty, Pierce Pettis, Ashley Cleveland, Phil Keaggy, Over The Rhine, Bill Mallonee, Kerry Livgren & Neil Morse.

What Was Your Worst Moment On Radio?
Grandfather Rock: My worst radio moment came about 26 years ago while I was working at a small sunrise to sunset station that specialized in 15 minute preaching shows. It was early on a Saturday morning; I opened up the station and turned on all of the equipment. Al least I thought I did, I forgot to hit one button. It was the button though that allowed to signal to go out over the air. Everything inside the station was working fine but when you turned the radio on there was dead air. Actually it took almost 4 hours before someone called and complained about it.

What Was Your Best Moment On Radio?
Grandfather Rock: My best moment, that's easy. During the first Gulf War a women called and asked to dedicate a song to her husband who was overseas involved in the fighting. She was taping it and would send it to him. She had picked WCWP because she couldn't get through to any of the big stations in the city. I didn't have the song that she asked for, so I asked if she would trust me to pick a good one for them. I chose "Nowhere Else" by the 77's from the "Sticks And Stones" album. After the song ended she called back in tears saying it was the best song that she had ever heard and was just what she needed. It's moment like that, that make it all worthwhile.

Why Has ‘Christian Music Radio’ Generally Not Been Successful?
Grandfather Rock: Contemporary Christian Music has not been, for lack of a better term, successful because it tends to deal with only the happy side of life and that only if you are an evangelical Christian. Life is not always happy and peppy and bursting with love. Sometimes it just flat out sucks! To deny that is to deny the reality of our life as believers in Christ. Just as much as we need the happy encouraging stuff we also need at times to sing the blues. People in pain and turmoil for whatever reason tend to create great art.

Who Are Five Pivotal Artists Of The Past 24 Years?
Grandfather Rock:  The five artists who I feel have been pivotal or influential during the life of this particular program have been: Terry Taylor, Jeff Johnson, Ashley Cleveland, The 77's and of course the late Mark Heard. Mark's song "Victims of The Age" forever changed my idea of what Christian music could and should be.

Who’s Coming Up Strong?
Grandfather Rock: The short list would include: Sam Ashworth, Sarah Lentz, Annie Quick, Timbre, Salem Hill, Maeve. There are just so many.

What’s Next?
Grandfather Rock: Next is to just keep on keeping on. As long as the radio station will allow me the time and there is good music to play I will be there.

Are You A Grandfather?
Grandfather Rock: Not yet, but many of my church kids have adopted me and put me in that role. So until the real thing comes along I am totally content. 

On September 16, 2006, Grandfather Rock will be celebrating 24 years on the radio at WCWP. Web radio WCWP will host a 24-hour marathon program from midnight to midnight. Part of the day will involve a live remote broadcast from Long Island’s Sam Ash music store featuring musical sets by Sarah Lentz, Spinoza, and Rhett Tyler (4 – 7PM, EST). Later that evening, at around 9 PM, Koo Chung will be in the studio to perform live. Each hour of the marathon is being underwritten at $100 an hour, with 100% of the money raised going to a local charity called “Bridges of Long Island,” a group that helps men who’ve recently been released from prison, re-orient into society. MacIntosh’s goal is to raise $4,800.


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