24 Years of Rock N Soul
Gospel At WCWP
By Bert Saraco
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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.