RADIO - APRIL 10, 2002

Listeners get something different with Allen’s ‘All Request Saturday Night’

By Chris Wardell

On the air
Catch Larry Allen from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturdays on 94.9 FM.

Chad Dally/City Pulse
Larry Allen has done his radio show for 17 years.

Interviewing 94.9 WMMQ’s Larry Allen wasn’t exactly hard work. In fact, sitting in on his All Request Saturday Night radio show was more than a treat, it was a chance to view a musical Jedi Knight hard at work.

Tucked away in a basement studio that resembles a fall-out shelter more than a classic rock station, Allen is engulfed with music from not only the studio but from his private collection as well. You can barely see the Rolling Stones poster on the wall because of box sets stacked upon box sets and stacks of just about every album from every artist imaginable.

Allen’s show is for everyone — the obsessive and obscurants as well as the usual Saturday night patrons just out to party and have a good time.

For 17 years Allen has supplied the soundtrack to those parties. The station was first started in 1985 by college buddy Fred Jacobs.

The All Request Saturday Night may be the only show in Lansing where you might hear Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, or the ’60s California psychedelic-folk outfit Moby Grape. Along with these artists, Allen usually features extra songs from a particular artist or band. On this evening, Supertramp is the featured band – it’s the birthday of one of the members.
“This is quite an honor really,” Allen said. “It’s unusual to have a show where people can request a song. The likelihood of hearing a song that you’ve requested on another station is probably coincidence.”

Allen’s show is happening at a time where radio station formats are tightly controlled and based largely on record sales. Everyone wants to hear the same hit played over and over, every hour on the hour. It doesn’t change whether it’s the Beatles or the Backstreet Boys.

Allen’s show isn’t like that.

“Everyone has very tight restrictions on formats, and there’s never a change in the menu,” Allen said. “This show kind of offers the listeners a voice in what they want to listen to.”

While discussing artists ranging from the unknown Wishbone Ash to the art rockers Velvet Underground, Allen takes a phone call from someone requesting an Amboy Dukes-era Ted Nugent song.

I make a snickering, rather pompous remark about the Motor City Madman and the obligatory requests Allen gets every Saturday night until the DJ sets me straight.

“Don’t underestimate the people’s tastes,” Allen said. ”When I featured the Velvet Underground a while back, they weren’t calling up and requesting the known songs. They were asking for pretty deep cuts. The audience’s knowledge is pretty vast.”

Admittedly, I kind of like the Amboy Dukes song.
I ask Allen about the one artist, or artists, he loathes playing on his show. He is shy to answer but quietly utters about some artists who get more play than others.

“Obviously, there’s the Styxs, the Bostons, Reo Speedwagon, Peter Frampton — you get tired of hearing those guys after a while,” Allen said. “Every Led Zeppelin cut gets played, but you’ll never hear a Wishbone Ash song.”
The night goes on smoothly with Allen guiding the show as if he has this thing on cruise control.

Allen admits he can’t get all the requests in. “I try and balance the familiar with the lesser known stuff and not totally be in the dark,” he said. “I remember some underground radio stations where for 20 minutes you had no idea what was going on. There has to be a common thread somewhere.”

Getting ready to end the night, I ask, “What are your all-time, top five favorite albums?” Anyone who’s seen the John Cusack movie “High Fidelity” knows that all music geeks must have a top five, but Allen is logical with his answer.

“‘Selling England by the Pound’ by Genesis is probably one of my favorites,” Allen admits. “It’s kind of hard for me to narrow the field when there is just so much good music. But when I’m feeling low, the song ‘The Cinema Show’ off that album always lifts my spirits.”

Before I left the studio, I mentioned that Bob Dylan’s “Blood On The Tracks” and Led Zeppelin’s III are a couple of my all-time top five, and I ask if he could squeeze a couple requests in for me. Allen kindly obliged. As I drove, I listened to both Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm,” and Zeppelin’s “Tangerine,” filling both of my requests.

Larry must have know that I took the long way home.







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