WPKN Archives: Snap, Crackle, POP! with Alec Cumming

Show details: Snap, Crackle, POP! with Alec Cumming

I’m a child of the early sixties who grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a scrappy town that reminds me in many ways of Bridgeport, which has been my home base since 2015. With the help of my two older and beloved sisters, as we grew up together in the 1960s, the most exciting and adventurous decade for music in our lifetimes, I developed a sweet tooth for “snappy” (think: crisp new wave), “crackly” (think: old-vinyl-friendly) and “poppy” music (think: music that combines melodic hooks, art, and unabashed catchiness mixed sometimes with adventure, curiosity, angst and abrasiveness, and maybe more than a little nostalgia and melancholy). The Beatles were and still are a “ground zero” of sorts, my alpha and omega. Their melodic gifts and restless experimentation are at my very core. In 1979, when punk and new wave was really thriving in the U.K. and slowly starting to take hold in the U.S, I started to attend Syracuse University for TV and Radio, and that moment in music still resonates deeply with me.

I would best describe my life’s journey since then an uneasy balancing of two obsessions: broadcasting and music. I caught the “broadcasting bug” in the mid-70s, craftily sneaking into any TV and radio studios I could, hopelessly in love with the art, production and “glamor” of all the blinking lights on the gadgets, and on all those behind the mike and camera. (I was too shy and full of self-doubt to actually think I could be the guy BEHIND the microphone. When my daughter Julia hears me on WPKN now, she says “dad, you obviously should have been doing radio ALL YOUR LIFE.” She’s right. But thankfully, I have decided it’s never too late to start; ergo, I did my first on-air shift here in 2016.)

Meanwhile, as I started my career in television post-production in the 1980s – writing and producing TV promos, at this point living in New York City – I also spent years in bands as a bassist and songwriter. (You can check out my Soundcloud page if that intrigues you in the slightest: https://bit.ly/3cFDR69) I still play bass and guitar now, mainly for fun, but would like to return to serious songwriting again, maybe even release an album; we’ll see. Meanwhile, as all this was happening, I acquired a relentlessly curious mind about the historical details for the makings of both broadcasting and music. My mind works that way, for some reason! I am something of a broadcast historian, having extensively helped out NBC as an archivist and researcher, and I compiled and wrote a book in 2013 for Arcadia Publishing called “New York City Radio”. And I’ve also written liner notes for Rhino Records, most notably for their acclaimed 1998 Burt Bacharach box set, which I served as the associate producer for. (The “three Bs” for me are The Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Burt Bacharach. Or is that 5 Bs?)

If you get around to checking out my show on WPKN, you may note I have an enthusiastic if imperfect ability to remember anecdotes about when and how certain songs were written, recorded and released. (Again, my mind works in mysterious ways.) That’s a BIG part of the Snap Crackle POP! ethos; I go DEEP into the backstory of how and when the music I play got made. Sometimes I worry I overdo that part. My hero of heroes, in term of radio deejays, is the now-mainly-retired Vin Scelsa, who was (a) also a talkative chap who (b) for many years was a freeform DJ at WFMU, WABC-FM, WNEW-FM and later WFUV. As I play my mixture of oldies, newies and obscurities, I feel I am aiming at what Vin was doing, although I am nowhere near him in terms of grace, humanity and radio expertise. Anyway, I cannot begin to express my gratitude to WPKN for giving me a wonderful platform that allows me to develop such a skill – a meeting ground of music, broadcasting, and human-to-human communication with a dollop of hippie-punk idealism and unpredictability. Finding this station, and being welcomed and encouraged by its wonderful community of programmers and fans, has been an absolute blessing in my life.

I currently work as a freelance television writer and producer for CBS News… mainly I do on-air promotion for them, but more recently I have done newswriting at CBS Evening News, which I’m very grateful for. I would like to do more “straight” newswriting as opposed to promo writing/producing, but at the end of the day I’m grateful to stay employed in a rapidly changing (and shrinking) business. Broadcasting, creating and writing are still in my blood, for better and worse. I have more broadcast history-related projects underway, I have more music and writing in me, and now I have my beloved WPKN shows as well. I seriously want to become a better, “tighter” and more entertaining programmer, especially as I believe broadcasting is an honor and a privilege. I am currently the station's Music Director.

Thanks for reading this far!! I should also mention that I am the extremely proud father to Julia Cumming. She is the lead singer and bassist for the band Sunflower Bean, and she’s also a model and political activist. She is an AMAZING young woman and an inspiration for me to do better – to be a good Dad, a good citizen, and to keep on living and breathing music.

Lastly, I do not consider “pop music” a pejorative term. It is art, it is often beautiful, and it tells us much about ourselves. It is a story, often joyous, unfolding. THAT’s what Snap Crackle POP! is about.

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