A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
The cover of a new mix CD by Little Rock crew the A-Team DJs shows a cartoon of Mr. T crushing the head of someone wearing a Hot 96.5 FM and Power 92 FM tag. It might be an extreme example, but it's telling: Musicians here rarely get support from local radio.
Enter Roy D. Doyle and Jeff Riggs. For going on a year, the two have hosted “Arkansas Showcase,” a two-hour local music and call-in show every Friday from noon until 2 p.m. on KABF 88.3 FM. (Full disclosure: I've had a late-night show on KABF for years). It's not the first to give Arkansas acts attention. KABF has featured several. Hot 96.5, too. But where those shows have focused on specific genres — rap, punk, indie — “Arkansas Showcase” resists classification. The criteria for airplay, according to Doyle, are simply: “got to be original, got to be clean and got to be good.”
When Doyle and Riggs say they play all genres, they're not just giving lip service to an equal opportunity ideal. Two weeks ago, when I was a guest on their show, they featured Searcy rocker Jason Greenlaw (who was also an in-studio guest); teen country duo Nik and Sam; North Little Rock-based Cameroonian rapper Le Kid, who raps in French and who Doyle and Riggs say is one of their most requested artists; Northwest Arkansas pop aspirant Lauren De Miranda, and Machina, the new post-grunge project from several former members of Evanescence.
Doyle, 51, and Riggs, 39, aren't the most likely candidates to carry the torch for local music. The pair met 10 years ago at American Express, where they each worked as a financial advisor. As part of their job, they created short promo spots for radio stations, which blossomed into full-on financial and community-oriented talk shows for KLRG and, later, KLRN. That on-air partnership led the two to create R&D Promotions, a now defunct company through which they hoped to help local musicians gain national exposure. They came close to making a few deals, but nothing panned out. One industry insider told them Arkansas “has the best music that no one will ever hear.”
That sounded like a challenge to the pair, so they came up with “Arkansas Showcase” and convinced KABF to air it. The station — nonprofit, non-commercial and community supported — doesn't employ any of the sort of metrics commercial stations do to determine audience numbers, but at least when I've tuned in, the show gets a lot of callers, particularly for a weekly show.
Blues rocker Shannon Boshears says she's gotten a lot of feedback from the times she's appeared as a guest on the show and when her songs are played. “People on the street come up to me and tell me they've heard my music on the show.”
The promotion doesn't stop with show either, she says.
“They're not just sitting in the radio studio every Friday. They really get out and support local music. It really extends beyond their show.”
To that end, Doyle and Riggs have helped book Boshears on KATV's morning show and introduced her to Al Bell, the legendary former president of Stax Records, who's been an advisor for the show as well as a guest. The DJs also have an agreement with Magic Springs, where they place acts at concerts weekly, and this month they'll start hosting concerts at Capitol Keyboard in West Little Rock. Next spring, they're planning, with help from an Arkansas Arts Council grant, to publish a book on the best unsigned musicians in the state.
Doyle and Riggs get piles of CDs sent their way every month and spend time every day trolling the web for new material, but they say they're always willing to listen to something new. Find e-mail, MySpace and physical addresses for them and the station on KABF.org.