By day, Art Jipson is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Dayton. By night, and, admittedly, during big stretches of his day, this Daytonian of the Week is focused on his major obsession: music.
And increasingly, since he launched his popular radio program Your Tuesday Afternoon Alternative on Flyer Radio WUDR (98.1/99.5) 14 years ago this November, much of his favorite music is created right here in Dayton.
Jipson became obsessed with music at an early age. By his own admission, the Minnesota native was one of those guys who listened to weird music growing up, a habit he inherited from his parents. His mom liked the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Byrds, while his dad had a taste for country acts like Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynne, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.
As a teenager in Herman, Minn., a small farming community of about 500, Jipson expanded his tastes by shopping in a record shop in the back of the town’s hardware store. It was the early ’80s and his listening habits progressed from classic rockers like Led Zeppelin and Kansas and harder fare like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden to early records by R.E.M. and other college rockers of the day.
From ’83 to ’88 Jipson was a disc jockey at KUMM, the student-run radio station at University of Minnesota. It was an exciting time for Minneapolis, with internationally-known musical exports as diverse as Prince, the Replacements and the Jayhawks. He sees a smaller scale version of that in Dayton’s original music scene. Jipson, known to his listeners as Dr. J, has become a vocal supporter of local performers. Original songs by area acts dominate his weekly playlist, and he is a frequent figure at local shows.
We recently caught up with Jipson, who lives in Franklin Township with his wife Tracey, to find out what makes him tick.
How long have you been in Ohio?
Since 1988: I went to Bowling Green State University for grad school and then I moved down to Southern Ohio in 1993. I lived in Oxford for a while and I worked at Miami University, which was my first job out of grad school. I taught a lot of sociology classes, and I did a version of my pop music class there. I did classes on extremism, criminology and criminal justice. I also did a lot of culture classes so I did some of the first classes on what the Internet is. I did some stuff with (Oxford-based public radio station) WMUB. I worked on a Sunday indie music radio show for three years. I came to UD in 2001 and I started doing the radio show a few years later at WUDR.
How much time did you spend in Dayton before taking the job at UD?
I had already been to Dayton a few time to see shows. I saw REM at the UD Arena with NRBQ in the late ’80s. My sense of Dayton was tied to certain bands out of there but I also knew about the Wright Brothers, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Erma Bombeck and a few other writers.
It probably doesn’t surprise anybody that when I was in Oxford, I’d come up for the occasional show with Guided By Voices or some of the Dayton bands at the time. Seeing them in their hometown in 1995 was pretty cool. The band was doing pretty well. I went to Canal Street Tavern quite a bit, and I went to see shows at the Nite Owl. I’d also come into Dayton to things like the Art Institute or things on campus at UD. I had a sense of Dayton but not nearly as much as when I started to work in Dayton. I moved out of Oxford into Franklin Township in 2005. I was already doing the radio and teaching and that was a monster of a commute. From August of 2001 to December of 2005, I was commuting and that ate up a lot of free time. I didn’t get out as much then as I’d like.
How has Dayton changed since you’ve been here?
Oh, it’s changed a lot, especially if you look at Brown Street or around the South Park community. A lot of neighborhoods in Dayton have changed a lot, which I think is mostly good and healthy. Once I moved closer to Dayton, I was able to plug into that much more. I have friends that live in LA, but I’d rather live in a city like Dayton that is so well-grounded and vibrant. You wouldn’t expect a city this size to have as great of an arts, music and literature community as it does. Tracey and I picked a halfway point between our jobs, which is why we’re in Franklin Township. If I had it to do over again, I’d move right into Dayton. I made a horrible mistake by not moving into Dayton because if I go to a show and if it’s over at midnight or 1 a.m., I still have 30 or 40 minutes to drive home. There are some shows I want to go to but just can’t because of the drive. I do my best to get out to as many shows as I can. I do OK.
What’s the best part of being in Franklin Township?
I like the neighborhood. We’re right across from a park. It’s a nice family neighborhood, and I don’t say that to be disrespectful of other neighborhoods. It’s a nice mix of retirees, people my age and younger people with kids and that really appealed to us. It’s kind of an easy jump on 75, which is something we did think about when we bought the house. We knew we were coming into Dayton a lot. It’s funny because a lot of people don’t have high regards for Franklin Township but it’s been a really good place for us. Until you live in a neighborhood and get to know it, it’s really hard to judge what it’s really like.
What drives you to still do radio after all these years?
I like connecting listeners in the community with all of the amazing music here in town. There is such a deluge of music today with the Internet and I hope, in a small way, our show can help introduce people to new music. I love it when people e-mail, text or message on Facebook and say, ‘Who is this? This is a great song.’ Being able to turn people on to something they wouldn’t hear otherwise is one of the major reasons I still love doing the show after almost 14 years.
What is your impression of the latest batch of local releases?
This has been a brilliant year for local music. The album by Charlie Jackson & the Heartland Railway is brilliant stuff. I’m still listening to the Typical Johnson’s latest, even though it’s not brand new. I’ve been listening to Goodnight Goodnight a lot. The new Boxcar Suite album is an absolutely brilliant record. I really think that’s a perfect album. I love the new Kyleen Downes EP. I like her because she’s not only a nice person but she writes really tight melodies and great harmonies. I’ve been listening to advance stuff from Old News and this stuff is fantastic. They were good before but this is a quantum leap in quality. I’ve also been listening to the new record from Curse of Cassandra quite a bit and I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting.
What has kept you living in the area?
I didn’t expect to stay in Dayton. I didn’t expect to stay in Ohio. When I came to Miami, I thought I’d stay a while and then go back to Minneapolis. That so did not happen. I really liked Ohio and I appreciated the winters weren’t as cold. I also had really great job opportunities at great universities with terrific students that gave me the ability to teach, do my kind of radio and be able to write and publish in the areas I wanted to. I like the people of Ohio. I really appreciated the good nature that most Ohioans have. At least, that’s been my experience. And the music, of course, is a factor for us.
Contact contributing arts and music writer Don Thrasher at email@example.com.