His students called him Mr. Carter, but his alter ego goes by a much cooler name.
As “Rev. Cool,” Dayton’s Energizer Bunny-like musical ambassador, Butler Twp.’s Jim Carter turns it out and spins everything from alternative rock, to Afro-punk to dance hall to Dayton funk on 91.3 FM WYSO’s The Around the Fringe Show.
He’s been its volunteer host since 1982. Listeners can imagine him dancing around in the station’s studio to songs from his ginormous music collection. The show airs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays.
The Rev. has never been in a band, but has been on a musical journey for decades.
In addition to his work with WYSO, Carter was a reading teacher for Dayton Public Schools for 35 years before retiring. He began promoting music shows during his college days at Wright State and was president of his own record label, “I WANNA.”
Music was always a focus for him and a big part of life for his family.
Dayton is known for its funk music roots, but it also had a healthy punk scene in The Rev.’s formative years.
Raised in East Dayton in a “typical” working class family — his dad was a Chrysler factory worker and his mom was mostly a stay-at-home mother — The Rev. spent his teen years listening to local bands.
One local band that blended genres — London Fog and The Continentals — really caught his attention.
“I just love those guys,” The Rev. said. “What I thought was great was that the London Fog would sort of dress like mod, sort of like with the Beatles type suits — the early English type thing. And the Continentals were a black vocal group,” he said. “Somehow they joined together forces and the London Fog became the backup band and The Continentals became the vocalists. I thought this is really cool. This is two completely different styles coming together. Things like that really influenced me.”
In recent years, The Rev. has had to put on his fighting gloves.
He suffered a serious stroke on his retirement day from teaching in 2011.
“The neurologist said, ‘You just had a piece of plank floating around that decided to land at that time in you brain’,” the Rev. said. “He said ‘sometimes shit just happens.’ I go ‘that’s pretty professional there doc’.”
During his recovery time, The Rev. said he pre-recorded his show for a while and relied on his colleagues and friends at WYSO for support.
He said they really helped him get through the ordeal.
That journey taught him many lessons.
We sat down for a chat with “Rev. Cool” Jim Carter, the latest Daytonian of the Week.
On becoming “Rev. Cool”:
After trying to talk to Furry Lewis after seeing the country blues guitarist and songwriter perform in a small Memphis club in the late 1970s:
On the Dayton music scene:
“I am not quite as involved in it as I used to be, but I think it is stronger…. When I started doing the show, the high point of being in a band in Dayton a lot of time was ‘I am going to start a cover band and I am going to cover everybody else’s songs and I am going to play that song and I am going to practice until I get that song note for note.’ When I started doing shows, a lot of the bands I would bring in were going in the opposite direction. ‘I’ll learn three chords and I am going to start a band and start making my own music.’ That was a lot rarer than it is now. You see a lot more people willing to create their own music, and I think that’s positive. The way technology has changed, you can do that.
On being a teacher…
“I think it found me; I don’t find it. I think when I was in college, I don’t think I know (what) I wanted to do. I tried education. I went and did some observations and enjoyed the kids and stuck with it for like over 30 years — almost since 1975 until recently. I enjoyed the kids. That’s probably the main reason. They keep you young and they add gray hairs at the same time. When I think about teaching, I don’t know if I had any impact at all on the children, but I will say whatever minor impact I might have had is more important than all the musical stuff I ever did.”
On what his stroke taught him…
“You have to respect whatever life you have. Because it can disappear in a second. Clarence Clemons from the E Street Band, he had a stroke and died. He was gone. Other people have it, and they have been severely disabled. I pretty much recovered from it. I still have some memory problems that can be pretty helpful. You can make it work to your advantage. ‘Oh, I forgot about that. I had a stroke you know.’