Episode 63: Robin James is writing the book on 97X

Author and college professor Robin James is a self-described “philosopher of popular music.” She grew up in West Chester, Ohio listening to 97X and is writing a book about the station and the community that formed around it. She’s also going to give a talk about the Modern Rock 500 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame once we get through the pandemic phase. In this episode, Robin gives us an update on when the book will be published… and turns the tables by interviewing Dave and Damian for that book.

Robin James, the coolest college professor ever!

We first chatted with Robin a year ago, on Episode 34. If you missed that show, it’s well worth a listen.

Here’s Robin’s page on the UNC Charlotte website. She also co-edits the Journal of Popular Music Studies. And here’s her blog, It’s Her Factory.

On her blog, here’s how Robin summarizes the 97X book project:

The Future of Rock and Roll: 97X WOXY and the fight for true independence. (Under contract with UNC Press). This is a book about the philosophy behind former modern rock radio station 97X FM/woxy.com. The station and its programming was driven by the idea that true independence is possible only when practiced with and for other people. The book argues that this idea of independence is what we need to fight the 21st century corporate mainstream, which is driven by the false idea that real independence is being left to fend for yourself.

Here’s a link to the draft version of “What was the Modern Rock 500?” – the talk Robin will be giving at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The date for that presentation is still TBD due to pandemic restrictions, but we’ll let you know when it’s happening.

My dad didn’t like music, and I didn’t have older siblings, so the Modern Rock 500 was the curriculum I used to educate myself about cool music and its history.

Robin James

Rumblings from the Big Bush mailbag

Hey guys,

I’ve been a big fan of the show. For years I’ve enjoyed listening to a playlist created from an old Modern Rock 500, and every year I think, I should contact some of the old radio guys and see what would be on the list today. I always think of this leading up to Memorial Day weekend. It would be great if you could get some of the old crew together and make an updated list.

Keep up the good work!
– Nick Frisch

That’s a great idea, Nick! Unfortunately, it’s also a rather daunting task, and we have our hands full with the podcast (and our day jobs). We tried to strong-arm longtime 97X PD Phil Manning into creating an updated MR500, but to no avail. If anyone has any suggestions, we’re all ears.

In the interim, the Cincinnati-based online radio station Inhailer recently counted down their Top 500 Albums of All Time, and you’ll find plenty of 97X artists on that list. Former woxy.com DJ Luann Gibbs (a.k.a. “Miss Kitty” – we chatted with her on Episode 43) does weekend shifts on Inhailer, and Taylor Fox, who was quite active on the 97X message boards, is the Program Director and hosts the morning show Tuesdays thru Thursdays, so the station is a kindred spirit of 97X/woxy.com. They play a great mix of music, including a healthy dose of local bands, and have specialty shows on weekends and in the evening. Check it out!

Modern Rock 500 playlists

Nick’s email above mentioned playlists created from old Modern Rock 500 countdown lists. Kudos to John Spurlock for creating Spotify AND Google Music playlists for each year of the Modern Rock 500, from 1989 through 2009.

And James Brubaker crunched the numbers from Craig Froehle’s lists of MR500s through the years, and came up with an overall Modern Rock 500 Top 500. (Read more about how James created this meta-list in this post.)

This post on The Cincy Vinyl Trail website also has a nice tribute to the Modern Rock 500.

Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend has always been the unofficial beginning of summer. Schools close, pools open, we honor fallen heroes and the Taste of Cincinnati takes center stage. Memorial Day weekend of years gone by also brought us the 500. No, not the Indy 500, that’s still running. To die-hard music fans, it was the 97X Modern Rock 500. The start of every summer the radio would be tuned to 97.7. 

From a 2018 post on The Cincy Vinyl Trail website

4 Replies to “Episode 63: Robin James is writing the book on 97X”

  1. Mike

    I grew up in Oxford Ohio in the 80s and graduated from Miami University. I was there the day 97x began and I was addicted from that moment. My radio stayed tuned into 97x because there was nothing else like it. You would hear something new on Woxy and bang! Those were the days. Lots of beer, Brunos pizza, and new, unheard, alternative rock songs.

    1. Damian

      Thanks so much for sharing your 97X memories, Mike. And thanks for listening to the podcast!

  2. John S

    I’m listening to the death of 97 x . We recorded the last week of the station broadcast ” A to Z”! Great music hopefully it’s not lost forever 😎

  3. Slugworth

    I am so excited about this book! I always thought the story would make a great book/documentary! The community still remembers the tears as it went dark.


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