Below is the Foreword I had the privilege to write for my long-time friend,
Duane Bruce's Memoir, Hang The DJ
Turn your watch, turn your watch back . . . to about January 1983. Listening to a plastic radio in my bedroom, a daydreaming teenager, always listening to the radio, cassette tapes or records while, writing, reading, and making collage posters. Music was my escape. I remember waiting for my favorite song to play and trying to record it just at the right moment on my cassette player.
I remember listening to classic rock on WTOS while still in Jr. High, and especially the Dr. Demento show every Sunday evening. But nothing prepared me for the moment I turned on that radio station and heard Duane Bruce for the very first time. It was probably December 1984 or January 1985.
This radio experience with Duane Bruce changed my life; it was a free school of rock (and many other genres) that I would never have learned about otherwise. I heard bands and sounds I’d never been exposed to before, and more from bands that I already liked but never really heard on hit radio. I only heard them through records I purchased, or on the show, “Night Flight” if it were not for WTOS, there is a ton of music I never would have heard at all.
In addition to hearing this music that was not top 40 hit radio, where the same songs were repeated every hour, I learned about the bands and the music they played through Duane Bruce. I began to call and request songs, and then we would talk about music, because we had a lot in common that way. We began writing letters back and forth talking about music, movies, music videos, life, and concerts. Duane sent me loads of records, tapes, pins (those were so big back then, having buttons of pins all over your jean jacket), gave me concert tickets to so many shows. Exposed alternative music I already loved, and introduced me to new music. He made me feel like I was just as important, as a listener. And that is how he treated all of his listeners and still does. I am by far, not the only one.
We became friends through the airwaves, because of music. We talked over the phone and kept in touch through written correspondence. It was a time when so many music genres came together, and were played in the same time frame on Duane’s WTOS radio shows. The popularity of multiple genres, the birth of appreciation for what I’d already been brought up on, and that is a huge thanks to Duane Bruce when he worked at WTOS, my personal school of rock: punk, alternative, rap, hip-hop, reggae, and so much more. A time when music genres were separate but together, and the world seemed to be coming together as one in many ways.
As my brother grew older, he too, befriended Duane and vice versa. Although DB was generous in sending us records, tapes, buttons, posters, concert tickets, and more, it was the friendship and respect of the music we had for Duane and his work.
I still have a stack of old letters from Duane mostly from 1985, a few from 86’, and one from 88’ when he moved to Lynn and began his new adventure at WFNX, which I could not get on the dial in Portland, Maine until the mid-late 90s.
Much of what DB talks about in this book is in the letters he sent to me back then, I won’t be a spoiler though. You will read these amazing stories, experiences, and learn a lot from what Duane has worked so hard on here. And as I look back on his letters, I see that in addition to being the best DJ, musically educated, and so on, he has always been a writer. Strong writing, entertaining stories, humor, and passion for music and life overall. He’d write some letters on WTOS invoices, on the back of news reports, and was just as entertaining and fun through letters as he was through the airwaves.
Like many good friends, as time went on, we drifted apart as we were going our own ways, venturing out into the world.
Hop into that time machine, the Tardis perhaps, and zoom to about 20 years later. My brother and I had been “looking” for Duane for years, especially with the abilities to find others on the Internet and Social Media. One day, my brother found him, and called me. We finally all reconnected, and like many good friends, we picked up where we left off, not missing a beat (pun intended).
Sometimes life goes full circle, and here we are, and Duane is back in Maine, doing some DJ shows at an old jail cell in Skowhegan, and I always love hearing his shows, which we can now hear on “SoundCloud”.
And the learning doesn’t end, I’ll never forget the day I was listening to a Nirvana CD in the car. My son was around six or seven years old, and I said to him, “This is Nirvana”.
My son’s response was, “Mom, I know who Nirvana is.”
Or the time my I was taking son and one of his friend’s to a water park one summer when they were about nine years old, and they started singing, “Brass Monkey”. I travel with my Beastie Boys CD’s everywhere, and when I put one of the CD’s in, his friend said, “My Dad likes the Beastie Boys too!”
I remember the first time I heard Duane play the Beastie Boys “Fight for Your Right” from their Licensed to Ill record; it was 1986, I was living in Portland, and out of my boom box came Duane’s ever-entertaining voice, and he did one of his character voices as well (as you will read about), and went into that song.
And these are examples of how DB’s legend goes on. Ever since my son was born, he’s been exposed to music that he would probably not hear otherwise, and I owe so much of that to Duane, as the “DB School of Rock” continues.
There have been and always will be moments like these that come about with my son and ways Duane not only brought music into my life, but in extraordinary ways, which you will read about in this book, whether you know Duane or not, or have heard his radio shows or not, this book will mean something to you, and you will learn from it if you weren’t around during this era.
Along with my memories, I still have cassette tapes that I’d recorded of some of DB’s shows back in the 80s, and other pieces of radio history that he passed on to me in so many ways. It’s now part of me, that phenomenal piece of discovering music and becoming educated on it because of Duane’s radio shows and friendship.
Duane was never your ordinary DJ, and never will be. He is a radio genius, and I mean that whole-heartedly. His shows are seamless, but in an organized manner which only his talent, artistic abilities, and mastermind can produce. His radio shows are meaningful, well-thought out and planned, and he cares about the arrangement of how to present and share this with his audience.
I am grateful for Duane’s friendship, all that he’s taught me, and all that continues to carry on in my life. May the radio legend live on, and his legacy continue to educate through this book, and more.
You rock DB!
PS. Thank you to the B-52's for the song, Mesopotamia. (Some readers may have caught on to that in the first line in my Foreword.)