Bud Johnson connects listeners to musicians
Homer resident has hosted the radio show 'Acoustic Accents' for 24 years
As a young boy, when his parents thought he was in bed sleeping, Bud Johnson was actually listening to music on his transistor radio. Today - and for the past 24 years, - he has been hosting his own radio show, "Acoustic Accents."
"It's Alaska's radio showcase for great music with an acoustic accent," Bud shared.
Growing up in Virginia, he sang in rock n' roll cover bands during high school and tried it full-time after high school.
"A lack of talent and meaningful income ended this endeavor," he said.
In 1990, Bud got his start in radio while working for the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife in the remote Alaska community of Galena that had one public station that served a number of villages and was the only real source of communication among the villages.
Eager to get involved with the community, Bud met with the station manager who suggested he host a jazz show. Bud was soon hosting a Sunday night show, playing jazz music from 8 p.m. to midnight.
"I didn't have a lot of interest in jazz, but I knew a bit about contemporary jazz," he said. "Jazz music wasn't exactly popular in a mostly Native bush village, but it was interesting and got me into radio."
Bud learned about radio programming and working with record labels. He discovered contemporary new folk music in the station library, and found that he enjoyed the genre. Soon, his show included three hours of jazz and one hour of contemporary folk music, which he called Acoustic Accents.
Hoping to have his show heard by more people and in more communities, Bud approached the program director of KUAC in Fairbanks and soon, his show replaced an existing jazz show that was being aired on Friday nights, with Bud recording his show onto DAT tapes and mailing them to Fairbanks every week.
When Bud and his wife Heather moved to Tok later that year, there was no radio station in the community. Still being broadcast in Fairbanks, Bud wanted a way to set up his own studio and get syndicated. Other radio stations began to hear about his show and contact him. Before too long, he was mailing out DAT tapes and then later, CDs. Today, the show is shared via the Internet on Alaska Public Radio Network's FTP site.
In Tok, Bud also brought musicians to perform, including Patty Larkin, Dar Williams, Peter Mulvey, Katy Moffatt and Stephen Fearing.
"I love live performance," Bud said. "On the one hand, music can be very personal and speak to you in a personal way, but then there are songs that are universal and speak to everybody. I like that music can bring a diverse group of people into a room and they can share a singular experience."
In 2013, Bud and Heather moved to Homer. He currently operates a home studio and Acoustic Accents airs on 10 stations around Alaska, including KUAC Fairbanks, KNBA Anchorage, KBRW Barrow, KUCB Unalaska, KCHU Valdez, KXGA Glenallen, KXKM McCarthy, KVRF Palmer, KTNA Talkeetna and KDLG Dillingham. Roughly 70 percent of the population in Alaska has access to his show.
Acoustic Accents was also picked up on an Internet radio station called Blues and Roots Radio, available in North America, Europe and Australia, airing three to four times a week. His shows are also archived online on Mixcloud.com.
Not currently aired on the Kenai Peninsula, Acoustic Accents can, on occasion, be heard in Soldotna over KNBA out of Anchorage. As of yet, no peninsula-based stations have picked it up.
"I would love to have the show here locally on the peninsula," he said. "I haven't lived in a town where the show has aired since I lived in Galena."
Bud has met and recorded many of the musicians that inspired him to start Acoustic Accents, including Patty Larkin, David Wilcox, John Gorka, Dar Williams and Peter Mulvey.
"I never dreamed back when I was sitting in bush Alaska and going through records of these amazing storytellers and performers that I would get to know all of them," he said.
Every year, his mailbox fills with music from big, small and unknown record labels, all hoping he will play their music on his show. He receives about 600 CDs a year.
"A big part of my mission is to introduce my listeners to all this great music that I don't think they'll hear anywhere else," he said. "I like connecting listeners to the musicians, most of which are independent artists who are just barely able to make a living to be able to follow their calling."
Once a month, he features a live performance and interview in a "Words and Music" segment. He recently interviewed Peter Mulvey and Anna Tivel when they were in town. Several musicians have traveled to Homer to be interviewed, and every year, he attends the International Folk Alliance conference.
"I interview musicians and listen to performances," he said. "Last year I even had a four-piece string band packed into my room for a recording session."
Bud shared that, while he has always loved creating his show, it has caused him to balance his time between work and family, and he appreciates the support and encouragement he gets from his wife.
"I'm having a much better time with it now and doing it better than I have before," he said. "I plan to continue it until it ain't fun anymore."