No one is certain when The Saturday Blues debuted on WFIT. It was mid 1990s by most accounts.
At the time, there was not a blues show on WFIT or any other station locally. Mr. Z had left WFIT some years earlier, at about the time of the change in format from alternative to NPR. Rob Selkow, the program director at the time, wanted to start a blues show and did so in a big way by scheduling a 5 hour show spanning the entire Saturday afternoon. The show started at noon and went until 5 PM.
Due to the length of the show, Rob wanted a two person DJ crew. That made preparation more reasonable for each and they could back each other up and not be stuck with a 5 hour gap in the event of absence. He chose Frank and Jay (later to become Brother Frank and Father Jay) who did not meet until they met in the studio to prepare for the first Saturday Blues. As of this writing in 2010, they are still at it today.
Rob Selko is the father of Saturday Blues but he did not control programming, leaving that to the first time DJs. He offered advice and training but left the music to Frank and Jay.
To begin with the opening song was James Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy.” That was changed to Aretha Franklin’s “Good Times.” Again, no one is sure when that change came about but Aretha Franklin opens the Saturday Blues to this day. Thanks Aretha!
The general format was and is to start off with gospel music and delta/acoustic blues, transition to electric blues in various styles (Chicago, Texas, Memphis, etc.), transition to soul blues and R&B and finish with Van Morrison.
Gospel leads because it is the roots of the blues. All the early innovators in blues learned music in the church and many of them recorded spiritual songs. Early delta recordings are the next step in the evolution, then electric blues and soul and R&B. Originally, the closing song was Van Morrison’s “Did Ye Get Healed?” The blues has a healing quality, just as misery loves company, and Frank and Jay always close the show by asking the audience, “Did Ye Get Healed?”
The show was changed to 3 hours (noon to 3 PM) several years after it started. Again, no one is quite sure when the change was made but complaints, which were numerous and loud at the time, continue today, “Where is our fifth hour?!” What happened was an underwriter at the time decided to donate a large sum annually to WFIT to fund presentation of NPR’s very popular and very expensive, “A Prairie Home Companion.”
In order to take advantage of the generous offer, Todd Kennedy, WFIT DJ who had replaced Rob Selkow as program director by this time, rearranged the schedule to air Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” live on Saturday and repeat it on Sunday afternoon. To make room in the schedule, the Saturday Blues became a three hour show, noon to 3 PM.
The funding though quickly dried up and we were left with a three hour blues show followed by “Roots Reggae” on Saturday afternoon.
WFIT has added several blues shows since the inception of “The Saturday Blues” and all have proven very popular. Jeanne Kelly hosts the “Blues With A Twist on Tuesday” nights. Mr. Z is back with his phenomenal “It’s All The Blues.” The incomparable Rev. Billy C. Wirtz has taken the healing to a higher level with “Reverend Billy’s Rhythm Revival.” Chip Myles’ “Juke Joint Jam” came and went since The Saturday Blues and we all hope for its return!