This week’s featured DJ is Tim Dodge, a reference librarian at the Ralph Brown Draughon Library. At WEGL, we know him by his on-air name of Dr. Hepcat. Dr. Hepcat has been a part of WEGL since May of 1998, hosting his show, The Golden Oldies, each week since then. He’s a big deal around the station—he’s been around longer than anyone on staff or any of the other DJs. I had the awesome chance to interview the legend himself, and our conversation went a little something like this:
How did you first get involved with WEGL?
When I first arrived at Auburn Summer 1992 I applied but at that time was informed that only students could be DJ’s. Spring of 1998 I was a guest on The Golden Oldies show hosted then by Peter Branum, since he knew I was a big-time 1950’s record collector. I had so much fun I wished I could be on the air again (I’d had radio shows on three other stations going back to February 1, 1976). I was informed by Station Director Paige Brennan, yes, I could have a show after going through training. Peter was vacating the spot to host the Folk Show, so in May 1998, I took over.
Tell us about The Golden Oldies. What makes your show unique?
The Golden Oldies show focuses primarily on rock ‘n’ roll/R. & B. circa 1945-1963 plus related genres including blues, gospel, doo-wop, country, rockabilly, Western Swing, and occasionally a touch of West Indian calypso and ska. What makes it unique is that I go far beyond the big hits (although I do play those too) and play a lot of rare sounds that, in my opinion, are at least as good as if not better than the big hits. I also try to make occasional historical connections within the music and, sadly, I also feature a fair number of obituaries since so many of these great musical pioneers are dying off. On a happier note, I also try to inject enthusiasm and fun and I am happy to play requests.
For those who haven’t seen Dr. Hepcat in his WEGL element, he doesn’t use any digital music; he only plays vinyl and CDs on the turntables live in the studio. How many records are in your collection?
I’ve never counted but it’s about fifty-fifty records and compact disks. A very rough guess: about 5000 records and CD’s.
That’s an impressive collection…do you have an all-time favorite album, or maybe an all-time favorite artist?
This changes all the time because there is so very much wonderful music from which to choose. For now, I’ll say my favorite artist is Hank Ballard and the
Midnighters. Active from 1954-63 or so, they sang a wonderful combination of blues and gospel-influenced vocal group music and also featured some truly hot saxophone and electric guitar solos. Among their many musical highlights is the fact that Hank Ballard wrote and recorded the original version of “The Twist,” an extremely influential dance-oriented rocker made much more famous by Chubby Checker in 1960 that set off a major musical trend in the early 1960’s. Also, I actually got to meet the late Hank Ballard in 1991 and have his autograph.
Your show is all about timeless oldies. That said, do you have any newer artists that you’ve really taken to?
While I generally live in a 1950’s musical time warp, I do, now and then, listen to some newer music as well. Most of the modern music I listen to is African American gospel and country. Specific artists in these genres I like include Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s (gospel), Debra Snipes (gospel), and the Star Wonders (great local gospel group from my town of Camp Hill). Current country artists I like would include Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, and Brad Paisley. Also, from the world of blues, Rick Estrin and the Night Cats (formerly Little Charlie and the Night Cats). They feature exhilarating , fun music, and witty lyrics. I saw them several times in the 1990’s. They’re still active, but Little Charlie Baty is gone with Rick Estrin now taking the lead.
How’d you come up with your DJ name?
I wanted to use a name that evoked being cool for the time frame of my music (mostly c. 1945-63). The term “hepcat” shows up a lot in vintage R. & B., rock ‘n’ roll, and rockabilly and “Dr.” was used by some notable D’s of that era (Dr. Jive, Dr. Blues, etc.). I was a bit disappointed to discover about five years later there had been another Dr. Hepcat before me! He was Lavada Durst, an African American R. & B. DJ in Texas in the late 1940’s. An interesting parallel is that the original Dr. Hepcat played boogie woogie piano – which I do too!
I had no idea you play the piano! Do you play anywhere around Auburn? Any chance we’d get a Dr. Hepcat show anytime soon?
Actually my only real piano playing gig, if you could call it that, is serving as the keyboard player at the House of Restoration Holiness-Pentecostal Church in Camp Hill. This is a predominantly African American church, pretty small, and I get to perform gospel music during the praise service backing up singers. While this is music in church, I really do end up using a lot of my boogie woogie technique on the fast songs.
Several years ago some old high school friends who remembered my playing boogie woogie and 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll piano on a piano located in a corner of the high school gym prevailed upon me to record a couple of numbers that could be put out on Youtube. I’m no good with technology, so someone else did the actual creation of the files that were then put up on Youtube. If morbidly curious, here are the links so you can get an idea of how I sound on the piano:
There you have it—not only does Dr. Hepcat have the longest running WEGL show to date, but also he has some serious moves on the keys. Be sure to tune into The Golden Oldies Tuesdays from 7PM to 9PM. If you miss the show, you can also check out Dr. Hepcat’s website for a running list of his playlists and other updates.