By PATRICK DEWEY • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
For the past several years since leaving the local air-waves, Mark Drnek’s blues radio show Blue Light Central has been chugging along happily on the Pacifica Radio Network, a radio company providing syndicated content for non-commercial and public radio stations across the country. Now, Drnek is celebrating 1,000 Blue Light Central shows he has produced and aired.
Drnek, who is also the Eighth Ward Common Council member and mayoral candidate, said he is marking the occasion by partnering with Randy Miritello, local musician and owner of Oneonta’s Crystal Palace barbershop, to spotlight New York artists. These artists will offer performances and conversations.
The “Live from the Crystal Palace” features will air on BLC about every six weeks, according to Drnek.
Blue Light Central began in the summer of 1997, when Drnek was working at WZOZ Oneonta as a news anchor.
“I had always been a fan of blues and music derived from blues so had always wanted to host a blues show,” Drnek said. Around December 1997, BLC moved to WSRK, where it remained an Oneonta radio fixture for many years.
After a time, Drnek received an invitation from Pacifica to be among its syndicated hosts. He said the ability to record shows rather than being live on air was appealing. Drnek also said he had been hosting BLC live on air at Delaware County non-commercial radio station WIOX. The drive to WIOX was an hour each way for Drnek, making Pacifica, with its ability to allow hosts to record where and when they want to, sound all the more promising.
Drnek said in the radio industry, syndication can be a fulfilling experience for the host. “It’s very nice knowing that what you are doing is having an impact on people across the country,” Drnek said.
He also said it is important to be aware of the culture of each community where you are heard. For example, Drnek said if you’re heard in Chicago and from upstate New York, you don’t want to seem more of an expert on Chicago blues than your Chicago-based listeners.
Drnek incorporates the train analogy into his shows because he said each show is like “a train of thought.”
“One song suggests another because of rhythm or lyrics and that continues all hour-long,” Drnek said.
Representatives from radio stations offering Blue Light Central have much respect for Drnek. “You can tell Mark puts a lot of time and thought into every playlist,” said Davyne Dial, general manager at 103.7 WPVM in Asheville, N.C.
KOWS, a non-commercial radio station in California, carries BLC as well. Station Program Director Don Campau called Drnek “a bastion of creativity and curation.”
Drnek said the Live from the Crystal Palace series will begin sometime in the fall.
Oneonta residents can catch BLC at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays on Hartwick college’s WRHO 89.7 FM. Playlists from each show, as well as streams and downloadable forms of BLC, are available at bluelightcentral.com.