For the last 45 years—11 of them at Santa Fe's Hutton Broadcasting and KBAC as DJ and program director—Ira Gordon lit up the radio waves with his smooth voice and impeccable music tastes. But now Gordon's ready to take some time and pursue new directions and opportunities. We spoke with Gordon before his tenure at Hutton winds down at the end of the month.
I think the main question on everyone's minds is, where the hell do you think you're going?
Ha! I'm not sure yet, but I'm not retiring. I made a joke at my going-away party last week that I've been working on a 90-minute set of self-penned Edwardian poetry that'll horrify everyone. That's a joke, but I've got two books in me, and I don't even care if they ever get published—I just want to get them out of my head. One I came up with in 1974. It's a fantasy, and no one seems to have written that, so if no one has in all that time, I'm definitely the one to do it. I have a house here, I'll live here, and I've got two sheds worth of vinyl and CDs I want to sell off. I'll stay in Santa Fe, as far as I know. There is a possibility I may be offered a gig in Colorado, but if that comes about, that'll be in the next couple months.
We've all assumed a sort of death of radio now and then, but it has seemed so viable in the last few years. Your thoughts?
For a while there, when satellite radio came in, with Pandora and Spotify and the fact you can hear anything you want on YouTube, people were and are creating their own stations. But in the major markets where they're playing the same top 40 again and again, and you move up and down the dial and 30 stations do the same thing, I can understand why people thought that. The interesting thing about KBAC is that we're so different from the other radio stations—and I'll leave public radio out because they satisfy their listeners. There's still an audience out there that wants to be turned on to new music; their taste in music is beyond 20 songs and two genres, and we can be the curator for that. The second thing we do well, and it's always been a priority of mine, is to support the nonprofits. These are agencies who help the community and don't have the money to buy ads, so we do interviews, events and benefits, and … the last one was BetsyFest. The local music scene, I think, would be number three, and I'm thankful I don't have a consultant here saying that we don't wanna hear local music on the radio. If you can help a struggling musician by getting the tunes on the radio, you should do it. It fosters the whole community. I have a tendency to believe the major market stations will be struggling, but we've never struggled because the community got behind us.
Any parting words for Santa Fe, your audience, everyone?
I just love the support we've gotten here. When I was driving to my going-away party, I felt like I was driving to my own execution. But something I said there was when people used to ask me what I did for living, I'd joke and say I get paid to sit in a room and talk to myself for four hours—but when you look out and see the lives you've changed, the people who have supported you through thick and thin, you realize that's not true. The fact that we've survived is more a testament to the community itself than to the radio station itself. I've worked in radio since I was 20, and I've been the luckiest dude in the world. In those 45 years in radio, I've been unemployed maybe 18 months. That, to me, is unbelievable. But I'm looking forward to kicking back and maybe not having to drive to work in the snow.