Catching up with former World Cafe host David Dye, who celebrates 25 years of his Funky Friday show
The 25th anniversary of WXPM's 'Funky Friday' is being celebrated with three dance parties this week.
Early in 2017, David Dye stepped away from World Cafe, the WXPN-FM (88.5) music and interview show he launched in 1991 that, with current host Talia Schlanger, is now heard on more than 200 stations across the United States.
But in semi-retirement, Dye has hardly disappeared from the airwaves. The self-described "friendly presence" on the radio is still the voice of XPN's station IDs, and the 68-year-old deejay is now the host of not one but two free-form weekly shows.
>> READ MORE: Who broke Bruce Springsteen big in Philly?
The new one near and dear to his heart is Dave's World, a genre-fluid personal playlist project launched last year that airs at 11 a.m. Sundays and that recently expanded from one to two hours.
The long-standing show is Funky Friday, which is celebrating its 25th year on the air this week. It was created by then-drive-time deejay Elise Brown in 1993, and Dye took over two years later when Brown — now XPN's publicist — moved to WMMR-FM (93.3).
This week, Funky Friday will fete itself with three Pennsylvania dance parties. All are free but require registration on the adult alternative station's website.
Dye, who lives lives in Mount Airy, will be back working overtime.
On Thursday, FF will be at the Ardmore Music Hall. On Friday, it goes live on the radio in its 4 p.m. time slot from Tellus360 in Lancaster, and on Saturday, the soiree happens at the State Theater in Easton.
Do you miss the doing World Cafe?
I actually really, really don't miss doing the World Cafe. Doing interviews was always tense for me. I love getting up in the morning and not worrying about all that.
When I was doing it, I was really busy. I didn't want to let go of the control of it. I think it's liberating for the staff and me that they now have a whole team [including contributing host Stephen Kalleo]. Talia was born to do this. She has a naturally empathetic streak and she's incredibly personable.
You never planned on retiring completely, right?
If I were not doing radio at all, I'd really be at loose ends. I've been doing this since I was 19. It's really fun to have a radio show. And to be able to do Dave's World now — it's just fantastic. It's a dream thing for me.
You’re part of a Philadelphia tradition of people on the radio who talk like real people. Does that go back to [longtime deejay and Philadelphia Folk Festival emcee] Gene Shay?
I always credit Gene. I think whatever you do, you fake it till you make it. And a certain amount is imitating things. Gene was always really comfortable, whatever he was doing.
The idea of Dave's World is free-form radio. And free-form radio can completely suck, mostly from being self-indulgent. I have to balance that with what I've learned from all the radio stations I've worked at, that were consulted and programmed. What I'm doing now is both of those things coming together.
As far as my style on the radio, I value authenticity, and I think listeners do, too. If you look at Funky Friday, or way before that, the Friday Flashback that I did at WIOQ [the rock station where Dye deejayed the late 1970s and 1980s], the appeal of those things is I don't come off as an oldies deejay. It's more like: 'Let's have a party here.'
What’s the Dave’s World concept?
I said, 'If you can give me an hour to do what I want to do, I'm not going to think about the audience. I'm just going to do what I think is great. I just want to have this chance again. And see what happens.'
And the show is a hit?
It's one of our very, very best hours on Sunday. That was a surprise to me.
What are the musical parameters?
I didn't want to compete in the realm of playing more obscure new artists. There's no upside to that. And its not where my love is. It's a blend of stuff from periods I love, from the 1960s on. Classic things that you don't hear.
In a year and a half, I can count the things I've played more than once on two hands. That's the problem with free-form radio, usually. You start playing the same s- over and over because you love it. Finding new things to play is what makes it such an adventure.
The other day, you played the Monkees back to back with Nirvana. And you teased two John Lennon songs, but one was a cover of “Jealous Guy” by Donnie Hathaway.
It's purposely wide on genres. It's the best of whatever may be, and deep tracks that people might have forgotten about. And then I indulge myself with the country and the world music.
There are tens of thousands of songs in the XPN library. Do you pull from there? Are you bringing in vinyl from home?
About 45 to 50 percent of the stuff are things that I've added to the library. Usually, I just buy stuff because it's easier. In the beginning, I brought more vinyl, but I'm technologically incompetent. People have taught me about eight times how to to transfer the vinyl into the system, and I've forgotten. And I'm too embarrassed to ask for help.
Is Funky Friday a big fund-raising earner?
It's by far the No. 1 fund-raising show on the station. I always joke, 'Maybe we're doing the wrong format here.'
How do you define funk for the show? Last week you did tributes to country funk singer Tony Joe White and guitarist Wah Wah Watson.
I want to make the segues exciting in my own brain. … The '70s and beyond is the sweet spot. James Brown and P-Funk are the center of it. Thank God they have so many songs.
The XPN audience is largely white. Is there a black audience for Funky Friday?
Yes, there is. I'd say about a third of the people I hear from on the phone.
So the audience is different than for the station as a whole?
Yes. I would suspect that the majority of the audience for Funky Friday doesn't know I have another show on Sunday.
Between Funky Friday and Dave’s World expanded to two hours, do you get to play all the music you want to now?
Yes. I still have to figure out things to do with my other time in the week. But I have two essentially free-form shows that are very, very different. It's really gratifying. I couldn't be happier.
Funky Friday Dance Party
7-10 p.m. Thursday, Ardmore Music Hall, 23 E. Lancaster Ave., Sold out.
4-8 p.m. Friday, Tellus360, 24 E. King St., Lancaster, PA.
6-9 p.m. Saturday, State Theatre, 453 N. Hampton St., Easton, PA., from 6-9 p.m. Saturday.
All events are free, RSVP is required at xpn.org/funky-friday-dance-party-tour.