SIX YEARS AGO, Jim Bear started GTown Radio, his online music-and-talk station, on a home computer in his Germantown apartment.
"I was fascinated by the power of community radio to reach small, local groups of people," Bear said. "I held a meeting at a church in Mount Airy. Anyone who showed up got to do a show."
Today, housed in Germantown's Maplewood Mall, GTown Radio broadcasts 23 live shows, ranging from African-American sci-fi talk on "Black Tribbles" to Debra "The Compassionate Lawyer" Rainey's call-in advice about immigration, bad landlords, racism and domestic violence.
Tonight at 8, Jim Harris, who is Northwest Philly's answer to Garrison Keillor, and his singers and skit comics will present "Avenue G" - a free "Mount Airy Home Companion" show at the Mt. Airy Read and Eat Bookstore on Germantown Avenue near Durham Street.
Because it will be broadcast live on gtownradio.com, folks must arrive by 7:45 p.m. or be woebegone.
The show is holiday-themed but Harris might make an appearance as his alter ego - a singing groundhog who bears a funhouse-mirror resemblance to the famous nonsinging one that predicts when winter will end.
Unlike Punxsutawney's clairvoyant groundhog, Harris sometimes removes his big front teeth and breaks into a tragi-comic autobiographical song to the tune of "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables."
Bear seems pleasantly surprised that GTown Radio "has grown at a gradual, sometimes glacial pace" into a tiny station with a big, diverse voice.
"Black Tribbles" stars African-American sci-fi super fans whose motto is, "Too cool to be geeks, too cute to be nerds."
"They talk about this galaxy of geekdom and have developed a pretty decent following," Bear said. "They recap what's happening with shows like 'The Walking Dead' and 'Game of Thrones,' and get into heavy discussions that touch on race and misogyny."
GTown Radio music ranges from "Gotta Get Over The Hump" soul with K-Jam and Eeazzy-E to "Reggae Surge" with DJ Surge and DJ Supa Tang to "Neu-matic," where Bear plays a "trans-genre" mix of new music and K-tel Classics '70s and '80s hits.
"You can suddenly go down the rabbit hole, discover something 30 years old, and find out who were the peers who influenced new music," said Bear, a time-traveling tune detective.
"It's kind of like people hearing songs for the first time that they only knew as hip-hop samples,and going, 'Oh, so that's where that came from!'"
Harris hopes tonight's live "Avenue G" show begats a regular gig at the bookstore.
"We have a segment called 'Downturn Abbey' about Lord and Lady Cheesington living in an old Germantown mansion that's falling apart," he said.
"They pretend to be British royalty and treat everybody like servants but they have to rent out rooms to pay the mortgage. We have 'Eternal Open Mic,' where anyone can show up, even people who are not living anymore."
Will Elvis make a surprise comeback on GTown Radio? It could happen.