Few things bring as much to a community as a local radio station. The blending of news, community conversation, great music, concert announcements, and lots of giveaways breathes life into a city, and Birmingham is blessed to have a great one in Birmingham Mountain Radio. A station that feels like a neighbor, a friend.
Reed and Will Lochamy, hosts of Oh Brother Radio which Reed describes as a “laid back Birmingham-focused human interest show”, understand the importance of local radio on a deeply personal level. They grew up running down station halls as their father co-hosted “Sports and Stuff” on WAPI-AM with Paul Finebaum and now continue his radio legacy at BMR on Thursdays from 7 to 9pm. (Will also hosts the The Morning Blend with Scott Register on weekday mornings).
When reflecting on what local radio meant during those earlier years, Will comments “it was an important part of the city. You knew who all the radio hosts were, and you connected with them. You felt like you knew them even if you didn’t. It was something that everyone listened to.” Will briefly became a host himself at the young age of 8 after the I-95 FM radio station across the hall (which he used to sneak over to watch) invited him to co-host as a joke one night. The segment was a hit, and he went on to host the “Love Line at Nine” for over a year!
Radio personalities are still on the air today, but many stations have been bought out by large corporations and don’t feature hosts that actually live in the city. This makes individuals like Will and Reed a rare sighting, like a Jedi after Anakin flipped to the dark side. In place of lightsabers however, this brotherly duo (along with their BMR counterparts) wield microphones and free concert tickets.
Giving away tickets is a wonderful thing to do, but another crucial part of local radio is simply getting the word out about the shows happening in the city. Will reflects on a dark era in the Magic City when Live 100.5 closed, and BMR hadn’t formed yet. Acts as big as Bob Dylan could come into town, and nobody would know. BMR founders Jeff Clanton, Jeremy Harper, and Geno Pearson changed this sad situation in December 2010, with Oh Brother Radio being their first show to premiere, and have only continued to help the community thrive since.
A major part of any radio station is advertising, and this is another area that highlights how local radio isn’t just an addition to a city - it truly helps it grow. Will proudly states that “the bread and butter of Birmingham Mountain Radio is local businesses, because we are a local business. We can’t advertise for someone that we wouldn’t actually use or believe in because our listeners wouldn’t believe it. They wouldn’t buy it.” They take it a step further and often provide free advertising or other partnerships with new companies that can’t yet afford to pay for ads - a transaction that can only occur when a human element is central to the business. Great local businesses like Seasick Records are also featured prominently on weekly segments, extending the health of our beautiful city’s local entrepreneurship.
Local radio also gets more of a say in influencing the list of songs they play. All radio stations are approached by record labels looking to have their artists’ songs on repeat every 20 minutes, but stations like Birmingham Mountain Radio are able to more freely exclude songs that their audience wouldn’t identify with or add in songs that are being ignored by other stations. BMR takes it a step further by inviting many of these lesser known bands to play often-free shows for Magic City audiences. Will reflects on concert nights with bands like Judah and the Lion and Birmingham’s own St. Paul and the Broken Bones and “trying to get 15 people to come out to watch for free”. Tickets that would sell out in a heartbeat today!
But the most important aspect of Birmingham Mountain Radio is the genuine love for the city we call home. They aren’t just uplifting the city - they are a part of it. Their studio is inside Good People Brewing looking out over Hotbox with the Barons’ stadium in the background right next to Railroad Park. How much more Birmingham can you get?
As for the brotherly hosts who’ve called this city home their whole lives? Both have had a passion for the city since they could walk, which has only grown with the vibrancy that’s come to Birmingham over the last decade. Reed, who also teaches at Hoover, has noticed a large upward trend in students who are going to UAB and are so excited about the university and living downtown. Will also “couldn’t be more proud. I wear it in my tattoos, and I wear it on my shirts.” (We fact-checked - he does have a Magic City sign tattoo, and it looks pretty dang cool).
As we start to see the announcements of shows returning to the world, let us never take for granted the beauty that is a group of people waxing poetic about the city they love and high-quality music through our radio raves. “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone” is too true of a phrase, and we mustn't let it describe our fair city. Thank you for blessing our ears and touching our hearts, Birmingham Mountain Radio!