Ever since I arrived in this area I’ve listened regularly to not only the Grateful Dead Hour on WEOS 89.5 FM out of Hobart and William Smith Colleges but “Stuck in the Psychedelic Era” with the Hermit.
It’s a weekly two-hour radio show featuring music from about 1963 to 1970. As a big Dead fan, it’s logical I would find this show appealing with the focus on American bands and their British inspirations.
The Hermit tends to go deep into a group’s catalogs rather than the usual standard and popular fare that might be found on a classic rock station. Most of the stuff is taken directly from vinyl records, which means scratches also are included free of charge.
The show is heard on about 30 stations around the country including KVRZ in Libby, Mont., KSVU in Upper Skagit Valley, Wash., WOUB in Athens, Ohio, KODK in Kodiak, Alaska, and KKRN in Bella Vista, Calif., to name a few.
The Hermit talks in a low, even voice that defines the word “mellow.” He is quite knowledgeable about the music he plays and is resourceful with his words — not too many of them. As his web page states, the “style is clean and direct.”
Its format follows that of underground radio stations of the 1960s with no jingles or pre-recorded promos. Much of the commentary centers on the artists’ histories, contextual information, anecdotes and personal memories.
I always thought the guy might be a good subject for this column, and I had a picture in my mind of what he might look like based on his preference of music, moniker “The Hermit,” voice and the hours the show runs (Saturday from 9 to 11 p.m.)
Turns out he pre-records his show each week right here in good ol’ Geneva, N.Y. I caught up with him last week to both meet him and take his picture at the new WEOS studio in Scandling Center.
He looks far, far from what I imagined. I expected him to look more like the inset photo taken of him many decades ago.
But there is a good reason for his relatively conservative look. Steven R. Webb’s “real” job is as a corrections officer in Seneca County. There are restrictions on hair length and dress.
Steve’s wife, Jenny, said he was not thrilled with his current look when he took the job, but he has become accepting of it with time.
Jenny met Steve about 15 years ago after hearing him on the radio. She listened to his show through the Internet on PBS when she lived in New Jersey. She met him after some initial communications and the rest, shall we say, is history.
The 61-year-old has always had a passion for music. His parents were from Geneva, but Webb spent many years as a military kid attending three different high schools across the country.
During a two-year stint in the service, he worked at the base’s radio station. He later formed a few bands such as The Mumphries and Civilian Joe, which played alternative rock. He played guitar and bass with most of their songs being original material.
In the 1980s he got burned out on the band scene but kept a connection with radio. At one time a couple of decades ago, Webb was a disc jockey on multiple stations in the area requiring him to take on different last names at each one. For WEOS he decided to go a different route with “The Hermit.”
The first two years his show was “Stuck in the 20th Century” until he pared it down to its current name and format.
As you can imagine, his own personal record collection numbers in the thousands if not tens of thousands. His favorite band? Jimi Hendrix Experience.
He just picked up a new used album at Area Records by The Animals.
Webb says he will continue to do his show “’til I drop.”
I believe him, too. For Webb it’s a true labor of love. Though his show is syndicated and he could charge stations to use it, he offers it free of charge. He is more interested in getting the music out to as many folks as possible, and that’s the best way to do it.
All I have to say is “right on, far out, out of sight and groovy man.”