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September 26, 2013

Joel Najman and His Beard Celebrate 30 Years on VPR


Joel Najman
Joel Najman (and his beard)

Joel Najman has been the host and producer of the weekly rock-and-roll-history program "My Place" on Vermont Public Radio for 30 years. That's a remarkable accomplishment, one for which he was recently honored by the Vermont Legislature with a resolution congratulating him on his three decades spinning the classic (and not so classic) songs that compose the rich tapestry of our collective musical past — and more importantly, unearthing the stories behind them.

Najman's show is as much a celebration of early rock and roll as it is a history lesson, and it is entertaining and educational in equal measures.

The anniversary love for Najman continues this Saturday, September 28, as his esteemed employers are throwing a celebratory sock hop called VPR A Go-Go, a 1960s-themed dance party at the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury.

The party will feature prizes for the best '60s hairdo, a Twister competition and go-go dancers. It will also, of course, feature the host with the most himself, Joel Najman, spinning the platters that matter. Oh, and Najman's beard. His totally awesome beard.

In anticipation of that party — and because we profiled Najman for his 25th anniversary — we recently got in touch with Najman's incredible Rip van Winkle and asked for its thoughts on 30 years behind the mic. Here's what Najman's typically silent partner had to say.   

SEVEN DAYS: 30 years. Wow. What are your thoughts about three decades in the biz?

JOEL NAJMAN'S BEARD: Well, it's certainly been a hairy ride. But I like to think there's been a lot of growth, too.

SD: Obviously. The show is so meticulously researched. How long does it take to put together each episode?

JNB: Days. Weeks. Years, in certain cases. With so much to comb through, it can take a long time to tease out all the strands and find all those tasty little crumbs. And sometimes there's just too much and you have to trim it back a bit.

SD: Uh-huh. So, about that voice. It is so rich and authoritative, yet inviting at the same time. Any advice for would-be jocks?

JNB: Don't be afraid to get wild and unkempt. You know you're doing it right when it tickles the throat. Or even the chest.

SD: Riiiight. Last question. Being a musicologist allows you to maintain a certain objective, academic distance from your subjects. But you're also a fan. Is it hard not to get totally absorbed in the music? 

JNB: Oh, yes. It can all be quite mesmerizing. Sometimes I do get a little too close and I'll just get caught up in the records as they spin around and around. It can be hard, painful, even, to pull myself away.

"My Place" hosted by Joel Najman airs every Saturday at 8 p.m. on VPR. And, yes, this interview was totally fake. We love ya, Joel. And your beard. Congratulations on 30 incredible years.

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