Uncle Willis // Timothy Willis
Name & DJ Name:
Timothy Willis aka Uncle Willis
Name of Show/Day & Time:
Storytime With Uncle Willis, Monday evenings, 7:00 to 8:00
Show’s Format/Has It Morphed?
In my family, my nieces and nephews know me as a storyteller; I’m that uncle. I play old-time radio classics, audio books and original radio plays. I like to find the ones based on stories by writers like Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft. I look for that strangest stuff out there! I’m intentionally looking for B-grade radio plays—they’re archived, they’re in the public domain, complete with commercials from their time period, the ‘40s and ‘50s. Those old low-budget plays seemed to get to explore the more bizarre subject matter since they didn’t have to answer to CBS, Lux and other big sponsors.
I’ve also gotten to profile about a dozen guests over the three years I’ve been on the air, and I want to feature more. I’ve read some of my own poetry and, ideally, I’d like to divide my hour into half music and poetry, the other half live radio play performances, which is actually how I started my very first show, with live skits performed by voice actors from the community.
I made the little intro I play at the start of each show, playing slide guitar with a shot glass and other effects on my bass, and I just recorded it till I got that Twilight Zone feel.
What drew you to KMRD?
I live in the East Mountains between Madrid and Albuquerque, and I first started coming up to Madrid to hear live music at the local bar. I’d started making friends with some of the local artists—the fact that the community accepted me was a big deal, this group of creatives! So I went ahead and signed up for the DJ training.
I grew up in a small town outside East Peoria, Illinois and, as a kid, I listened to our community radio station—yeah, we had one, too, back then! It was, y’know, a lot of lost dog announcements and a cool gardening show my mom listened to. My favorite was a guy who played old-time radio rebroadcasts like The Shadow and The CBS Radio Mystery Theater. I was an anti-establishment, steampunk kind of kid. My friends and I skateboarded, made films and read our stuff at local poetry readings. The other kids thought we were kinda weird.
What’s your day job?
I do handyman work, basically, carpentry and a lot of electrical work. I also do art—some of my artwork is showing at Moonbow Gallery, and I help [local writer and musician] Joe West write his Theater of Death plays, plus I do wiring and stage carpentry in the Engine House Theater.
What difference has being a DJ made in your life?
Well, first of all, just my commute to the station once a week for my show—I come up on my motorcycle, it’s about a 20 minute ride and sometimes I just have to pull over to get stuff down. I get a ton of ideas for writing by researching material for my show. It’s a creative pressure. As I do these shows, I become more and more of who I want to be, exploring things more deeply and inspiring myself to try new things. I think I inspire other people to look outside the box for inspiration, too. Everyone gets caught up with commercial radio and/or TV and forgets about all the great stuff you can find in the public domain!
And I love following Pete Amahl’s show [The Amaral Market, also on Mondays, 4:00 to 7:00 pm]! He was among the jazz and blues musicians I looked up to before I ever even came to KMRD; and also the DJ after me, Frankie John, who plays great world music on his show [Life Along the Hogback, 8:00 to 10:00]. Thanks, all you great DJs on KMRD—[shout out to] Icky Mac! Mattrick!—for accepting and encouraging and inspiring me. That means a lot to me.