Two years ago, a neighborhood center in Madison landed a hard-to-come-by license to its own low-power FM radio frequency. Now the fledgling station is becoming a proving ground for aspiring DJs of all ages, including Cliff Wilford.
“It was just a normal work day and someone came in and said, ‘we’re developing a radio station,'” explains Wilford. “I’m like, “right here in the Center?” and they were like, ‘yes, it’s going to be here, and we’re looking for people to host shows. And I was probably the first to say, ‘Here, me!'”
Wilford works for the Lussier Community Education Center in Madison. He grew up in Chicago and he loved music.
“We played music all the time at home, and most of the time,” says Wilford. “My dad was born in 1919, so his music was the big bands and jazz and blues. And that’s what he played. You know, when my mom and dad would give a party, that’s what I heard. So i just grew up loving the music.”
His interest in jazz peaked in the early 1970s when he got a job with the Chicago Housing Authority. A lot of the men he worked with were older and loved jazz. Wilford listened to them talk about different artists and styles and began buying albums. He loved it.
He moved in Madison in 1978 but he continued to explore jazz.
“My main jazz buddy here is my brother- in- law. We’ve been knowing each other since we were 10, so I think that’s like, 57 years that we’ve been knowing each other?” says Wilford. “He grew up in the same environment that I did. As a matter of fact, he knows a lot more about jazz than I do because he actually studied it. So we get together, usually on a Sunday, especially in the summertime, and just play music. It’s sort of like the battle of the old geezers, you know. He plays one and then I play one, and we try to one up each other.”
But now that Wilford has his own radio show, he might have found the ultimate topper.
“I think is going to put me on top to stay,” says Wilford.