"Respect the elders. Embrace the new. Encourage the impractical and improbable, without bias."
June 29, 2010 6:22 PM   Subscribe

The days of the legendary late-night FM DJ are pretty much behind us...with one notable exception. Vin Scelsa, whose radio career spans 43 years on six different New York City FM stations, has developed a uniquely passionate following through his free-form show Idiot's Delight, which blends an idiosyncratic array of music new and old, commentary, and book recommendations. For decades, Vin has used his on-air time to read entire chapters of books, wax philosophical, and add to his remarkable roster of guests. Faithful fans chronicle every aspect of the show, archive past playlists and articles, and even create works like this very homemade but very informative and worthwhile Unofficial Documentary: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Idiot's Delight is also on Facebook and is rebroadcast on SIRIUS Satellite Radio's The Loft. He has produced live music series like the 1990s Bottom Line event In Their Own Words: A Bunch of Songwriters Sitting Around Singing, and was music editor of Penthouse for many years.

I was one of the many teenage listeners who discovered Vin (and the incredible, otherwise-unheard-on-radio music that was a program staple) on WNEW and WXRK in the 1980s-90s and made it appointment listening.. His show has probably influenced the development of my personal taste more than I ever think to give it credit for. The show was supposed to end at midnight, but it rarely did - he'd keep going, pre-empting the automated overnight DJ, until two, three, beyond...and we stayed with him.
posted by Miko (11 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Love for Vin ... listened to him on 'NEW all through high school ('76 - '80).

A friend of mine used to read his column in Penthouse, too. ;)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:42 PM on June 29, 2010

Wow, great post. Love Vinnie. I spent many nights staying up late in the seventies and early eighties listening to the Butch and the Brick shows on WNEW (Where ROCK Lives!). Scelsa was/is a pretty major influence on my musical taste. It's amazing how good commercial radio could be back then and how god awful it is now.
posted by octothorpe at 7:00 PM on June 29, 2010

Scelsa was one of the people instrumental in turning WFMU into a freeform station in 1968. Here's a 1968 article about Scelsa and the station before the Upsala College administration shut the station down. WFMU also has a long interview with Scelsa from 1969.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:04 PM on June 29, 2010

Definitely check out the YouTube documentary. There's some excellent info and interview footage and fans will enjoy it, despite the lo-fi production.
posted by Miko at 8:01 PM on June 29, 2010

the fugees, spearhead, sierra leone allstars, all heard first (by moi truly) on vin.

the main reason to hate/kill the record companies? they destroyed fm radio. think what we've lost, imagine if we had web-enabled 1970's fm radio today?

aside from vin, fuv has been (finally) spinning some music for people who aren't on valium, 10pm - midnight.

nyc, melting pot, yes? how is there no station here playing manu chao, thievery corp, kruder and dorfmeister. nyc is dead, it just doesn't know it yet.

ps: delphine blue is on wbai tuesdays 9 - 11pm
posted by kimyo at 8:42 PM on June 29, 2010

I heard Vin twice: once when I randomly tuned in to WNEW with Joan Baez as his guest (I mentioned this to the smartest girl in my high school and she was like - 'I love Idiot's Delight!'), and then years later, when I was home for the holidays and driving around by myself at night, and he was a guest on WFMU, reminiscing with Ken about the old days.
posted by unmake at 8:46 PM on June 29, 2010

Out west we have Jim Ladd.

Best of the best!

Formally of KMET, Los Angeles. (Circa: Way last century.)

"Little bit of heaven, 94.7,
k-m-e-t -- tweedle-dee!"

posted by RoseyD at 9:05 PM on June 29, 2010

Vin Scelsa is a true legend and he earned it. He was a real pioneer. He stayed on the radio just about the whole night of December 8, 1980 when John Lennon was killed, and it was he who helped me and thousands of others get through that awful night ( I still have the tape). A one of a kind guy, who's show back in the day was also the first time I ever heard Frank Zappa's music played -- a lot.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 9:31 PM on June 29, 2010

Does Paul Slavens' show play on NPR in other places than D/FW? That's a pretty badass late night program. Luckily, for some reason, my flights always get in in the middle of the night on Sunday for my drive from the airport back home.
posted by cmoj at 9:43 PM on June 29, 2010

Grrrr . . . . the two archived shows on WFUV are with a different DJ, because Vin's on vacation right now.
posted by JanetLand at 6:32 AM on June 30, 2010

JanetLand: there are some unofficial show archives listed on the Cherk page. This one looks up to date.
posted by Miko at 10:10 AM on June 30, 2010

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