During his 27 years as broadcaster 'Bradley Jay' at WBCN-FM, the Rock of Boston, Bradley John Huckins '79 found inspiration for second and third careers in music as a recording artist and performer.
In his role as broadcaster, Bradley Jay selected music and set the mood for his programs (Friday Night Mega Mash, Cyber Sounds and The Sex Palace), interviewed world touring rock acts and represented the company brand on promotional broadcasts and as emcee at major festivals and concerts.
There were plenty of radio career highlights to fill a scrapbook—a live broadcast in 1990 to 11 time zones in Russia as part of a Rolling Stones tour, interviews of top performers at Woodstock 1999, The Grammys and the Red Carpet, his selection by staff and management to do the last broadcast when WBCN went silent in 2009 after 41 years on the air.
A native of Center Stafford, N.H., Huckins is a self-taught singer, guitarist and keyboard/synthesizer player. After graduating from UNH, he was working bussing tables at the Exeter Street T.G.I.F. in Boston and happened to meet a WUNH program director. He spent the summer of 1980 taking a weekly bus ride to Durham to do a four-hour radio show at his alma mater. Soon he was doing a show on another college radio station, Boston College's WZBC, where he still does a summertime show called Sound Syrup.
"Boston had this incredible music scene back then; college radio was huge," he recalls. "At one point, there were nine of us college radio DJs working at the restaurant ."
In the early 1980s, several interviews and casual conversations with his muse, David Bowie, inspired him to take a bolder step into the limelight as a performer.
"He made the most life-changing comment about me on-air," recalls Huckins. "On this occasion we were doing a BCN broadcast from Fort Apache Studio in Cambridge, featuring Bowie performing five songs and me as moderator, fielding questions for him from an in-studio audience of 100 invited listeners. After introductions, Bowie told the audience to behave as I had to get to a gig with punk music pioneers, Jeff and Jane Hudson, later that evening. Someone must have told him about it. Here was my musical hero referencing one of my performances; it gave me a very public legitimacy as a musician and performer."
Encouraged, Huckins followed up a two-year stint performing with the Hudsons at landmark Boston music rooms such as The Rat, Paradise and the Middle East, immersing himself in innovative DJ technologies and concepts that were surfacing in the early 2000s.
At that time, DJs such as England's Big Beat pioneer, Fatboy Slim, began to eclipse bands as the main event at concerts. "As a BCN DJ, I started to open for acts such as Coldplay, Greenday and Aerosmith at Foxboro Stadium," he explains. "Around this time, DJs were also getting into new digital editing programs that gave birth to the Mash Up. They were combining musical elements, for instance, putting the vocals from one song over the instrumentals of another song, or taking the guitar riff from a song and blending it with the drums from another."
Taking the hybrid notion even further, he mixed his Mash Up tracks with those from his own original songs, first in the studio and later, on stage. "Blurring and combining genres of music, melding original music with familiar DJ music, captures the best of both cultures," he says. To showcase the fusion, he released a still-growing album, Drive, in 2005, and formed the band, Thunder Brothers, in 2007, to fully express the marriage of pre-recorded Mash Ups and live, original music.
Huckins was touched to be chosen to do the last broadcast when WBCN closed. "It was a tremendous honor," he says. "For the last two songs, I played I Feel Free by Cream, which was the first song played at the station on March 15, 1968, when it changed from a classical to rock format. For last, I played Pink Floyd's Shine On, You Crazy Diamond."
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Written by Laura A. Pope '78