Monday, December 17, 2007

WHFS 102.3 DAMIEN 11:00-12:30PM 05-03-1983

96 minute open reel tape of Damien recorded Tuesday, May 3 1983.

David Bowie, Nona Hendrix, Neville Brothers, Gary US Bonds, Garland Jeffries, Joe King Carossco, David Bromberg, Slickee Boys, Ultravox, Weird Al, Chesterfield Kings, Allman Brothers, Muddy Waters, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Blasters,

195MB, MP3 @320, 96 Minutes

Good Washington Post Article About Damian Einstein, Harp Player and

Damian the Deejay: The Show Must Go On
Protests, Legal Rulings and Fan Ingenuity Have Helped
Keep Revered Radio Legend on Air for Three Decades

• 'A Beautiful Cat'

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 13, 2001; Page AA14

The voice is impossible to ignore. Words come out
moist and slushy, tumbling over the airwaves in
breathy gusts.

The cadence, strong and resolute one moment, can
suddenly turn thin and halting. Syllables slide into
each other before untangling and lurching forward.
Then, it all cascades downward, landing in a jumbled
heap. It is, undeniably, a marvelous mash -- earnest,
labored, unvarnished.

But it vanishes before you can get your mind around
it, replaced by a jangly guitar or a whiff of
Mississippi Delta blues.

The voice compels, even if you've never heard of
Damian Einstein or his 30-year radio odyssey -- the
heady days as a pioneer of alternative rock at WHFS;
the near-fatal truck crash in 1975 that twisted his
bones and altered his speech; the doctor-defying
recovery; the protests when he was yanked off the air
because of his stammer; the return to the airwaves and
the mid-life ascendancy to cult figure status at tiny
WRNR in Annapolis, where, at 51, he is now celebrating
three decades of murmuring into microphones.

None of this history is necessary to make you lean
forward, spin the volume knob, shush your friends in
the back seat. The voice stands out on its own. It
somehow seems to say, this guy has really lived.

Muse of Main Street

Hours before his 7 p.m. show, Damian wanders onto Main
Street through the front door of a fudge shop beneath
WRNR's cluttered third-floor office, methodically
picking past the tourists on his way to coffee shops
and music stores.

He is instantly recognizable, a rock-and-roll version
of Mark Twain with a thick, unruly mustache and a
great mound of shaggy salt-and-pepper hair left
windblown by his daily meanderings around the City
Dock. He cuts his hair, he said, only when "I start to
look like I'm with the band."

The crash that changed Damian's voice also left his
right arm cocked at a 90-degree angle. He walks with a
determined, yet wobbly gait, even when he is leaning
on one of the dozen custom-made canes that he keeps in
a brass canister at his Potomac town house.

His strolls are invariably interrupted. Longtime
listeners approach him reverentially, almost as if
they're making a pilgrimage. Eager guys in concert
T-shirts slide home-pressed CDs into his hands, and
scruffy stagehands tell tales of some kid from
Hagerstown who can draw lightning from a six-string

It is no surprise that they seek him out. Damian made
his reputation in the early 1970s by prowling D.C.
nightclubs in search of unknown talent, culling places
such as the Cellar Door for new sounds. He played
Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, John Prine and dozens of
others before they got famous.

Many became friends. He pops into Prine's house in
Nashville for coffee and hangs out with Little Feat
drummer Richie Hayward in Los Angeles. Raitt has
dedicated songs to him at local concerts, and Steve
Miller once dragged him on stage to play the
harmonica, knowing that Damian was an accomplished
player who sometimes sat in with bluesman J.B. Hutto
and others.

Damian's marquee show at WRNR-FM (103.1) is called
"Damian's Local Diner," a unscripted romp with
musicians playing live in studio that airs from 9 to
10 p.m. Thursdays. The acts range from polished
performers on international tours to bar bands whose
members have day jobs.

"He is so important to local musicians; he gives them
a place to be heard," said Wayne Kahn, owner of Right
On Rhythm, a company that produces compilations of
songs by area musicians. "He supported them, played
them and gave them a voice."

The scheduling of Damian's Diner is loose, and there
is almost always some doubt about who will actually
appear. One night recently, it looked as if Damian had
been stood up. He was fumbling through a stack of CDs
to fill the void when Hazey Jane, a group from
Baltimore, wandered into the station five minutes
before show time.

Damian can be jumpy and agitated as he prepares for
his show. But once he gets started, his demeanor
changes. The placid Main Street stroller returns. The
music pacifies him. The studio, with its threadbare
carpet and its splintered plastic clock for timing
shows, is his comfort zone.

So when Hazey Jane arrived, Damian calmly poked his
head into the hallway and pointed out that they only
had minutes to prepare, to which the band's frontman,
Jeff Ploughman, replied: "Oh, so we've got time to go
get a beer?"

Persuaded that they ought to forgo a trip to the bar,
band members -- a collection of computer technicians
and chemical salesmen -- wedged into the tiny WRNR
studio. The guitar player crammed into one corner with
his elbows hiked up, another guy sat with his drum
between his legs.

"I'm a little nervous," Ploughman said, as the
broadcast began.

"I understand," Damian said, reassuringly. "I'm a
little nervous, too."

They both laughed, and suddenly everything was okay.

Warm Milk and Hippies

The fifth of seven children, Damian grew up in Denton,
a chicken farming town on the Eastern Shore. His
father, the irrepressible Jake Einstein, worked in
newspaper and radio sales at the time but later would
make a fortune by buying and selling WHFS and WRNR.
Jake Einstein is Jewish, but he sent Damian to a
Catholic school in Easton.

"No loud smiling during prayers -- that's what the
nuns always told me," Damian said.

He got his musical education at home, where he
remembers being "knocked out" by his parents' Billie
Holliday records. He sneaked into the Eastern Shore's
black-owned music clubs, where he was often the only
white face in the crowd listening to bands such as
Noonie and the Enchanted Heartbreakers.

He moved to Bethesda with his mother during his junior
year in high school after his parents divorced. A
child of the 1960s, he made the requisite,
post-graduation road trip to Southern California in a
sputtering van with a bunch of long-haired buddies. He
studied graphic design there for a year, before
returning to Bethesda and going to work selling ads at
WHFS, where his father was a sales manager.

In 1971, he got a job as WHFS's overnight deejay, a
less than coveted shift, but one that allowed him to
experiment freely with playing a range of musical

"He'd play a 10-minute Miles Davis song, then come
back with rock-and-roll, then some really deep blues,
like Jimmy Reed or John Lee Hooker," said Joe Lee, who
manages bands and owns Joe's Record Paradise in

As he developed a loyal following and moved to more
high-profile shifts, his studio became a regular stop
for anyone who played blues or Southern roots music or
new forms of rock-and-roll.

Bruce Springsteen visited Damian at WHFS before the
kids in the mall knew he was the Boss. Long before
Springsteen sold out stadiums, he played to small
audiences at the Childe Harold in Dupont Circle.
Damian was backstage.

"Bruce had this awful cold," recalled Patti Ebbert, a
WHFS ad rep who later became Damian's second wife. "He
kept asking us for warm milk. Warm milk, warm milk."

The parties invariably slipped out of the clubs and
back to Damian's farmhouse in Germantown. Lee
remembers jam sessions that lasted for days; once an
entire contingent of bluegrass players from a
Smithsonian festival made their way to Damian's place.
"He was real crazy . . . a big risk-taker," Lee said.
"It was a wild hippie time. Hippies all over the

Harmonic Awakening

The heady ramble ended on a cold December night in
1975 when Damian got a ride with his pal Rubber
Wagner, inspiration for Damian's late-night "Rubber
Buddy Hours" show at WHFS. The pickup truck skidded on
an icy patch in a vacant Bethesda field they were
using as a shortcut, shearing off the cab when it
smashed into a bridge. Wagner and another friend, Toby
Nealis, were killed.

Damian, then 25, lay in a coma at Holy Cross Hospital.
He didn't move for four months.

His doctors, certain he would not live, wanted to take
him off life support, but his father and Ebbert talked
them out of it. His prognosis was so bad the doctors
didn't bother to set the eight fractures in each of
his arms or to discover his broken neck, broken jaw
and a host of other fractured bones. But friends kept
a vigil anyway.

One night, some pals dragged the Chicago blues
virtuoso Carey Bell into the hospital room after a
Cellar Door gig.

"He wasn't winning no beauty contests, I tell you,"
Bell said.

Bell did the only thing he could think of: He reached
for Damian's limp fingers with one hand and started
riffing on a harmonica clutched in his other. He
played for about three minutes, he recalled, then he
felt something. Damian, a harmonica player himself,
was squeezing Bell's hand ever so slightly. A few bars
later, Damian opened his eyes. It was the first time
since the crash.

The voice was born not long after. Ebbert was in the

"He said," she remembered, " 'Where's Rubber?' "

Really Beautiful Cats

Damian won't talk about the night of the crash. Won't
talk about much of anything that is too painful or

Conversations with him branch and circle when there is
a good song on the stereo. Guitar chords distract him.
He can't ignore a brash tenor saxophone or a wheezing

He stops in mid-sentence, jabs an index finger in the
direction of the stereo speaker. A childlike grin
crosses his face.

"You hear that?" he says urgently. "You hear that
tenor sax? Man, I really love tenor sax."

Soon, he is tracing the bloodlines of the band,
recounting a dizzying trail of bass players who left
one group to form another, then hooked up with some
guys from Chicago, only to break up again and go on
the road with another lineup.

He describes the musicians as "cats," that is, unless
he's calling them "beautiful cats" or "really
beautiful cats." Their songs are "dynamite."

Shelves holding a lifetime of records, held together
by brown packing tape and frayed from years of
handling, line the basement of his modest town house
in Potomac.

Each record holds a memory of a long-ago concert or a
late-night interview: Dr. John, NRBQ, the Flying
Burrito Brothers. Tonight he has found an obscure solo
album by Fingers Taylor, who plays in Jimmy Buffett's
band. "This cat," Damian says, "He's all right."

He flips the record over and over. You get the idea he
could stay down here forever.

The Push to Walk

After coming out of the coma, Damian for a time
thought he was 14 years old again, when a fall had
landed him in the hospital. This time, he spent two
years in rehabilitation, in and out of hospitals. He
then moved into an apartment above WHFS, lifting
weights to restore his atrophied muscles and making
tentative steps to resume his on-air duties.

Not surprisingly, he turned to his records for relief.
A Steely Dan song about an acupuncturist named Dr. Wu
intrigued him. He knew that Dr. Wu, who practiced in
the Washington area, had helped Steely Dan's Donald
Fagan overcome drug addiction.

Ebbert found Dr. Wu, who slowly loosened Damian's
rigid muscles. By then, Damian's first marriage had
broken up, and Ebbert was a constant companion.

Damian wanted to marry her. But she made him wait,
insisting that he walk first. It was her way of
pushing him, and it worked. Four years after the
crash, they flew to New Orleans and were married under
oak trees draped with Spanish moss in City Park, a few
blocks from the site of Jazz Fest, which Damian has
attended almost every year since the mid-1960s.

"That was when he really started to evolve," said
Hayward, the Little Feat drummer. "He grew up a lot in
that short period of time. . . . He was very much less
the party animal."

An On-Air Icon

Damian returned to the air in late 1977, manning one
shift a week before eventually resuming full-time
duties. Everything was harder. The once-familiar
controls -- the gaggle of lights and levers -- were
maddeningly difficult to navigate.

But the old touch returned, and so did the listeners,
quickly embracing the new voice with the familiar

Damian's speech impairment didn't matter much until
his father sold WHFS to Duchossois Industries Inc., a
garage door and machine gun ammunition manufacturer.
In 1989, the station's new manager pulled Damian out
of his regular deejay shift, making him an assistant
programming director and relegating him to short music
drop-in spots. The station called it a promotion, but
Damian's friends and fans were outraged.

A grass-roots rebellion sprung up, culminating in a
protest concert attended by more than 8,000 people.
Guitar legend Danny Gatton played, so did Catfish
Hodge, the D.C. folk and blues standout. Hayward flew
in from Los Angeles.

The concert rallied support, but it took a
discrimination suit, 18 months of legal wrangling and
a 1990 ruling from the Maryland Human Rights
Commission to get him back on the air.

"It was a nasty battle," Damian said. "It was a hell."

He stayed at WHFS for almost four years, before
resigning in 1994 and moving to WRNR, the station that
his father had bought and transformed into a free-form

Jake Einstein eventually sold the station, but Damian
has remained, first as the keeper of a format that let
deejays play whatever they wanted, and most recently
as a defender of the station's decision to move to a
more structured format with play lists.

WRNR, which draws about 1 percent of radio listening
time in Arbitron's survey of the Baltimore-area market
and ranks 24th out of 31 stations, still plays artists
that aren't widely heard elsewhere, acts such as John
Hiatt, Widespread Panic and Graham Parker. But there
also is less freedom for jocks, more repetition and an
infusion of mainstream pop performers.

Some of the station's longtime followers howled.
Damian, though, didn't lend his voice to the clash.
He's never been much for protests. Even in the '60s,
it was the music -- not the sit-ins -- that captivated

"Take Me Home, Ambrose"

Just before midnight, Damian invariably cues up
"Two-Step de Palten," by Cajun accordionist Ambrose
Thibodeaux, whom he met decades ago on a Louisiana
road trip. He has played the song at the end of every
show for 30 years, signing off with the words, "Take
me home, Ambrose," a habit that both amused and
baffled Thibodeaux, who died in 1997 at age 92.

A small core of loyal listeners will go to great
lengths to pick up Damian's show, trading tips on the
Internet about ways to overcome WRNR's faint
6,000-watt signal.

Tom Donohoe, 43, installed a directional antenna on
the roof of his Lanham home. This summer, Donohoe
snapped pictures of the deejay during one of "Damian's
Blues Cruises," a monthly jaunt on the Chesapeake Bay
that the station devised to capitalize on his

"A lot of people respect that he's been through a lot
of difficulties," said Michael H. O'Sullivan, a
commercial shipping engineer who stood at the edge of
the party boat's dance floor. "I thought, at first,
'This guy shouldn't be a deejay -- just listen to him
talk.' But the more I listened to him talk, the more I
appreciated his knowledge."


Anonymous said...

On a live Nils DVD, Damien came out and introduced Bob Berberich of Grin. Cool to see Damien in the flesh. Oh, any live Nils/Grin stuff in your amazing collection?

WVKayaker said...

I used to see Damien about once a week when HFS were in Lanham, at the Jerry's sub shop. Recently he hung out with us at Yin Yankee in Annapolis while we ate Sushi, on his way to WRNR to do hi Wed Blues show. He said the station wagon on the Little Feat "Feats Don't Fail Now" album was his. Pretty cool tid bit.

WVKayaker said...

Only Nils Live stuff I have is a KBFH official release.

RAYB said...

Really fine memories for one who started listening to spiritus cheese
as an alternative to Barry Richards on A.M.

I have about 45 minutes of Cerphe from Bastille Day 1974. I recorded before movin to Montana. Wound up working at KGLT in Bozeman where almost the entire paid staff had lived in D.C. at sometime and thought WHFS was what radio should be. Andy

Camarillo Brillo said...

Thanks Andy for sharing!

What This Is All About

I've been collecting live music from various sources since the mid to late 70's. Radio shows, TV broadcasts, radio show pre-FM CD's and vinyl LP's and some trades. Most of the shows posted here, I recorded and ripped myself. I always had top of the line stereo equipment and cassette and open reel recorders for those on air broadcasts.

I've downloaded plenty of bootlegged concerts from various blogs. As a rule I will only post stuff from my collection and not what is already available out there.

I also post out of print CDs and LPs from my collection.
I will repost from my readers anything someone sends me as long as it is either out of print or something that's not from someone else's blog. If you want to share a link for a cool item on your blog, or someone else's, please feel free to post it in the comments........

Enjoy and please leave a comment and pass this blog along.

Can you believe that so many out there are starving for the old WHFS? Amazing!

If you leave a comment, how about using a nickname instead of Anonymous. At least make up something please. Thanks!

I have reconsidered my position...and will re-upload dead links, so long as you go to that particular post and make the request from the comments page...

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