Bill DeVille looks at the formation of his career in radio and at The Current

The Current's Bill DeVille
The Current's Bill DeVille is heard weekends, and he's also the host of 'Time Machine Tuesday' and the Sunday-morning program, 'United States of Americana.' (James Napoli | MPR)

As The Current celebrates 15 years on the air and as we find ourselves in our winter member drive (become a member today), Minnesota Public Radio's Michael Popham is asking the hosts who've been with The Current since the beginning about their history at the station and in radio.

This week, Popham spoke with The Current's Bill DeVille. Here's their conversation:

MICHAEL POPHAM: Hey, Bill! Where did you grow up, and what radio stations did you listen to as a kid?

BILL DeVILLE: I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin (yes, I'm a Packers fan). I grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. My favorite station was the AM Pop channel KISD. Sioux Falls had a really cool FM station called X93 that really inspired me to be a DJ. They played exciting new things like The Clash, Elvis Costello and the Specials.

Who were your favorite announcers?

My favorite announcers were at X93. People like Paul Westby and Ken Mills — I am still friends with Ken today. Former KQRS and Cities 97 host John Pete was always somebody I looked up to. I always really liked smooth and informative announcers who make listeners feel comfortable.

What was the first record you bought?

I don't remember for sure what the first 45 I bought was, so let's go with "Let It Be" by the Beatles. The first album I bought was Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin. My tastes went downhill for a while after that!

What was your first job in radio?

I started on the radio at the country stations KIOV-FM and KXRB-AM in Sioux Falls. I knew very little about country music when I started; I was more into the Clash at the time. But I learned to appreciate country music really fast. Thanks to Waylon and Willie, Merle, Johnny and Rosanne Cash!

You did a stint working at KABL, the eclectic alternative cable radio station in Minneapolis. What do you remember about those days?

Yes, I volunteered there for a couple of years. If it wasn't for that station, I probably wouldn't be where I am today. I DJ'ed there for a few years hosting a morning show, and I also hosted The Local Thang, which featured a live band most weeks.

You hosted Minnesota Music on Cities 97 back in the day. Who were some of your favorite guests from that show, and how did your work there inform what The Current does now?

Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks, Mason Jennings, Chris Mars, and Slim Dunlap were a few faves. Curating that show was a great experience for me. The music was handpicked, like here at The Current. It really taught me how to put a balanced show together.

When did you first hear about the new station that was to become The Current? What was your first impression?

I heard about The Current early on. I had a friend who worked at MPR. I was really excited and tried to figure out immediately how to get a job there. I wasn't at a radio station at the time.

How did you get involved in the new station?

I made a demo tape, went through the interview process and was aboard by the first day on the air!

As someone who was there at the beginning, what were The Current's early days like?

It was the most exciting thing I had ever been a part of — to actually be part of a station from the get-go and build it from the ground up.

You host United States of Americana and are known as a champion of roots music. How does Americana fit into what The Current does?

I like to think The Current plays the best of many spokes on the musical wheel, Americana being one of those spokes.

You also host Time Machine Tuesday, which tackles a different year in music history each week. So I gotta ask: Do you have a favorite musical year?

Easy. 1969! So much was happening in music that year in both country and rock, pop and soul.

Are fans of The Current different from fans of other stations? If so, how?

Yes, I believe they have more passion for music than at other stations! These listeners really love discovering new and old music.

The Current hosts a lot of live events every year. What's your favorite?

The Current's Micro Shows. What could be better than seeing an artist like Steve Earle or Nathaniel Rateliff in a small room?

Are you an animal lover? Do you have pets at home?

I am an animal lover. I've had cats and dogs. Currently, my wife and I just rescued a dog. We named her Mavis, after the fabulous Mavis Staples! Our Mavis is also full of love!

A lot of people around here are musicians. Do you play an instrument?

I don't play an instrument, but sometimes I play the fool! (I stole that from John Lennon!) I did play the trombone for a time in junior high. Upon further review, I wish I would have practiced more and continued to play it.

Listen to Bill DeVille on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Central; Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Central (including United States of Americana from 8 to 10 a.m.), and on Time Machine, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Central on The Current.

External Link

Bill DeVille on Twitter

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4 Photos

  • Mac Wilson and Bill DeVille
    Mac Wilson and Bill DeVille host weekends on The Current. (Luke Taylor | MPR)
  • Rock the Garden 2019 scenes
    The Current's Bill DeVille at Rock the Garden 2019. (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Tyler Burkum and Bill DeVille with Burkum's double-neck guitar
    Following a session in The Current studio, Tyler Burkum of the Cactus Blossoms lets Bill DeVille have a try with the Jerry Jones Longhorn double-neck guitar. (Luke Taylor | MPR)
  • William Prince performs in The Current studio
    Bill DeVille and William Prince pose for a photo in The Current studio. (Nate Ryan | MPR)