HITS Daily Double

By Karen Glauber

Many of us first met Sean Demery in 1992 when 99X Atlanta flipped to Alternative. In the years that followed, the programming team that included Brian Phillips, Leslie Fram and Sean was the standard to which all others aspired. Sean’s singular creative mind and quick wit, coupled with Leslie’s brilliance and enthusiasm, made every visit to Atlanta memorable.

In 2004, Sean moved to San Francisco to program Live105, returning the station to the cultural force it had been when Richard Sands had sat in the PD chair years before. Sean was obsessed with music and encouraged his staff to share their favorites with him. In early 2005, Sean’s unabashed love for Arcade Fire prompted him to add “Rebellion (Lies)” from Funeral (which wasn’t the song I was working at the time), and it turned out to be Live105’s most-played song of the year.

It became apparent that Sean and CBS corporate were not on the proverbial “same page,” and rather than toeing the line, he gave his DJs MORE freedom. Last week, current KROQ MD Miles Anzaldo and I were reminiscing about the “Miles the Intern” weekend Sean let him program. You can’t inspire people to perform to the best of their abilities by stifling their creativity—and Sean practiced what he preached. After a week of especially bold adds, I asked Sean why he was so brazenly defying “the suits.” His response was pure Sean: “If I’m going to go down, I’m going to go down in flames.”

Well, that happened. Sean went back to Atlanta to reteam with Leslie, but the evildoers then in charge made that situation untenable for both of them. During that time, I pitched the idea of a “Rock for Girls” station to Andy Schuon, who was at CBS Radio, preferably in an underserved market like Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, which Leslie, Sean and I could run. It would’ve worked.

Sean’s career/life landed him all over the place, usually for a less than a year, but we always stayed in contact. I last saw him in December, when I brought Lori Kampa to KINK to meet him. He loved Portland, he loved his job, and he loved that he and his wife Jenn were living in the same city. The conversation we had about focusing on the community, rather than engaging in a pissing match over which station in the markets got the presents on a show, is one I’ve often repeated, citing Sean as one of the few programmers who could take the big-picture view of his job. He was proud that they changed the call letters to PINK during breast cancer-awareness month, and was giddy over incredible public turnout the station achieved for their coat drive.

One month later, Sean had a brain-stem stroke, which left him paralyzed and unable to communicate. Last Saturday, he passed away at the age of 60. I am grateful to have known Sean Demery for over 25 years. It isn’t my habit to end too many radio calls with “I love you,” but merely saying goodbye to Sean at the end of a call wouldn’t sufficiently express how deeply I valued him, so it was always “I love you.” Next time you hear an Arcade Fire song, think about Sean…

When Nick Petropoulos told me that the new Mumford & Sons song was called “Guiding Light,” I wondered if it was a cover of the Television song of the same title from Marquee Moon. At first listen, it was abundantly clear that THIS “Guiding Light” is a one-listen anthem, certain to remind us that Mumford & Sons deserve their status as one of the biggest bands in the world. Welcome back, friends…

When was the last time a debut single from a brand-new artist (unsigned!) was added in NYC and L.A. before the song had even been serviced to radio? Say hello to “Loser” by Jagwar Twin, added this week at ALT 92.3 NYC, ALT 98.7 LA, KLLT St. Louis and KYRK Corpus Christi. On the next day, they sent out the song to radio…

SONG TO HEAR (AND THE BEST BAND TO MEET): Bob Moses’ “Back Down.” I’m obsessed with the new album Battle Lines.

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