ANN ARBOR, MI – When Martin Bandyke made the decision in 2006 to step down from his role as music director of Detroit non-commercial NPR station WDET-FM and take the job as morning host for Ann Arbor’s 107one, he soon learned there was more to him Being a radio host than wowing listeners with exciting or groundbreaking music.
Bandyke said his move to a city that has no shortage of arts and culture events and events supporting local nonprofits has made him a sort of “morning mayor” of the city, interviewing the creative community and people about the daily happenings informed of the city.
“It’s really one of the most satisfying parts of the job,” Bandyke said. “And here I thought it was just going to be, ‘Hey, I get to play Talking Heads and David Bowie.’ There’s a lot more to it than that.”
After nearly four decades on the radio and 17 years in Ann Arbor, Bandyke’s tenure as morning mayor is coming to an end, with his last day as morning drive anchor scheduled for December 22.
While he will continue to host the radio station’s weekly Fine Tuning Sundays programme, Bandyke, 68, said the past few years have reinforced that he shouldn’t hesitate to move on to the next chapter of his life, which he says will involve spending more time with his wife, Kim Silarski, after years of being out of the house for work at 5 a.m
“As much as I love being on the air and believe me I’m going to miss being on the air five days a week, just to have the opportunity to take my foot off the gas a bit and see the stacks and stacks of books, CDs and albums to talk about at home will be great,” said Bandyke.
Even before he began his radio career nearly 40 years ago as a volunteer host of WDET’s weekly Dimension show of poetry and spoken-word music, Bandyke’s life was music-consuming at every turn.
His father, Ted Bandyke, worked at his brother-in-law’s record store in Detroit and brought home jazz records that intrigued him from an early age, such as The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Time Out” and Charles Mingus’ “Mingus Ah Um.”
Growing up in Dearborn, Bandyke had a “rhythmic sensitivity” as a child that once led to him rocking his crib enough to get it caught under a nearby doorknob. As a result, his parents arranged drum lessons for Bandyke, who performed in the band The Zooks in high school.
Bandyke continued to immerse himself in the arts while attending the University of Michigan, graduating in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts in radio, television and film. Before he could even secure an unpaid radio gig, however, he played drums for the band Retro, which open to Detroit and Ann Arbor punk and post-punk pioneers like Iggy Pop, John Cale, Simple Minds and Gang of Four would.
Although a performing career was out of the question for Bandyke, he said playing music live was a “thrill that just can’t really be reproduced” that gave him an appreciation for the bands that were able to bring it to life to get running.
“The only thing I really got as a radio host from playing in bands is just to understand how difficult it is to make a living as a band and make good music,” he said.
Bandyke’s time with Retro helped him get his foot in the door as a radio host when a band member linked to then-Dimension show host Charles Moore introduced him to Bandyke and fellow bandmate Ralph Valdez. The two brought a stack of paperwork for a de facto job interview and were soon volunteer co-hosts of the weekly program, which began on February 21, 1983.
It wasn’t until 1990 that Bandyke was hired by WDET full-time as assistant music director. He took over as anchor five days a week in 1991 before serving as the station’s music director from the mid-1990s to 2005, providing it with countless memories of rock ‘n’ roll stars.
“We had a music studio at the station, and every day Coldplay would come by to do a gig in the studio, or Joe Jackson or James Carter,” he said. “There were all those ‘pinch me’ moments where your musical heroes are playing music live in the studio. It was really a great time.”
While his time in Detroit got him his start in radio, Bandyke said that Ann Arbor’s cultural richness was something that had fascinated him since his college days, and vividly described an early 1970s performance by the Merce Cunningham and Dance Company at The Hill Auditorium with composers John Cage and David Tudor as “absolutely mind-blowing”.
When Bob Bolak was approached by 107one manager Bob Bolak about the role of morning host, Bandyke knew it was time to try something different and take on a show that still allowed him to broadcast a wide range of hits from to play from the 1960s to the present day.
While it was a departure to move from a public radio station to Cumulus Media-owned WQKL, Bandyke said he knew where he was headed.
“I always think that culturally, Ann Arbor is at the forefront of everything — dance, music, and the visual arts,” Bandyke said. “Good music is good music and I think it’s pretty obvious after 23 years at WDET that I have some knowledge and certainly a passion for music and that I could present music in that environment on 107.1.”
Bandyke soon became embedded in the Ann Arbor community as a morning host and developed relationships with nonprofit organizations such as Food Gatherers, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Humane Society of Huron Valley.
His work and personality resonated immediately with listeners — as evidenced by how community members rallied to keep him on board as a morning presenter after he was fired from the radio station during an economic downturn in 2009.
Bandyke said the support of Bank of Ann Arbor President Tim Marshall and others in the business community and beyond were instrumental in getting his job back 10 days later after holding talks with the owners of Cumulus, in which they vouched for Bandyke’s influence.
“It’s like a dream,” Bandyke said of the huge support. “It’s so humiliating to have a guy speak into a mic … that people care so much that I still get very emotional about it. It’s not often that someone in my industry gets their job back. Yes, it meant the world to me, I think that’s pretty obvious.”
While Bandyke said he plans to stay connected to the music community for the foreseeable future by hosting Fine Tuning, he said he’s looking forward to a schedule and lifestyle more in line with his wife’s, with hopes of travelling and being able to see more concerts in the future now that he can stay up past the opening act.
Before signing off, Bandyke says he plans to spend his remaining weeks sharing his musical knowledge with listeners and introducing them to new music while he can.
“I love the fact that the music is just always there, and when you’re ready, it’s there and ready to be discovered,” he said. “I love that aspect of being a host and letting people know about something, whether I immediately liked it or not.”
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