He makes his radio debut next Tuesday morning — at 93
It isn’t every day that someone in their mid-80s decides to pick up a guitar and learn to play it.
And it’s even rarer when, at 93, he makes his live radio debut playing his original songs.
But that’s exactly what Tom Christison of Woodland will be doing next Tuesday in the 9 a.m. hour on KVMR’s Morning Show (89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming).
“Tom calls me just about every week,” says Morning Show host Paul Emery. “I don’t have much time to talk to him during a live show, so I just invited him up.”
According to Emery, “he (Christison) is an avid songwriter whose always sending me his recorded songs, and he doesn’t perform them in the usual way.”
Maybe that comes from being in his 90s, duh.
As for Christison, the loyal listener/member of the eclectic Nevada City radio station first discovered KVMR on the radio driving home from a date one night.
“I’d never heard of it, but there was all this great music and there was just something special about it all…” Tom recalls. “So I kept listening.”
Thus began this retired telephone company engineer’s love affair with the folksy, non-commercial radio station where volunteer broadcasters from the community, not paid professionals, host and present the programs
“It’s a family to me,” says Christison. “You get to know them (the hosts) like old friends.”
KVMR Program Director Steve Baker, also the Monday Morning Show host, couldn’t agree more.
“Tom drew up and sent me some delightful ‘adoption’ papers,” he beams. “So I’m now his nephew and he’s my uncle, at least on radio.”
And Christison credits KVMR with inspiring him into what he’ll be doing next Tuesday.
“The more I listened, the more I thought ‘Gee, I’d like to play that music’ so I picked up a guitar and started playing.”
He took a variety of lessons and found himself most interested in how to write his own songs.
“I made my own chord index with 1,470 chord changes for all the different keys,” Tom explains. “My music teacher said it’d never been done before, but when you’re writing a song, you’ve got to follow a chord progression.”
Christison admits one guitar teacher told him, “You’re a strummer.”
“I don’t do fancy pickin’ or anything,” he smiles. “I’ll let the experts have their fun with that.”
Tom has had some health issues — hey, he’s nearing his mid-90s — but he credits KVMR with helping his condition.
“My doctor said it was the best thing I ever did (at this age), listening to you and playing guitar,” reports Tom. “He told me ‘it’s increased your life ten-fold.’”
Christison was married for 57 years to his late wife, Elsie, saying it “was love at first sight and two weeks later I proposed to her.”
It’s had some sweet results: five children, 12 grandkids, and now two great-grandchildren.
In addition, Tom was a World War II Navy veteran on a carrier in the Atlantic looking for German submarines.
“You know, it was a close knit unit like KVMR,” he remembers. “We’d work together so well.”
And always the funster, Christison claims he joined the Navy “not to see the world but to see all the pretty girls.”
“And when we were in New York City, they’d chase us down…”
Oh, back to Tom’s songwriting.
There’s this one from 2010 about KVMR, which the station has regularly featured and it starts like this:
There’s a place up North
Where my heart goes each day
KVMR, that’s their name
And it’s calling to me
Thanks, Tom. See you Tuesday for your very first look inside the station.
On The Air is a weekly irreverent look at Nevada City’s non-profit volunteer-driven, eclectic community radio station at 89.5 FM and streaming at kvmr.org. Complete KVMR schedule available at the station’s website, http://www.kvmr.org The station now features an easy-to-use archive of all music shows for two weeks and talk shows for two months at archive.kvmr.org
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