For those of you unfamiliar with the Montana Radio Café at 101.9 FM, I’m sorry. I believe it’s the most unique radio station in the state, not to mention my favorite. I say, thanks, Scott Johnston for giving us the blues. We need them, just like we need the Café’s jazz, bluegrass, folk and global beats. The music flows 24 hours a day with no advertisements, though Johnston takes time to thank his sponsors. The playlist is vast. It’s just as, I believe, radio should be. And Johnston does it all by himself from his front porch in Creston.
Blues, bluegrass and folk are the staples of the Café, though jazz is abundant, along with a variety of tunes from outside of our borders. I’ve never heard a repeat song on the Café. I’m sure they happen from time to time, but in my extensive listening experience, the playlist marches on and never looks back. While established names like Bob Dylan and Muddy Waters frequent the playlist, chances are you haven’t heard of the majority of the artists on the Café. If you’re a music lover, that’s a good thing.
Along with the FM station, the Café has a thorough Web site as well. On the site, you can listen to the extensive song selection while keeping a tally of the playlist. This is especially helpful because Johnston, unlike at other radio stations, never tells you the song or artist. For example, the Web site tells me that the Traveling Wilburys’ “Not Alone Any More” played at 10:48 a.m. this morning, followed by Zap Mama’s song “Mupepe” at 10:52. I can scroll back and listen to the most recent songs. It’s a convenient system.
In an effort to let the music flow as it should, Johnston limits human interference. Occasionally, he gets on the air and thanks his sponsors or tells us about the weather. He always sounds genuine and I appreciate that. He tells us about family members who own businesses in the valley and friends who might be able offer a service I need. It makes me feel good about listening to the radio.
The Café is brought to the Flathead Valley by a low-power radio tower, which provides a sound that’s akin to listening to vinyl: It’s not quite crystal clear like we have come to expect in the digital age, but it’s warm and sounds like it’s actually coming from somewhere. Just as welcoming is Johnston himself. He invites us to stop in at the front porch and say hi. And I say, well, I might just do that.