Radio Free Athens’ DJ Rat hosts his 500th show on WOUB AM Saturday

Posted on:

< < Back to

ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – Years are marked by Earth’s orbit around the Sun, and months by the Moon’s orbit around Earth.

For longtime WOUB volunteer and radio programmer Doug Brooks, however, time is measured in radio shows.

Specifically, in the number of Radio Free Athens sets he’s hosted on WOUB AM many Saturdays for nearly 20 years.

This Saturday is another one of those Radio Free Athens Saturdays for Brooks. But it’s not just any radio show.

When Brooks, known to many by his DJ name, Rat (more on that later), steps into WOUB’s AM studio for his 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. set, it will be his 500th show.

Radio Free Athens is a weekly program on WOUB AM that allows volunteers to fulfill a childhood dream many music enthusiasts share: playing the music they love on the radio.

Radio Free Athens

Brooks once had this dream too. Naturally, when he learned his friend and Radio Free Athens alum Dave Baer was doing just that, he had to find out more.

“I just started listening and coming into Dave’s show to hang out and watch what he was doing,” Brooks recalls. He was intrigued and eager to get on air himself.

Before long, he did.

Brooks opened his first Radio Free Athens set with Just Like Home, a track from Tim Easton’s first solo album, Special 20. Thus began the radio career of the DJ soon to be known as Rat.

Over the years, Brooks hasn’t only played records live on the radio. Sometimes he’s “cut out the middleman” by bringing live performers into the studio, like when Frank Zappa tribute group Ugly Radio Rebellion played live for his set. Brooks says some of his favorite shows have included guest DJs, like Athens City Schools teacher Phil Armstrong.

Other standout shows have been themed sets. You’d be surprised what directions the right DJ can take you with a pile of CDs, vinyl, and access to a digital music library.

However, like many DJs, Brooks says some of the best shows come about from just “following the muse,” walking into the studio with no clue what kind of show you’re doing until you find yourself doing it, intuitively reaching for each song based on how it will flow into the next.

Over the course of his 500 shows, Brooks has dedicated a lot of time and energy to his craft. He says it’s been worth it.

“Basically, [I keep doing radio] because I love music,” Brooks says. “Radio Free Athens has […] exposed me to a lot of music because the WOUB library is so huge. It’s [allowed] me to meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise. […] It’s just a lot of fun. It’s something I really, really enjoy doing.”

Much has changed since Brooks’ first time on the radio.

Back then it was the early aughts: CDs were still the dominant music format, headphones had wires, and the garage rock revival was on the rise (just to name a few things). Fast forward to the present, and those aren’t the only changes the music industry has undergone.

Live radio shows like those Brooks and other RFA volunteers host every Saturday have become rarer, some might even say they’re “remnants of a bygone era.” Yet, these live shows hosted by real people have created multiple generations of music lovers, and Brooks believes this is an important tradition to uphold.

Some things, however, like Brooks’ DJ moniker Rat, have remained the same.

People have called him “Rat” since high school, when he had a pet rat named Nicodemus, after the sage prophet in the 1982 Don Bluth animated film The Secret of NIMH.

Brooks jokes that Nicodemus isn’t the only reason the nickname stuck.

“I’ve also got a ponytail, which looks like a tail,” he says. “And I’ve lived in basements a lot of my life.”

Hear Rat live on the radio Saturday from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET on WOUB AM 1340 or at this link. He’s also hosting Audiosyncracies on WOUB FM Sunday night 8 p.m. to midnight with special guests Jorma Kaukonen and John Hurlbut, listen to the show at 91.3 FM or at this link.