Michael Jack Kirby is certifiable! But before you bar the doors, call 9-1-1 and squeal like a stuck pig, let's clarify. MJ is a maniac...when it comes to music. In particular, when you focus on all good things '50s and '60s, this cat definitely walks the walk.
But don't just take my word for it.
"I have this freakish obsession with music history that seems to have taken control of my brain," says Mike of the compulsion that led to Way Back Attack. "I've always been a sponge when it comes to the stories behind the artists and the songs." I can personally attest to this, as I've often seen first-hand how unrelenting he is in his quest for the records, stories and statistics.
Mike, whose pop culture "Jones" consists of a monstrous collection of records, has been a lifelong music junkie, with deep-seated diversions into film, comic books and baseball as well. People have been known to laugh and roll their eyes at him for haunting used bookstores, record shops and collectors' shows in search of blasts from the past. Now it's Mike who has the last laugh.
He turned his love affair with music into a successful radio career that has spanned three decades, as a programmer and on-air personality for Top 40 and oldies stations in Portland, Oregon and other Pacific Northwest cities. He hosted several oldies specialty radio shows throughout the 1980s, most notably Rocket to the '50s and '60s, The Time Machine and Roots of Rock. Mike's encyclopedic knowledge of oldies made him the "go-to" guy at the record companies and for a time he compiled and received production credits on oldies CDs released by Polygram Records (now Universal Music Group). More recently he developed a syndication pilot entitled Way Back Attack which has evolved into the website you have before you.
MJ promises WBA will be more than a cookie cutter "oldies" website. "I'll be reviewing - and, in fact, wallowing in - the overexposed, the familiar, the obscure and the totally weird and whacked out. There's an abundance of cool songs that no longer seem to reach the light of day." Now they will. Way Back Attack brings them all kicking and screaming into your mind and your soul!
Needless to say, humble is rarely a part of Michael Jack Kirby's vocabulary. When it comes to the music of this era, he's more deeply embedded in the stuff than many so-called experts, and has taken first place in at least one large-scale music trivia contest as proof. Think you know someone who can match musical wits with him? He's the first to say "Bring 'em on! I dare you!"
"I double dare you!"
From the Author's Perspective...
Something happened to me in the 1960s. I've never been able to pinpoint the exact moment my preoccupation with music took hold, but as the years progressed my obsession grew stronger. I grew up in Los Angeles, moved out of the area in my late teens, traveled around quite a bit and eventually wound up in Portland, Oregon. My adventure in radio broadcasting, an inevitable career decision, spanned more than 30 years from 1979 to 2010, though as it developed I became disheartened by the realization that the business of radio has little to do with music, even in music formats. I got my feet wet at a community station that gave me (and every other volunteer program host) complete freedom to program my show however I liked; it's probably not surprising that my choice was to play anything and everything I had access to from the '50s and '60s.
After that, I landed commercial radio jobs in rock and adult contemporary formats. For more than two years I had the rare opportunity of programming an "oldies" station my way (meaning a very large playlist), flying under the radar (for awhile) of the consultants that controlled corporate radio and drove it to the depths of boredom we had more than 20 years ago...a trend that, for stations playing older music at least, becomes more narrow, tiresome and unlistenable as time passes. After having my fun with the oldies format I began a two-decade run in top 40 radio at several Pacific Northwest stations, working my way through dance-leaning, rock-leaning, hiphop-heavy and mainstream variations of the format while serving as music director at one of those stations and program director at another.
It was great fun, but through it all my heart remained with the more melodic and lyrically clever musical variety of my favorite era, a period that for the most part occurred a bit too early for me to experience first-hand. To this day there is nothing quite as exciting as the sounds that came out of those early rock and roll years of the 1950s and early 1960s. I've been collecting records for more than four decades, constantly listening and studying every aspect of the art of songwriting and production, taking note of how some forms of music interact with other styles, setting it in context with the world as it existed during those post-atomic bomb, pre-advanced technology days. The deeper I dig, the more fascinating it becomes.
My ultimate goal is for Way Back Attack to be a place where anyone can explore the music of this era as I have. I anchor every subject I write about at its core and expand from there, opposing any measure of convenient disregard for certain types of music, unencumbered by the biases of the last 40-odd years that seem all too common in modern media, where attitudes regarding older music have increasingly become obscured by disposable rhetoric about who-ripped-off-who and absurd, out-of-context comparisons to the music of later decades.
This website is my attempt at creating a place where every kind of music from the '50s and '60s can continue to breathe life consistent with its original context. Every picture sleeve, 45 label, 78 label and album cover is from my personal collection and more will be added as the stories unfold. The goal is to eventually have articles on so many artists and subjects pertinent to the decades in question that a more-or-less complete overview of the era's music scene will be documented. Sometimes my own opinions will come to light and occasional personal stories will hopefully add to the enjoyment. It's a project that can never truly be complete, but it's something to shoot for. In the meantime...enjoy!