In these uncertain coronavirus times, Baton Rouge radio personality Zia Tammami hasn’t done a live radio show in nearly six months.
That changes Sunday when Tammami returns to the KLSU-FM studio for the first time since March. He’ll broadcast his jazz, blues and classic rock ’n’ roll show, “Spontaneous Combustion,” again from the LSU campus from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Tammami, the local radio veteran who’s been broadcasting from LSU for 43 years, is delighted to back on the mike.
“I treat these shows like a performance on stage,” he said. “So, imagine if you’re a musician and you haven’t performed, but now you’ve got a chance to perform again.”
Like KLSU, coronavirus pandemic restrictions left Baton Rouge Magnet High School’s WBRH-FM largely closed. On Aug. 23, Tammami will resume his Sunday programming there with “Jazz on the Half Shell” from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., followed by “Dinner Jazz” at 6 p.m.
WBRH anticipates a cautious return of its DJs and weekend part-time board operators, said Rob Payer, the station’s production and music director. KLSU also will have coronavirus safety protocol in place when its student DJs, newscasters and sportscasters return next week, said John Friscia, director of LSU student media.
Since March, Payer has been one of only a few members of the staff of WBRH and its sister station, KBRH-AM, in the studio.
“A lot of our volunteer show hosts are of a certain age,” Payer said. “We didn’t want to put them or anyone else at risk. Because, when you’re dealing with a radio station, you’re touching a lot of the same surfaces, you’re breathing into the same microphones. There’s a lot of opportunity for something to spread easily.”
Payer has been doing limited broadcasts from the station on Saturday mornings, accepting requests during his “Rhythm Revue” show.
“Just to keep the community aware that we’re still there for them,” he said.
At present, Baton Rouge Magnet High School is conducting virtual classes, which means students won’t be in the building.
“But we want to give our WBRH part-time weekend workers and our show hosts the opportunity to come back in a safe, clean environment,” Payer said. “We will maintain that protocol on a shift-to-shift basis, disinfecting the phones, the doorknobs and microphones.”
As for KLSU and LSU, Friscia said, “We’re going to follow the guidelines set for us by the LSU president and administration, which closely follow what the governor has put in place.”
So far at WBRH, Tammami and blues singer-guitarist Larry Garner, host of Saturday afternoon’s “Blues from the Road,” are the only volunteer DJs returning to live broadcasting. Gerald Lively, Fritz McCameron and Winston Day, the rotating hosts for Sunday morning’s “Music on the Sunny Side,” will continue recording their programs from home. Leah Smith will resume live broadcast of her Saturday show, “Mo’ Good Stuff,” at noon on Aug. 29.
At KLSU, student DJs are returning Monday to regular shifts, with cleaning and other safety protocol in place.
“Everybody will be required to wear a mask,” Friscia said. “We’re going to end the shifts a little early. Shows will end about 15 minutes early, so there can be sanitizing in between.”
KLSU will continue its news and sports updates, but there will be no time for off-the-air small talk.
“They’re going to do their three-minute updates and then leave the booth,” Friscia said.
Friscia calls Monday’s resumption of live broadcasting a soft launch.
“Some students are still deciding if they want to come back and do some of the shows,” he said.
Tammami, after being away from broadcasting for a long time, is apprehensive as well as excited.
“In the back of my mind, I’m thinking I might be a little rusty,” he said. “I run the board and everything. I hope I don’t have any dead air.”
Like Tammami, Friscia and KLSU’s student broadcasters are enthusiastic about returning to some semblance of normalcy.
“The students and myself, we love the station and value being there,” Friscia said. “Everybody’s a little nervous, but we’re for the most part excited and ready to come back and follow the guidelines we have in place. We don’t want to do anything that's going to cause us to have to rotate back off campus."