Los Angeles, CA, September 2, 2020 – What if you could wake up every day and explore one of your life’s passions as your job? That scenario is real life for Chris Carter, the radio host and music expert who helms America's longest running Beatles radio show, Breakfast With the Beatles, as well as Chris Carter's British Invasion, both on SiriusXM. Despite grueling 15-hour days all week putting these shows together, every day feels fresh.
“I still find it interesting when I read [Beatles facts] back to myself, the same as when I first read them at age 12," says Carter, with a laugh. "Like, ‘Instant Karma'? First song Phil Spector produced for a Beatle. George Harrison's on it, but you can't hear him."
Carter is committed to work on his Beatles program (which also runs on KLOS-FM) Monday through Friday, while his British Invasion show takes up both weekend days. He painstakingly hand-selects a daily 60-song playlist tailored to specific events of the date, all geared toward educating and sparking discussion among newer and seasoned Beatles fans alike. In prepping his playlists, Carter will look through the calendar and make notes for his playlist, a task that still delights him even after a remarkable 19 years of hosting the show.
Carter’s journey to his dream career started at a young age, and he had a passion for educating himself about music early on: "I was the kid listening to T. Rex and David Bowie records. It was all about what you could seek out," he notes. "When I graduated school, I opened a record store in my hometown, and that was a whole other education." Carter quickly transformed his independent shop in suburban New Jersey, Looney Tunez, into a hotspot for imports and rarities, and it became the place for avant-garde bands of the era to stop by, with in-store appearances ranging from the Ramones to David Johansen ... some even adding a little shock value to the quiet area. Eventually Carter and fellow Looney Tunez employee John Easdale formed the band Dramarama, launching Carter into the performance era of his career. Dramarama made a big impact on the Southern California 80s alt-rock and power-pop scene, especially those who listened to KROQ at the time. Inevitably, Looney Tunez shut down so they could focus on Dramarama. Dramarama's full-length debut, 1985's Cinema Verite, made its way to Los Angeles radio via legendary DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, who "found it in a Pasadena record store and started playing it," explains Carter. The album's fiercely catchy lead single, "Anything, Anything (I'll Give You)," caught on with listeners. The song opened up a route to Los Angeles, where the band would eventually move permanently after playing a memorable show at the 16,000+-capacity Irvine Meadows Amphitheater in nearby Orange County.
"We [had been] in New Jersey playing in strip clubs," explains Carter. "We went to Los Angeles and played one show, at the Roxy." That show led to Dramarama opening for the Psychedelic Furs at Irvine. The band, having no clue what the venue was like, found themselves bowled over upon arriving. "We were like ‘Oh my God,'" laughs Carter. "We told our parents, ‘We're not coming home.' And we stayed out here for the rest of our lives." When the group disbanded in 1994, Carter continued in a musical vein, but explored different avenues. "I was always the guy in the band who had the meetings with the manager," he says. "So I started managing bands."
Carter additionally decided he wanted to try his hand at a documentary about Bingenheimer, whom he credits with discovering Dramarama. Mayor of the Sunset Strip, created with award-winning director George Hickenlooper, was released in 2003. "It took seven years to make, and I did all the music in it," Carter notes.
After years of being played on the airwaves and even creating a documentary about a famous DJ, Carter finally realized that radio was where he belonged. "My true passion," he states. "I love playing songs for other people. I was that guy who'd make the cassettes for you – you know, 20 songs you should listen to."
He started off giving KROQ a run for their money, hosting The Chris Carter Mess on L.A.'s then-alt-rock competitor Y107. "Weekends, against Rodney," notes Carter. "He hated that!"
Fate then stepped in. In 2001, "One of my favorite shows in Los Angeles, Breakfast With the Beatles, lost its host. She just didn't come on the air one morning. We were all listening to the radio, and there was no DJ." Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario imagined by listeners had happened. The host, Deirdre O'Donoghue, who helmed the show since 1983, had passed away. Carter admits he immediately felt concern for the show's future along with the initial shock: "The first thing you think is, ‘That's so sad, I can't believe it,' and the second thing you think is ‘What's going to happen to that show?'" He recalls, "They had a contest - five or six different DJs came in over the summer, and at the end of the summer they were going to have listeners take a vote. I won that contest and I've been there ever since. Going on 19 years now!"
Reflecting on the show’s content, Carter remarks, "You gotta walk the right line. You have hardcore listeners who know every detail of what you're saying. And at the same time, you have casual listeners that might have the Beatles 1 album, and that's the only album they have by them. So you have to walk that line because you're talking to both of them. You don't want to insult one or over-educate the other," he explains. A healthy dose of humor is Carter's special secret to a successful overall program. "The Beatles were very funny guys," he observes. "If you notice, in many of their interviews, they very rarely talked about music. They're very sarcastic. Humor is a big part of the Beatles experience. And, you don't want to ‘genuflect' too much," Carter chuckles. "Because that's the way they are, and that's the way they like it. They don't want to be revered too much."
In producing the show, Carter has had the chance to interview all of the Beatles except John Lennon (even Pete Best!) and notes that the most striking thing about the lads – particularly Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, whom he's had the pleasure of meeting multiple times – is their tireless enthusiasm for what they do. He notes, "The thing that's always been the case with the Beatles, especially Paul and Ringo, is that they were genuinely pleased to be doing what they were doing. And it still comes across that way," he adds. "Think about how many times they've done the drill ... they're still upbeat and still so into it. They make you feel like they care about you, and that's always been their charm."
He reflects on his status as the voice of Beatles fans nationwide: "Hey, as a young boy, if you told me that a Beatle would even know my name, that would be enough for me. I could have just ended it after that," he smiles.
His hosting duties will take another form this Saturday, September 5, at 6 p.m. PDT (on the occasion of the Labor Day weekend), as Carter will serve as emcee for Labor Day Weekend Countdown: “The Beatles Top 50 All-Time Favorite Songs,” a FREE live-streamed special event celebrating the music of The Beatles presented by Rock Cellar Productions. The event will be streamed on www.alerttheglobe.com and Rock Cellar Magazine’s Facebook Live page www.facebook.com/RockCellarMagazine/live. The program will take the form of a top-50 countdown and live concert performed by The Tribe Band with a rotating roster of amazing singers. Carter adds, “I cannot wait to share Saturday with my fellow Beatles fans and my personal friend, acclaimed guitarist and the show’s Musical Director Laurence Juber. What a great way to celebrate this music that we all love so much.” View the new teaser trailer here: https://youtu.be/w02qBpg5bgk.
Visit the Facebook event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2752510321646674
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If you miss the live stream, catch it on Sunday or Monday, September 6 and 7 on www.alerttheglobe.com. If you feel inspired, there will be a virtual tip jar scrolling on screen where you can give something to these devoted musicians.
Note: For this piece, excerpts were taken from http://www.breakfastwiththebeatles.com/chris_carter/.
Photo file 1: ChrisCarter.JPG
Photo caption 1: Chris Carter
About Rock Cellar Productions
Recently, Los Angeles-based Rock Cellar Productions has expanded its brand far beyond its online publication, Rock Cellar Magazine (www.RockCellarMagazine.com). The production company encompasses many other aspects of media including a recording studio, live streamed concerts done from the studio, new opportunities for independent artists, and a music school for students in the local southern California area. Maintaining its philosophy of “bringing people together through music to make great things happen,” Rock Cellar does it all, from cultural entertainment to supporting important causes that engage and unite music-loving enthusiasts and concerned citizens with the latest in cultural entertainment.