GBF Radio has long been the rowdy yell of a very conservative city. Rock music. Raunchy humor. Or another, more alliterative way to say bikinis on Thursdays.
For 34 years this December, Mike “Sandman” Sanders has been one of WGBF’s most prominent voices. And the man is a sweetheart.
“God has blessed me with many things,” he writes on his Facebook page. “A great job, a ton of great friends like you, a loving wife, and the person who is the light of my life: my beautiful, smart, funny daughter, Kelcey Sanders. She’s now blessed me further with my grandbaby, a girl named Lyric.”
Sanders has a passion for music, especially today’s modern rock. Currently, he has a syndicated weekend show called Loudwire Reloaded where he interviews well-known musicians. Yet he would have loved to have been able to interview lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter Kurt Cobain of the band Nirvana. “He did a lot to revolutionize rock,” Sanders says of Cobain. Sanders goes above and beyond to share his love of rock with listeners and to truly connect them with the artists featured on WGBF.
Social media has enabled Mike Sanders, whose nickname is a play on his last name, to prove the hard-partying station has a softer side.
What was your first radio gig in Evansville?
I had the weekend shift as a programming assistant on 1280 WGBF when it was a Top 40 station. I was doing whatever the programming director wanted — labeling eight-tracks, for example — whatever busy stuff he could get me to do. But I was 19 years old. That’s just what you do, grind it out until WGBF bought an FM station and asked me to do a 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. show.
Do you listen to your early days on the radio?
I’ll listen to some of the early years, and a lot of it is really cringe-worthy, comparatively.
Did you think you would be in Evansville radio for more than 30 years?
I like Evansville. It’s my hometown. I just thought I was going to spend some time here. And then I was 30, I had a child, and I got married. I wanted to be close to my daughter even after we got divorced.
You don’t look old enough to be a grandfather.
Well, thank you. I just turned 53, and I think it’s what you do and your surroundings that keep you young. I’ve always worked with rock, which is perfect for the young, and the radio station has always been a very youth-oriented surrounding.
How do you avoid becoming complacent in your career?
Radio is just a thought on a sound wave that can just drift off into the air. And when you think about it that way, you can take it for granted because it doesn’t seem like much. That’s why what we say and play has to be meaningful. People are listening to us and they don’t have to. We should feel privileged that they choose to.
Does that thought drive you creatively on your most recent project?
I host a syndicated weekend show for our company called Loudwire Reloaded that’s on 20 stations coast to coast. I count down popular rock songs for the week, but I also mix in songs that you won’t hear elsewhere on radio. For instance, music from rock band Motörhead’s new album. In terms of things I want to achieve, this is something I’m passionate about, and I want to extend the reach of this show. I’m interviewing at least an artist a week, including some of the bigger names in rock, including Slash (most well-known as the lead guitarist from rock band Guns N’ Roses).
Loudwire Reloaded feels personal, but you still come up with some fantastic ways to promote the station.
There have been so many weird promotions over the years, so I will just tell you about the last one. We asked listeners, “What would you do to win tickets to see the rock band Tool in concert?” A girl got our logo tattooed on her. So promotions like that can push the envelope, but we are a niche format, which makes us not for everybody. We are super-serving a core, 18 to 49-year-old male audience. We are kind of a Maxim magazine on radio. It’s sports, rock, cars.
Has it gotten easier to push the envelope over the years?
We upset people sometimes. People of the lifestyle I just described know what to expect, and they appreciate us for what we do. But look around. What isn’t edgy anymore? The news is edgy. Our music is the backdrop behind sports highlights. So I think more people are getting used to it because they hear that rhetoric in lots of places. Maybe we are all just a part of the decline of Western civilization.
For more information about 103.1 WGBF Radio visit 103gbfrocks.com. To listen to Loudwire Reloaded, visit loudwire.com.