Tuesday, May 13, 2014

All or Nothing: How WRAS Changed My Life and Made me a Georgian

In 1998, I moved to Atlanta for a graduate fellowship at Georgia State University.  I had left all my friends, my parents, my band and my boyfriend back in Houston to come here.  I knew one person in Atlanta. Nine months later, my dreams of being the next amazing Primatologist collapsed and suddenly I realized I was living in a city completely on my own without any support system. For the first time in my life I had absolutely no plan.

It was a dark moment.

But then something happened… I had started listening to WRAS and kept winning tickets to shows.  I was going out 3-4 times a week to see music, and discovering a vibrant and diverse music scene that was grown and supported by WRAS.

I grew up in a family of musicians. I’d written music since I was 7 years old and played in bands in clubs since I was 15. I had skill, I had a good ear, but I was petrified.  You see, my father had grown up in a time where being a musician was an “all or nothing” deal.  Meaning you had to give up having a “normal life” and a “successful normal career” if you were going to be a musician.  This was the culture I grew up in. It was all I knew.  And as an artist, it was immobilizing.

But the more I listened to WRAS, the more I recognized that these really talented musicians were putting out music, being played on the radio, filling up venues, releasing albums and still living a “normal life”.  This was a foreign concept to me.  I literally didn’t know it was possible and it opened up whole new world.

So, nine months after moving to Atlanta, I quit graduate school and all logic said to move back home. But something made me stay.  I’d never even had a real job before… but I opened up the classified, got a job, rented a house and decided to start my own band.  I called it The Yum Yum Tree after a candy store I went to as a child. About a year later, I had gathered my bandmates and recorded an EP of the first songs I’d ever written that I actually liked and was proud of.

With my first copy of the EP in hand, the very first thing I did was to make my own version of a “press package” -- which included vintage-style candy (like lemonheads and candy cigarettes) and I sent it to WRAS. I figured they thought the candy was a ploy to get their attention, but it really was more like a “look what you made me do” and an honest “thank you.”

That very next week I was listening to WRAS and I heard the DJ say “We have no idea who The Yum Yum Tree is but we love them!” They played my song Bad Idea that morning and I called my mother back in Texas, and we listened to my radio debut together over the phone.  They played that song (and others of mine) almost every single day for over a year during regular rotation. They didn’t know me. I had no strings to pull to get them to listen.  They were genuinely interested in new music.

So where Atlanta had once been this dark place where I knew no one – WRAS had inspired me and fostered me as the artist that I had always secretly wanted to be but had been afraid to become.  They told me it was alright.  They told me there was place for me.  They took my hand and led me into a world that I always felt like I’d belonged to, but had never had a formal invitation.

I now have 2 full-length albums out, and I'm about to release my 3rd EP.  I’ve made enough money through sales and shows to pay for my recordings, and people who are not my friends and family buy my music. I've achieved more than I'd ever dreamed.

I owe so much to WRAS because it literally changed my life.

I also have a “real life” and a “real career” as an Emergency Room nurse.  I even had a party to celebrate living in Atlanta for 15 years.  I don't say that I am from Texas anymore because I belong here.  I am clearly here to stay.

As it turns out, it didn’t have to be “all or nothing” after all… in fact, it was “everything.”

Get your own custom #savewras shirt at Bang-On in Little Five Points
Andy Gish
The Yum Yum Tree
Love Me Till My Heart Stops
Atlanta, GA

If you look at the WRAS charts you will see that about 20% of the albums are “Self Releases” – this is one of the gifts that WRAS gives to Atlanta and the music world.  They create a safe place for new artists to grow and share their work.  There’s nothing else like this in Atlanta.

I will boycott GPB, I support WRAS completely, and I am so very ashamed of my former school Georgia State University!



  1. I loved your testimony. I have listened to WRAS since I move to Atlanta from TX in 1980. I was in college radio back there. KOCV was a distinct college voice in Odessa, the only such station in the Permian Basin. When I began listening to WRAS, I began thinking that KOCV could probably learn much from the student-managed station at Georgia State.

    Much happened in Odessa since I left, but the station eventually became the local NPR affiliate, and there's no student involvement. I do not know the details. KOCV is really nothing at all what it used to be. Today it is KWXT. Read as follows, courtesy contributors to Wiki:

    KXWT's format is primarily news and talk from National Public Radio and locally-produced music content. Genres of music played by the station include Classical Music, Jazz, Blues, World Music, Celtic music, Folk music, and Bluegrass music. Until the purchase by Marfa Public Radio, on-air program hosts were Odessa College students and volunteers, including bluegrass legend Bill Myrick and Tom Millhollon. Marfa Public Radio also provided some of the news programs. With the purchase by Marfa Public Radio, the College will no longer be involved in any fashion. Marfa Public Radio will provide all programming content.

    There's our future. Sad, eh?

    1. Wow. Thanks for sharing. I grew up with KTRU in Houston (which I had to have a special antenna to get in high school) and though they tried WRAS blew them out of the water for content! Now that they are gone I feel like our outlets are being eaten up.

      I love NPR, I listen to them on my phone. When I am in my car I want to listed to ALBUM 88!

      Thanks for sharing


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  2. Thank you for your story. I listen to Album 88 every morning and evening on my commute and am gravely saddened by the changes WRAS is facing. I hope that GSU hears our voices and reinstates student-led programming during the day.

    1. It's a staple. It IS Atlanta. It is our community. We have to keep fighting.

  3. Please email GSU President Becker at mbecker@gsu.edu and GPB at ask@gpb.org and ask them not to take over 88.5 during the day.

    1. Done days ago and done again today!

  4. I think I remember seeing your band back in the day and like the WRAS folks, I was favorably impressed. Your tale of the importance of this station can be repeated many times by many other people--and not just musicians. Thank you for sharing the station's influence on our musical culture and your music career to life!

    1. Thank you. I want everyone to share their stories about WRAS.

  5. In 1980 In moved to Atlanta from SoCal. I was devastated. I found WRAS and it saved my life, I have been in Atlanta and listening to WRAS for 34 years.

    1. Love this. It is a voice in the dark for sure. We need to fight to keep it alive.