The phone calls protesting 100.3 WKIT’s evening DJ Dave Isaac’s retirement started to roll into the Bangor station shortly after he announced the end of his 25 year run there early this November.
“All week it was like that,” Isaac said. “People saying, ‘Don’t leave!’ It was nice.”
It wasn’t an entirely surprising reaction to the news. For many, Isaac was the nighttime voice of this classic rock station famously owned by Stephen King. That he is a respected supporter of local music makes the pill more bitter to swallow.
Isaac said there was never a dull moment during his time at WKIT. Every day had a theme, and once he developed a rhythm after getting his start there, his program director Bobby Russell let him have the Thursday night program “Homemade Jam” which featured Maine musicians. The weekly show gave local acts and artists the opportunity to play original music right from Isaac’s studio.
“He’s always a great guy to hang out with, always really funny, and I think doing ‘Homemade Jam’ meant alot to a lot of people,” said Riff Johnson, a Bangor-area musician. “We’re all bummed he’s retiring.”
Johnson was part of the band Sound and Vice when he first met Isaac at WKIT in 2012. He said he became a regular in Isaac’s studio on Thursdays, waxing local bands with the night man shortly after meeting him.
“At first it was like, ‘Here’s this job, this feature,’ then I got involved with the bands personally,” said Isaac, “The more I did it, the more I liked it. It kept me tethered a little bit to the musical community that I was a part of back in the ‘70s and ‘80s.”
Johnson credits Isaac’s efforts at building a community around Bangor’s music scene to getting the opportunity to make connections with fellow artists.
“He used to joke that it’s probably just the musicians that are on the show listening in anyway,” Johnson said.
Over the years, Isaac acquired a cast of regulars during his shift who would call into the station late in the evening. Occasionally a new voice would ring in. Sometimes, when big acts came to town, he would get the opportunity to interview artists. His interviewing skills, he said, developed over time.
“My first big celebrity interview was Kenny Wayne Shepherd,” he said, “and I listen to it now and I just cringe.”
He also got to meet personal heroes like Johnny Winter, John Mayall, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Leading up to his retirement, Isaac admits to feeling nervous, worried.
“After 25 years I hit 65 [years old],” he said. “I’m a little tired now. I just felt like it was time.”
He paid his dues to become WKIT’s night man. At 18, he landed a job as a cutter in a shoe factory in Bangor. He worked there during the ‘70s and ‘80s, during which time he also played guitar in area bands like Magazine, White Water Run, Crosswinds, Dillinger, and Chance.
When the factory shut down, Isaac received displaced worker funds. He used the money to take classes at the New England School of Broadcasting (now the New England School of Communications) in Bangor.
“I was a 35-year-old guy in a class with a bunch of 20 year olds,” he said, “so that was interesting.”
Out of school, he bounced around a few area radio stations until getting his full-time start at what was then FOX 104.7 in Bangor.
“The whole time I wanted to work at WKIT, so I thought I was just biding my time until I got there,” he said. “I was this rock and roll guy working at a top 40 station, playing George Michael and I was like, ‘Oh man’—I didn’t feel like I was in the right place.”
In 1992 he got his wish and started working weekends at WKIT.
“I was happy to be there,” he said. “I had finally arrived at my destination.”
Isaac worked almost all of the possible shifts at the station, working overnights, weekend mornings, or “any gawdawful shift they’d throw at me” before graduating and becoming the night guy with his own show.
“I never wanted to be a morning guy because I’m not a morning guy, someone who bounces out of bed in the morning—‘Oh, wow! Another great day is ahead!’” he said jokingly. “I got what I wanted and I stayed doing the night show on WKIT for 18 years.”
A radio station may be just a bunch of wires and switches, he said, but WKIT had a family atmosphere where the jocks were allowed a “loose script.”
“Once you understand the philosophy about the station and understand it’s not about you, it’s about how you want the station to be perceived, [you can have a successful show],” he said.
He’s already started to settle into a normal rhythm, no longer waking up “at the crack of 10” and coming home after midnight, he said. But you haven’t heard the last of the self-proclaimed “old hippie” night man just yet. He’s still on the roster to fill in occasionally.
“I’m done full time,” he said. “I just want to see what’s next.”