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The Glowing Dial: A Brief History

     Well, here is how it all started.  You see in late Summer 1995, Steve got himself a huge C-Band satellite system.  Big John saw this, loved it and not to be outdone and being the gadget freak he is, just had to have one too!.  A month later, Big John had his very own C-Band satellite system and began surfing through the skies to see what he could find.  One night he was exploring the many audio sub-carrier channels that can be found on C-Band and came across something called Yesterday USA Radio.

     Oh joy, oh rapture!  This station was playing Old Time Radio shows!  Big John was ecstatic!  There had not been any OTR on local radio in 10 or more years, and these guys were playing it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! 

     That night Big John spoke to Bill Bragg, founder of the station by telephone and expressed his appreciation and gratitude to Bill for playing those great old shows.  Soon thereafter, a working partnership and a great friendship developed.

     YUSA is totally volunteer run.  The station stays on the air thanks to the generous financial support of the listeners who pledge money much as PBS Television viewers do, with one exception ... PBS gets grants from the government, YUSA does not have that luxury.  The volunteers come in the form of disk jockeys who give their time willingly and gratis, producing new episodes of their given shows every 2 weeks.  Founder Bill Bragg is also a volunteer and does live shows Sunday thru Thursday nights.  No one receives a salary of any kind.  There is one form of "payment" though ... when the dj's receive letters from the listeners.  As Big John says, "You can be in a rotten mood or down on yourself for whatever reason and then you get a letter from a listener telling you that this little show you do for free is the bright spot of their day.  That makes it all more than worthwhile".  Volunteering for YUSA is a labor of love for all involved. 

     Big John and Steve's working partnership with Bill Bragg began as they started producing "fill-in" shows for the station to use when a particular dj's tape didn't make it in on time.  These shows became very popular with the listeners and Big John and Steve had a great time doing them.  Then, one day, an opportunity presented itself.  Bill Bragg announced that he had an opening for a new show in the station line-up.  A 55 minute time slot had become available due to the departure of another dj.  As is the standard operating procedure in these cases, Big John and Steve made an official "audition" tape and sent it in and hoped.  For 2 weeks, the listeners heard all the tapes that were competing for this spot and on a fateful Sunday night in November of 1996, the listeners voted for what they thought was the best of the batch.  The votes were tallied and the winners were Big John and Steve with their show "The Glowing Dial".  The show was on YUSA for nearly five years and was one of the more popular shows on the station according to Bill Bragg.

    Unfortunately, The Glowing Dial was forced to end its nearly five-year run on Yesterday USA due mainly to many problems in Big John's personal life.  Big John says, "It broke my heart to have to tell Bill Bragg that we could not continue with the show ... but he was very understanding and said that he'd 'leave the door open' for us to return in the future and we're still on great terms with him".    

    In its heyday on YUSA, the guys produced a new episode every two weeks, eventually having to record several shows in one sitting due to their increasing personal schedules.  As mentioned, the fellows got fan mail on occasion and even had some of the YUSA listeners and supporters as sponsors of their show.  The guys really loved what they did for YUSA and hope to return to the station line-up in the near future.

    After a hiatus of over two years, Big John and Steve started an online version of The Glowing Dial.  This version was available for download in MP3 format on the "Listening Lounge" portion of The Glowing Dial Page beginning September 1, 2003.   At first, they produced a new episode every 3 weeks.  They even had a few contests to help kick off the new version of the show.  The contests have been discontinued but may return if demand is sufficient.  As of July 1, 2007, The Glowing Dial became a monthly show due to Big John becoming increasingly busy with things like his new Disc Jockey business, Brick House Disc Jockey Entertainment.  The business has lagged in recent years and Big John acts as a disc jockey only occasionally.

     There was another hiatus which started in September of 2007 which ran seven years!  Again, this was due to Big John's continuing health problems.  Finally, after all this time, The Glowing Dial will return to the airwaves April 6, 2014!  Steve is taking some time off the show to look for much needed work but a mutual friend of Big John and Steve, Stu Chisholm, will be joining Big John and taking over co-hosting chores until Steve is able to return.  And the show goes on .....

   Big John Matthews: A Brief History

     Big John was born on March 14, 1962 in Ferndale, Michigan.  He was adopted shortly thereafter by Robert and Ruth Matthews of Troy, Michigan and has lived there most of his life.  He was an only child with no brothers or sisters (that he knows of).  He also has never met his real parents.  Big John does not know his ethnic heritage but thinks he must be Irish because of his love of Celtic music and fascination with the country of Ireland.

     Big John discovered old time radio in his early teens and was hooked immediately after hearing a portion of Orson Welles' infamous "War Of The Worlds".  Soon after Big John went to his local libraries and took out all the old time radio he could find and dubbed himself copies.  His collection at the time was rather meager and fit in a shoe box.  The collection, known as The Glowing Dial Archives  now comprises his and Steve's and numbers over 20,000 titles!

     Big John met Steve in 1990 through a singles club they both belonged to at the time and a wonderful friendship formed and is stronger than ever today.

     Big John lives in Troy, Michigan.  He is currently on disability but he plans to get back into television or radio when the opportunity arises.  Sadly he and his "glowgirl" are now divorced and out of communication. Also sadly,  Big John's father, Robert passed away December 8, 2001. He was 79. His mother, aged 91, passed away November 19, 2013.

Steve "Archive" Urbaniak: A Brief History

     Steve was born on November 7, 1959 to Albert and Grace Urbaniak.  Steve, the oldest has a brother, Rick and a sister, Julie.  Steve is now an uncle four times over and is loving it!  Steve has resided in Roseville, Michigan most of his life. 

     Steve says, "It's a shame we (Big John and I) didn't know each other in childhood, we look back now and see that we had so much in common".

     Steve currently works in the composing department of The Macomb Daily newspaper.  He has been there for 23 years.

     Steve has always loved things old and nostalgic, which led to his interest in old time radio and his partnership with Big John.  Steve was married to his sweetheart Lorraine in the Autumn of 2002 and now lives with her and her 2 sons and dog in Clinton Township, Michigan.

    In addition to his family and work, Steve is a very busy guy.  On his off days or before starting work, he can frequently be seen in the classroom helping rowdy students as a substitute teacher.  He's been at this for 11 years now.  In 2007, he completed his graduate studies at Wayne State University where he obtained a Masters Degree in Education.  He also has a State Of Michigan Teaching Certification with a Business Major and a Social Studies Minor. 

   Steve is also involved in many clubs and organizations.  Because he is the Vice President of the union at his workplace, he attends union functions regularly and chairs the Executive Committee, which is the grievance hearing body of The Detroit Typographical Union # 18.  He is the treasurer of the Printer's Club, which is associated with the union and holds a yearly picnic at Stony Creek Metropark for members and their families.  Steve is also politically inclined.  It is not unusual to see him at a local or county Democrat meeting.  He has served as precinct delegate three times in the past and has attended the state convention and the electoral vote proceedings in Lansing, Michigan for the 2000 election.  He is the newsletter editor and historian for the FHS 25+ Alumni Club for his alma-mater, Fraser High School.

Stu Chisholm: A Brief History

Stu was born in Detroit on August 7, 1957. A music maven and collector since age 7, Stu began his career as a mobile DJ in 1979, and over the years has also dabbled in radio, with an internship at WRIF and a brief stint at the storied Macomb County AM daytimer, WBRB. He has also worked at several legendary Detroit nightclubs including C.J. Barrymore's, Wooly Bully's and Cobo Joe's. Stu also lives in Roseville, Michigan, his "home base" since 1985. 

Stu also began a writing career in 2005 after being invited to write for the mobile DJ industry trade magazine of record, Mobile Beat, where he is now a columnist. In 2008, his book, "The Complete Disc Jockey" was released, spurring a brief stint on the DJ speaking circuit. His first seminar, "Supplement Your Income...WITH DJ INCOME" was presented at the Mobile Beat DJ Show and Expo at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas in 2009, and has led to presentations from Mexico to Toronto, Canada.

Stu's writing is part and parcel of his DJ work, being a strong believer in scripting and show preparation. He's worked with toastmaster's and has dabbled in improv, garnering a few awards and accolades for creativity along the way, including winning a local community version of "The Gong Show" back in the '80s. While not strictly an aficionado of old time radio, it's the stories, scripting and writing that appeal to Stu. Being a big horror fan, he is well acquainted with old masters such as his favorite, Arch Oboler.

Creativity runs in Stu's family, his wife, Janette being a CMU graduate and television producer for the Royal Oak School District. She is also an artist in her own right, having worked with famous sculptors Glen Michaels and Joseph Wesner, and was once the head curator of the Mt. Clemens Art Museum. They've been happily married and deconstructing media together since 1985.

Stu met Big John while working as the DJ at one of the singles dances mentioned above. Stu and Steve actually go back even farther, having met, and eventually working together at a local community paper, "Living In Fraser."

Ancient history aside, Stu's overriding philosophy of life is, "always go for the joke." No doubt listeners will hear a lot of them as he joins Big John and Steve on The Glowing Dial.

If you live in South-East Michigan and would like to hire Stu as a DJ,
visit his web page at

Stu's books:

Greg: A Brief History

  Greg was born November 23, 1958. He is a self-professed computer geek. Greg fondly remembers the days when he used to ride the bus for hours just to get to his favorite computer store. There, he would spend hours marveling at and playing with all the latest computer systems. He remembers the Timex Sinclair, The VIC 20, The Commodore 64, The Atari 800, The Amiga and many more.

Greg is also greatly into synthesizers and owns several. He doesn't call himself a musician, he just loves to play with synthesizers!

He and Big John have known each other since the mid-90s. They met at meetings of The U.S.S. Intrepid, a Star Trek fan organization.
They have a mutual love of all things science-fiction. Greg is also a mild anime fan, not an interest shared by Big John.

As for old time radio, Greg got involved in that via Big John. Some time ago, Big John lost the ability to transfer his huge old time radio shows on tape to digital files. Greg was well equipped for this task and so did these transfers for Big John. While doing so, he developed a liking for shows such as The Jack Benny Program and The Magnificent Montague

So, it shouldn't be any surprise that Greg should join Big John as an occasional co-host of The Glowing Dial. Of course, this isn't the first time Greg has been heard on The Glowing Dial. Back in 2003, he did i.d. spots as well as "acting" in Big John's tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek homage to "The War Of The Worlds" as originally performed by Orson Welles and The Mercury Theatre On The Air on October 30, 1938. 

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