Chris Dortch and his son, Chris, are the kind of duo made for public radio syndication stardom. If they were not father and son, you’d think they were lifelong buddies, genially swapping stories and trading insider takes on pop music in between genuine laughs and an obvious affection for music and each other. It’s the sort of banter that reminds you of the “Car Talk” guys, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the Boston-based brothers who host one of NPR’s most enduring and popular programs.
But the Dortches are indeed father and son—and best friends, the sort who finish each other’s sentences and call each other almost immediately after spending hours together. As Chris Dortch Sr. puts it, “I never had a best friend, so I made one.”
Like a growing number of fans, I accidentally stumbled upon “Connect the Dots,” their monthly show on WUTC-FM 88.1, on a Sunday evening before Christmas. The mark of entertaining radio is its ability to stop you in your tracks, as it did for me in this case. I was reading in bed when the show commenced and I was immediately drawn to the duo’s charm and their casual ability to “connect” with each other while dissecting the degrees of separation between rock ‘n’ roll Christmas songs, the theme of that evening’s show. I put down my book and listened.
(Sample one of the 'Connect The Dots' programs via our Soundcloud player: http://soundcloud.com/thepulsebeat/connect-the-dots)
The Dortches are radio naturals and “Connect the Dots,” which mines the rich history of popular music for “Six Degrees of Separation”-style similarities, is pure joy for music geeks and radio fans alike. Since August of last year, the pair have occupied a slice of Richard Winham’s Sunday evening slot on WUTC (which Winham produces) every third Sunday with their meticulously researched yet free-form discussion on the DNA of rock ‘n’ roll.
The senior Dortch, a former Chattanooga Times sports reporter who now publishes the Blue Ribbon College Basketball and Football Yearbooks and writes column for NBA.com in addition to freelancing for the local news website Nooga.com, originally pitched Winham a blues-themed fun facts show featuring himself and his son. But the younger Dortch countered, “Why not open it up?”
For years, the two have been “stealing” each other’s music—“Dad borrowed my Nirvana, I nabbed his Sam and Dave,” says the younger Dortch—so the emerging concept became obvious.
When they approached Winham with a show devoted to Beatles covers linked by movies, the radio veteran (who is both British and a huge Beatles fan) bit, and “Connect the Dots” was born.
Beyond their relationship, the Dortches comfort level on the air—which Winham immediately noticed—is backed by years of exposure by the elder Dortch’s many media interviews and his son’s background in voice-over work and podcasts. The younger Dortch is a filmmaker and editor with Woople and founder and lead instigator behind Mise En Scenesters, the Chattanooga film club that screens independent films rarely seen in the area.
If you get the idea that “Connect the Dots” is simply an extension of long dinner-table discussions between a close father and son who happen to be pop-music junkies, you’d be absolutely correct. It’s also excellent radio.
“When he (Chris) was young, I knew he was interested in music and movies and I fed him books and records,” says the elder Dortch. “We developed a rapport more than father and son. We’re peers.”
The duo’s next show, “Could Have Been a Contender,” airs at 8:30 p.m. on WUTC on Sunday, Feb. 19. Tune in.
Chris Dortch Sr. and Chris Dortch II
Hosts, “Connect the Dots,” airing at 8:30 p.m. on the third Sunday of each month on WUTC 88.1-FM.
First music the younger Dortch turned his father onto: The Clash, Nirvana, The Black Keys—”Scores since,” says the elder Dortch.
First music the elder Dortch turned his son onto: The Beach Boys’ “Endless Summer” and Steve Martin’s first comedy album. “I still have them,” the son says.