we’re all one, and life flows on


Chapel Hill quietly (or not so quietly, if you were turned to 89.3 FM) lost an icon today, for this is the fabled day in history that Jay Murray left Chapel Hill. Those of you who missed 1991-2005 at Carolina can only guess at how unfathomable today is, as Jay was the eternal, steadfast beacon of hope (or at least indie-rock slackerdom) and the last of us still leading an active social life in Chapel Hill. Except for Annie, and that’s Carrboro, gents.

Jay’s fame as the eternal student eclipsed most other fictionalized accounts of other people who never left college, indeed, he eclipsed my own attempts when we made the Pink House movie based tangently on his (and my) circumstances. He had already been a grad student for nine years when we began filming, and that was a while back. People used to ask me if Ben Folds’ song Steven’s Last Night in Town was about me, but I always said it was about Murray.

Jay and I share the same birthday (May 26) which made for great parties when we lived together at the actual Pink House. We had, however, drastically different tastes in music, which led to all kinds of shit-talking in the kitchen after 2am. I found his radio show – and WXYC in general – to be the most pretentious, unlistenable crap south of free-form jazz.

Many songs sounded like a refrigerator falling down an endless set of concrete stairs. Those guys would play anything and everything, as long as it was guaranteed to make me want to claw my face off. One time, me, Scotty and Jay got into another WXYC dust-up, and I bet Jay $20 that we could turn the radio on that second, and it would be something ghastly.

He did, and to my triumph, it was a recording of a guy counting backwards from two-thousand. No lie. Ask anyone.

The farther away I am from Chapel Hill, however, the more I came to appreciate the anything-goes sensibility of WXYC, and even began to listen to it via the Web (it was the first radio station streaming on the internet EVER). I began to view it as a strong antibiotic: you don’t want to use it every day, but I’m glad it’s there when I need it.

And Jay, who has tape-recorded every single 6-hour shift he’s ever done, became the standard-bearer for the musical roads less traveled. Mike Johnson, whose XYC show came right after the inimitable Grant Tennille, once went on a road trip with Jay, who left the radio on 89.3 all the way up the coast just to see who else was sharing the frequency. Annoying, but in a way, quite endearing.

He got his doctorate, so his last radio show was today, and then he’ll make his way to New York City, only a decade or so after the rest of us. I called him up at the station this afternoon, and just to rekindle an old debate, I requested a Beatles song on behalf of me, Scotty and Chip – the three souls forced to listen to Jay’s show ON TAPE for hours in the Pink House kitchen.

His last song was “Within You, Without You” from Sgt. Pepper, which acts as a fitting tombstone to the Jay Murray Era. God speed!


Dave Surowiecki, Scotty Bullock, Jay Murray, Pink House 20s party, 1997 by Lars Lucier

0 thoughts on “we’re all one, and life flows on

  1. furious

    Jay, we’ll surely miss ya.
    But, Ian, on the part of myself and others like me who worked at the station, I must puff out my chest and insist that not everything on WXYC was unlistenable, although I too had to choose my shows carefully.

  2. killian

    I am with you on the crappiness of free-form jazz, but can’t agree with the comparison to what is played on XYC. The fabulous “non-music-ness” of so much of it is has re-trained my ears, like taking a private lesson from John Cage. And, call me a [sugar-coated cereal lovin’ nerd], but it is always a great source of joy and wonderment that people are out there recording/creating what XYC DJ’s find for us. A true testament to the indefatigable creative spirit. Plus, Bob Boster ROCKS!!!

  3. chip

    What a sweet tribute. BTW, I tuned in on my way home and the first song I heard sounded like the Muslim call to prayer struggling to be heard over the sounds of several slightly muted sledgehammers.
    I called Jay and wished him well. If you haven’t, I’ll forward this tribute on to him.
    I can vouch that the counting backward story is true.

  4. chip, part 2

    I would like to note that Charlotte Walton’s show and Bill Burton’s shows on XYC were awesome.
    And that the sports talk show I started with Mike Berardino and Jon Vaden is still on the air.

  5. Megan

    It’s hard to believe the Murray era has ended. I wish I’d known I was hearing his last show yesterday.
    XYC is the best radio station on the planet (or at the very least in the Southeast). Maybe someone’s a little bitter that the station didn’t hire him.

  6. Just Andrew

    XYC has gotten farther out there as the years go by. Every time I’m back in town, I tune in until my wife loses it and changes the station.
    When I was there we still played a lot of guitar indie rock and then Glenn Boothe (now owner of the 506) and Cheryl Parker forced hip-hop and rap on us and made us realize that not only did it have merit, but that a lot of it was really good.
    Still, I loved nothing more than my 6-8am shift – I’d play Hank Williams and segue into Husker Du – I figured if I had to be awake at that hour, the unfortunate folks with their clock radios going off needed to be awake too. I took pride in the number of mad, bleary-eyed callers I got.
    Dan Blanchette’s Pink Floyds (Dark Side and Wish You Were Here, played at the same time on 2 turntables) was epic. And it worked for about 7 minutes. The noise and phone calls that followed became legend.

  7. Annie

    Jay, we active socialites over here in Carrboro will miss you at Weaver Street mornings and OCSC late-nights! I wish I’d-a known when I saw you last weekend that you were having your final XYC show. Always love hearing your mellifluous voice on the local airwaves.
    I will certainly holler at you my next trip to NY (sadly, not this w-end, to see the ballyhooed closing of Fleet Week–I’ve got to go to Jacksonville to interview people. Yes, that’s Jacksonville, North Carolina. No, it’s not fun) which may well be in a month. May you keep solitary shroomers company (and off the phone at 5 am) for many years to come in your hometown!
    Ian, I second Chip–one of your sweetest posts ever.
    Who’s next–Gayle Murrell ?!?!?

  8. chip

    Let me rephrase…I remember Ian telling the story at the time.
    Best of luck in NYC. You’ll be missed.
    And I did enjoy most of what I heard on your show.

  9. Ian

    Mur, I was only being a little mischievous. I always secretly loved our little fights, and now that I can’t live in a communal-style house anymore, I actually miss them.
    Full disclosure: I was a super asshole during much of my post-grad years at Chapel Hill, and thus I should be thankful Jay, Scotty, Chip, N’Gai, Linden, Grant, Tom, Jiffer, Zia, Zack and everyone put up with ME.
    However, I was never such an asshole as that Barman guy. Go to this post:
    …for a fascinating tribute to Jay, a rotten rap from an old housemate, and Murray’s triumphant rebuttal.

  10. jif

    jay? jay is leaving? leaving chapel hill? no. nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! jay – congratulations! i always believed this day would come – just not so soon. See if you can get Grant out of Kinkos and up to the city too, that would truly be the end of an era. and as for the tribute, recalling the way the two of you used to ‘discuss’ your tastes in music, and everything else which ended in total and utter disagreement – i find the post almost unbearably sweet. awww…
    much much love to you Jay. drinks are on your from now on!


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