The Wolfman on Acid! An audio retrospective on M. Dung is featured at the bottom of this page.
O-Day, O-Dow, Eye! Justin is joined by radio great M. Dung aka Michael Slavko. M. Dung first hit the airwaves with his “Idiot Show” in Grand Rapids, MI on WLAV-FM before transplanting himself out on KFOG-FM in San Francisco, CA. Dung earned a massive following in California in the mid ’80s–which grew into legions of followers by the early ’90s–earning him his place in the book as the last truly great radio DJ in the pre-Clear Channel era of radio.
Dung, a Michigan native, talks with Justin about his days on the air in Grand Rapids and San Francisco, his podcast “The Mutant Idiot Show” and how he crafted his signature rock-n-roll wild man persona.
BOZUNG: You grew up in Detroit and during the pinnacle of the Detroit sound. You grew up with Motown. And bands like the MC5 and The Stooges were going strong…
DUNG: Well, it was great. I was a kid and I didn’t know anything different. It was exciting and totally different that how it is today obviously. Motown was really cooking. The rock scene was healthy. The automobile industry was firing on all pistons and it was an exciting time to be in Detroit. Radio was great. That was the thing that really got me. My dad, of all people; he wasn’t from the rock-n-roll generation and he really couldn’t stand the music. He liked to listen to the oldies stations on the weekend out of New York or Chicago. The New York stations would play only Doo-Wop. That was my first impression of rock-n-roll and the wild and crazy disc jockeys of that day. When my dad wasn’t doing his oldies thing during the weekend he was listening to beautiful music, shit like Ray Conniff. It definitely wasn’t my kind of thing. I have an older brother as well, and I’d listen to his records too. I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and that event changed my life. I knew that I wanted to be like them, but I wasn’t a musician. However, it ignited in me, a real passion for music.
Then the Boss radio era came in in ’65. I was listening to the big stations coming out of Chicago. Then, CKLW out of Windsor. Not so much New York stations though. Detroit had some great stations. Radio was like oxygen in those days. You’d listen and you’d hear all the cool tunes and get all the information.
DUNG: Well, Wolfman was around my entire life. I never heard him when he was done in Mexico broadcasting. My first exposure to Wolfman was probably when he was hosting The Midnight Special on television. I really didn’t have much of an effect on me at that time, but later on when I was able to hear some of his early airchecks–that really had an influence on me. AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973) had a big influence on me as well. That movie was great. It has the best radio scene that I’ve ever seen in a motion picture. It was perfectly portrayed and it was true to form. Wolfman was a regular guy. He was in the booth eating popsicles and when he cracked the mic he became Wolfman Jack. It occurred to me that you didn’t necessarily have to be who you were to be on the radio.
With M. Dung, of course, it started out differently but the same too. I never took a radio broadcasting class in my life. I started out in the theater. I was a theater major. So, it was easy for me to translate that experience into radio because I approached M. Dung like he was character. It wasn’t like I sat down and thought M. Dung out–it just sort of happened. At the college radio station (WSRX), I eventually became the program director. I wanted the station to be on 24 hours a day. My overnight guy stopped showing up, so I decided to do it myself. I was on overnight from Midnight until 6 a.m. I was doing the show and after a few weeks of that I said to myself, “Fuck it, I’m going to do what I want.” That’s how Dung was born.
Mostly, I was just trying to stay awake and provoke a reaction from someone. When you’re on overnight no one would call you. It was like I was there alone. So by screaming and doing weird shit, people would call us and say, “What the hell are you doing?” Mostly, my audience were diary farmers in Allendale, Michigan. They’d be up at 3 a.m. milking their cows. I’d get requests from them. I just figured that since I had to be there at that time of night that I might as well do something and it just caught on.
DUNG: Well, it was 1977, and Punk had just came in and I wanted to come up with a name that would be offense. I couldn’t say “shit” on the radio, but I could say “dung.”
BOZUNG: So you created Dung in college…You finished school and did you go back to Detroit and get on the radio or did you head straight to WLAV-FM in Grand Rapids?
DUNG: No, I went straight to WLAV. It was my first professional radio job. WSRX was the “in”. WLAV would recruit from there for fill-in guys, part-timers or interns. I heard through the grapevine that WLAV was looking for someone. At that time they were a Top 40 station. I didn’t really have an interest in that…But I put together a tape and I guess they liked my voice or something. Tim Steele, who I started at WSRX with was over at WLAV. Tony Gates was the morning star of WLAV. There was a set of people there: Aris Hampers, Ogie, Doc..the people that were there had been in place for a while by that time. I got my foot in the door, and I was hired as the weekend guy. Then I started doing 7p.m. – Midnight. This was on the AM side. Then I started doing some part-time stuff on their FM side. I was working there as me, not M.Dung. No-one had knew that I was him.
Then the Program Director at WLAV passed away and they brought in a guy named Dave Logan from Chicago. I didn’t know it at the time, but he had heard Dung and when he found out that I was him–he hired me to do the “Idiot Show”. It started out on Sunday nights and went from Midnight to 2 a.m. initially and then it was expanded out to 6 a.m. Can you believe I did Dung for six hours?!?!
BOZUNG: In terms of M. Dung…Where does his speech come from? Where does that “O-Dow, O-Day, or Eye!” come from?
DUNG: Well, because I was so bad that I would often make mistakes and I would make these noises to cover up my slips. I would get so excited and worked-up to do my show that it was almost like speaking in tongues. It was just get in a zone and that is what would come out. I couldn’t swear on the air either so the sounds come out of that.
DUNG: Back then, it was a little bit of both. I really loved the music and it was a big part of my life. Being on the radio was exciting. When it was time for my show I was pumped. I just go in there and scream my brains out for hours.
BOZUNG: You mentioned the dairy farmers that would call over the middle of the night while you were at Grand Valley WSRX, but what about the crazies that would call you overnight while you were on at WLAV?
DUNG: Oh, they would come out of the woodwork. There are a lot of weird people in the world, and they really have no outlet for their particular brand of weirdness. People respond to that type of stimulus. They’d just call us and I would really play their requests. That was a plus because people would really get excited about that. With Dung, they could get on the air live and they could scream and go nuts too. It was a release for everyone.
BOZUNG: You were totally free-form too. You wouldn’t stick to any playlist or genre. You were totally eclectic. Were you pre-programming the show or were you just playing what you felt like?
DUNG: The only thing I knew that I would play would be if I was doing a feature on a artist. I would walk into the studio with a stack and records and whatever happened happened. Other than that, I would let my audience pick. They would call us and say, “I wanna hear this!”
Want more Dung? Listen to my full interview with M. Dung and hear a archival and uncut Dung aircheck from WLAV-FM 1982 here:
Check out M. Dung’s podcast “The Mutant Idiot Show” here: