The co-host of Grassroots and former host of Arts & More, Lorraine Caron, is retiring this year. Lorraine has worked in radio for 37 years and has been here at WMUK for 22 years.
She was born here in Kalamazoo and started her radio career as a volunteer for a public radio station in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Then she moved back to Kalamazoo and worked for WYYY and WKZO before finally landing here at WMUK.
“I was looking for a job and I went to radio station in town, including this one. And soon after, their news anchor decided that he was going to leave. And they remembered me so Tony Griffin (former News Director) hired me and my official full-time start date was January 1st, 1991. And it saved my life, it really did. Because I needed a job desperately at that time and I like to say I was one step away from flipping burgers somewhere. And they hired me here and I’ve had such a great 22 years.”
Two years later, she started co-hosting WMUK’s bluegrass show Grassroots with Mark Sahlgren.
“I really wanted the chance to do that show because I was a fan of that show and I love that kind of music. I love all music," Caron says. "But I was afraid that by taking some of my time from my 40 hours a week here to be on Grassroots that that would ruin the listening experience for me. And so I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not sure I want to do that.’ But of course I really did want to do it so…and it didn’t ruin the experience luckily.”
Grassroots will continue with Sahlgren as its host. As for what Lorraine’s going to do now that she’s retired, she’ll likely continue on with her musical career.
“I remember reading in a book once that a lot of artists tend to come at their craft in a less than straightforward manner. And that really resonated with me because I thought my love of music has a lot to do with why I wanted to be in radio in Albuquerque and continue in radio here. I wanted to get close to music in any way I could. So as I’ve gotten older, I realized that really I wanted to make music. So I tried to learn to play the guitar, tried to learn to play the mandolin with no success. And then one day I thought, ‘Well, I really just want to sing and I can sing. I can carry a tune.’ So all I needed to find was someone who could provide the instrumentation and there are so many musicians in Kalamazoo. So basically that’s what I always really wanted to do is be a singer and a musician. Not that my career in radio hasn’t been incredibly valuable and informative, cause it has. I’ve learned so much about music.”
Lorraine also sings in a jazz group called Trio DeSole with our underwriting manager Anders Dahlberg and former WMUK general manager Floyd Pientka.
“And I just wanted say that being from Kalamazoo and then being away for a while as an adult, and coming back and seeing Kalamazoo through different eyes, the arts community here is absolutely amazing. And by the “arts community,” I mean everyone who goes to arts events, everyone who performs, everyone who creates. It’s like there’s this magic sort of place that everything is encouraged. You know, people get to create and do what they want. And in Kalamazoo it seems like no one gets put down for their efforts. No matter how new they are to a medium. I just feel like Kalamazoo is so supportive.”
We’ll miss Lorraine. But don’t worry, you can find her singing the blues with Tom Duffield most Saturdays from 5 to 8 at Old Dog Tavern in Kalamazoo.