BU Professor’s Radio Show Celebrates 30 Years on Air
Omaha’s award-winning radio program Pacific Street Blues & Americana celebrates 30 years on air this year.
It’s a Sunday morning staple for several thousand loyal listeners, who trust the show’s founder and host, Rick Galusha, to take them on a joy ride, one track at a time.
A special simulcast to mark the milestone anniversary is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 13.
Galusha, a political science professor at Bellevue University, brings plenty of personality to the three-hour program. He describes his style as “eclec-tricity.”
“The show is eclectic, and it’s also electricity,” he says. “Once you get it, I think it’s exciting. But it’s not for everybody.”
A Skill for Speaking
Behind the mic, Galusha prefers to ad-lib without notes or a script.
“I want it to be like you’re sitting on my couch and I’m playing records for you,” says the seasoned host and music fan, who’s recorded more than 1500 shows over three decades.
Skill for speaking, it seems, is encoded in his DNA. “Generally, Galushas are politicians, preachers, or teachers,” he says. It just so happens he teaches politics.
Galusha directs Bellevue University’s esteemed Kirkpatrick Signature Series, which explores citizenship and civics across three required undergraduate courses. Recently, he finished a doctoral degree in political science.
Outside Galusha’s role at the university, his radio program functions loosely as another teaching outlet. Mostly, though, it’s a passion project, cultivated from his 25-year career in record retailing.
As the president of Homer’s Music, Galusha developed a knack for discovering new talent, a deep knowledge of the industry, and a wide network.
Over the years, he’s crossed paths with many of the greats -- such as Pete Townshend from The Who, Bonnie Raitt, BB King, as well as James Cotton from Muddy Waters Band and Hubert Sumlin of Howlin' Wolf’s Band.
The Art of an Interview
Topping the long list of national acts featured on Pacific Street Blues is The Rolling Stones, an all-time favorite of Galusha’s.
“One of the skills I think I’ve developed is the ability to do a pretty good interview,” says Galusha, recalling a memorable conversation last year with the Stones’ bass player, Bill Wyman.
“At the end of the interview, he paused and said, ‘You know I have to tell you, I’ve been doing this a long time, and this is one of the best interviews I’ve ever had.’”
The trick, Galusha says, is to foster an authentic conversation, allowing the artists to talk about what they want to talk about.
“If you can get beneath the veneer and ask them questions that they haven’t heard so many times, it’s a much more interesting interview,” he says.
Championing Local Music
Aside from interviewing, Galusha also brings artful intention to the broadcast.
“It’s a constant process of weaving,” he says about his song selection, mindful that listeners are easing into their Sunday mornings. During the first hour, he selects softer tracks and gradually crescendos to “more ruckus, louder music.”
Throughout the process, Galusha weaves together old and new blues, classic rock, Americana, and -- closest to his heart -- local tunes.
“I feel it’s incumbent upon noncommercial radio to promote the local arts,” he says.
Every December for many years, Galusha hosts a simulcast in conjunction with a fundraiser and toy drive for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, organized by Omaha musician Lash LaRue.
The simulcast commemorates the radio program’s anniversary while showcasing dozens of area artists.
One year, Galusha recalls an especially moving live performance by local musician Kris Lager, who covered Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love.”
“It still chokes me up,” he says. “It was everything that the art of radio and art of music should make you feel, like you can change the world.”
The professor and radio personality plans to keep doing his part to make the world a little better, one song at a time.
“When you’re playing records on the radio, you want to share stuff that’s moving,” he says.
Although Galusha hopes to captivate a wide swath of music fans, he admits the show is uniquely driven by his personal tastes -- a rarity for radio these days.
Creative freedom and variety are what keep Galusha going, and his listeners coming back, after all these years.
Rather than defaulting to the same tired tracks, Galusha aims to excite and inspire by introducing new music that evokes “that joy, that art, that expression of humanity,” he says.
“When you’re listening, you’re all in.”