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Radio show spotlights Mr. Spock singing ‘Proud Mary’ and other gems

August 5, 1997 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) _ Cowboy yodeler Slim Whitman sings ``It’s a Small World.″ Leonard Nimoy belts out ``Proud Mary.″ Bing Crosby croons ``Hey Jude,″ complete with his trademark ``bum-ba bum.″

Sound about as appealing as fingernails on a blackboard? Then public radio’s Jim Nayder, creator of the weekly show ``Annoying Music,″ has chosen well.

The show is built on the assumption that listeners won’t rush to change the station when the Brady Bunch starts chirping ``American Pie.″ So many people have stayed tuned, in fact, that the show is going national, offering excruciating music to listeners coast to coast.


``Bad music, you switch the station. Annoying music is sort of like passing an accident _ you know you don’t want to look, but you sort of have to,″ Nayder says, explaining the popularity of a show that started out as an experiment for listeners of WBEZ-FM 17 months ago.

As Nayder recalls it, the station had a few spare minutes in its Saturday lineup. Someone asked Nayder, a 43-year-old independent producer known for his dry humor, if he could fill in.

Nayder happily obliged, playing a yodeling version of ``It’s a Small World.″

```It’s a Small World’ is annoying on its own, but this particular version was like a train wreck,″ Nayder says. ``The phone started ringing as soon as it was over, people saying they loved the show and when would it next be on.″

It has been on ever since, a program of a mere three minutes or so featuring one song each week, such as Kate Smith delivering her version of the Beatles’ ``Yesterday.″ (Picture the corpulent Miss Smith singing, ``Suddenly, I’m not half the girl I used to be.″)

Nayder picks the tunes, based on a loose set of rules. Among other things, it can’t be intentionally funny or bad. Which is why Pat Boone’s recent heavy metal album didn’t qualify.

WBEZ, public radio station that it is, is known more for its news and culture programs. But general manager Torey Malatia says ``Annoying Music″ fits right in.

``In its own way it’s terribly instructive as a program _ one learns what not to do as one develops a career,″ he says.

The show goes national on Aug. 20 on 90 public radio stations.

``I just feel sorry for the country,″ Malatia says.