Even the best kids music becomes irritating after a while but theres a show which has dedicated a decade to finding the best in child-friendly fare
Dave Loftin had a complaint that is fairly common for parents of small children. I just wanted to find music that I could enjoy with my son, said Loftin. When he couldnt find what he was looking for, he created it himself. For the last 10 years, his radio show and podcast, Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl, has provided a soundtrack for families who cant stomach another Sesame Street sing-along.
Why you should listen
Ten years ago, Dave Loftin was working at Chattanooga State Community Colleges radio station and putting on a punk show in the evenings. Then, like many punks before him, things started to change when his son was born. Im really into music and I was thinking about what kind of music I could share with him, said Loftin. I was heavily into punk, but I realized there was a lot of stuff I couldnt play with him or share with him.
Kids music at least the kids music he remembered from his childhood wasnt a great option either, though. A lot of the kids music from when I was growing up, particularly in the early 80s, was really cheesy and terribly produced, said Loftin. I happened to find the kids channel on XM (before Sirius and XM combined) and they were playing some songs that were actually really good. It didnt sound like what I thought was kids music. He started doing a bit of research into other online and terrestrial radio stations that were doing kids shows. Eventually I walked into my music directors office and just told him I was going to do a kids show, said Loftin, and hes been doing it ever since.
The show is just about to celebrate its 10th year on the air, still based out of the community college, although five years ago WAWL sold their broadcast signal and it now exists only online. Each week, Loftin puts together a show aimed squarely at the juice box demographic, but theres no Kidz Bop or Raffi or Elmo. Instead, Loftin airs music that is not only tolerable to parents, but is actually quite good. There are bands like Australias Mighty Buzzniks, the Sippy Cups, The Que Pastas, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, and, of course, the patron saints of palatable kids fare, They Might Be Giants.
Of course finding tolerable childrens music, which is occasionally given the intolerable portmanteau of kindie for kids independent music, was a challenge. Loftin had been hosting a two-hour punk show at WAWL for years and had slowly built up a network of labels and distributors who would send him music to play on the show. When he started Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl, he used a similar approach. I just started emailing people at labels and distributors, said Loftin. Like the punk scene, the kids music scene was very eager to get their music out. They just started sending me stuff like crazy. He would also occasionally hark back to his punk roots for inspiration. The Ramones was a really good band to tap into, said Loftin, who posts playlists online after each show.
Occasionally, Loftin will put on a themed show for holidays or one focused on a topic that can help parents guide their kids through childhoods challenges, like the show on feelings. Its a move that helps cement Loftin as a favorite of parents.
Loftin is aware that convincing adults that kids music can be good is an uphill battle. Kids music is still one of those things that even younger parents arent sure about, he said. His cause has been helped by the fact that the Grammys recently started recognizing childrens music, giving some official legitimacy to the genre. For Loftin, its especially gratifying to see that some of the independent labels and artists he has worked with over the years are finally getting official recognition for their work. This year all of the childrens albums nominees either were or still are independent artists, Loftin noted.
One of the most exciting developments for Loftin though is the genres evolution beyond simply white guys with guitars.
There are now bands incorporating harder rock and punk into their sounds. Youve got hip-hop bands coming out with music. People are experimenting with electronic music. Almost any genre you can think of the kids scene is getting into now, said Loftin.
Over the years, Loftin has developed a knack for finding under-the-radar acts and before-they-were-cool bands and including them on his playlists. It is an ironic punchline for hipster parents whose children may end up having more obscure taste than they do. Its like a running gag, said Loftin. When people are like, Hey check out this new music, were like, weve been here a long time.
Where to start: New episodes can be streamed live on WAWL every Saturday morning at 8am ET
Subscribe to Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl on iTunes