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National BIG Fresno Barn Dance
Pull up a bale of inflatable hay and prepare to have a great time while tuning into the National BIG Fresno Barn Dance on Sunday afternoons from noon to 2 p.m.
The Barn Dance can be heard on KFSR 90.7-FM, originating from California State University, Fresno. Hosts Don Fischer and Stephen Barile play a wide variety of music including: western, rockabilly, progressive country and old-time country.
If you don't mind sharing the barn with a few chickens Sunday afternoons, then find yourself a good piece of straw to chew on and enjoy the DJ duo.
Fischer and Barile have been partners on the Barn Dance show since 1982. The show has moved to different stations and locations throughout its existence. The show has made a complete circle and has ended up where it started 24 years ago at the original barn-the KFSR studios.
Fischer and Barile have been in the music world about 30 years together and have no interest in quitting anytime soon.
Neither host is paid for the show but as Fischer says, "It is a labor of love." Fischer and Barile consider the radio station gig a hobby and enjoy their time on the show together. Watching the two interact in the electronics-filled, black soundproof room would make anyone appreciate their friendship.
Fischer has been working in radio since 1972 and has been on many shows, including one of Fresno's highest-rated morning music and personality shows in the 1980s, the Breakfast Club at KKDJ. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Fischer has done his share of radio programs. When he is not hosting the Barn Dance, he can be heard Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. on Through the Listening Glass also on KFSR. Fischer enjoys radio but also has a paying job as an financial analyst.
Barile has had a fascination for music since he was young. Working in radio and television eventually lead him to San Luis Obispo in 1978 where he met Fischer. Barile remembers listening to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys when he was a child and those memories enticed him to learn more about Wills' history. Barile has written about western swing music and the history of the genre associated with Fresno. When he is not pursuing his passion of music, he teaches English at Fresno State and Fresno City College.
The idea for the Fresno version of the Barn Dance show began when both Fischer and Barile were listening to Bob Wills LPs and decided to have a half-hour show devoted to western swing and progressive country and western. In 1982, the show aired at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
Fischer and Barile were directors and producers in the 1990s of the William Saroyan Radio Project and the San Benito Street Radio Players, producing more than a dozen Saroyan plays for radio.
The duo starts each show with an introduction and sound effects of a hen house. Since the barn is always full, they play a wide variety of artists such as: Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard and Van Morrison.
Neither has a set plan when entering the studio for a show. They set up their music and randomly choose what they would like to play for the day. Both arrive a half-hour early to discuss new music they might have purchased that week and which songs they want to start the show with. On a recent Sunday, they choose The Little Willies' upbeat song "Roly Poly" to start the program, with Norah Jones on piano and vocals.
Once a year the duo puts on a live barn dance and the past two years have been huge successes. In October 2004, the Starline music venue in the Tower District was full of western swing music lovers tapping their feet and clapping their hands along to the They Can't Hardly Playboys and Tommy Swing. Live music was recorded at the dance that Fischer and Barile play on their show.
In November 2005, another Barn Dance was held at Fagan's Irish Pub downtown. The They Can't Hardly Playboys returned, with Bradley "Dudeboy" Rogers and Mark Stolte.
"We have done some western swing extravaganzas," Barile said.
The Barn Dance is broadcast worldwide online. Fischer and Barile have an estimated several thousand listeners, with regular people calling in with requests. Music is a passion of the two and it is something that the listeners love, which is why they call in and praise the hosts. "Any time people can get together and dance and have a good time that is a landmark," Barile said.