Tucson radio personalities are a dime a dozen, but colleagues of Cat Country KHYG disc jockey Doug Wexler agree that he’s a different breed altogether.
The Wex, as he’s known to his legions of fans in the greater Tucson area, has earned a reputation as an unapologetic champion of country music tradition. Where other DJs are content to toe the line by playing only the latest hits, Wexler insists on mixing in oldies by country legends such as Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, and Little Texas.
Admittedly, it’s a tough sell for some young listeners. “My favorite is Love & Theft, so I wish they’d play more by acts like that instead of all those drinking and drugging songs by old-timers like Bryan White and Lila McCann,” said Petra Johnson, 17, who cashiers at a Starbucks where the radio is often tuned to KHYG.
According to Wexler, his idiosyncratic approach is really just part of performing the music programming job responsibly: “You can play a Chuck Wicks song, then go on to the next thing. But what I like to try to do is give some context, so I might lead into a Chuck Wicks hit with an earlier hit by Ty Herndon or, to really go back a ways, Collin Raye. The goal is to give folks some idea of where the music we’re hearing now came from.”
“I consider myself a student of country music history. You can’t really understand Carrie Underwood without understanding Shania Twain, the queen of country music,” remarked Wexler, who has not discovered Kitty Wells in the three years since he transferred to Cat Country from partner soft rock station The Rock. “And that’s not to take anything away from Carrie, because she’s obviously talented. Last time she was in town, she came by the station and did an a cappella performance of an original called ‘Stand By Your Man’ that just blew us away.”
Some old country fans might call him a hero, but Wexler is quick to brush off the praise:
“Hero? Am I a hero? That’s not for me to decide. But if a hero is someone who adheres to his principles no matter what the cost, who puts his very livelihood on the line to remain true to his own sense of what country music is and should be, then maybe I am,” Wexler mused on air this past Sunday as he launched into a “no talk, triple play” of Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls,” Patty Loveless’ “I Try to Think About Elvis,” and Lonestar’s “No News.”
Off air, he sighed wistfully: “Ahh, they don’t make them like that anymore.”