Dan, tell me ain’t so.
Because you just disappeared without warning, and I had no idea how much I’d miss you until you were gone. Like most of your fans, I didn’t see it coming.
For nearly all the time I’ve been here, whenever I could I tuned into “Inland Folk with Dan Maher,” coming to the valley by way of KPBX public radio in Spokane, for three hours on Sunday nights. Dan played a wonderfully eclectic mélange of music beyond folk, while commenting, reminiscing, or genially spacing out in some unrelated direction that his brain took him.
At the end of last Sunday’s show, there was an announcement: That was the last “Inland Folk” broadcast, after 37 years. Dan was done. And although he always admonished us against it at the end of his show, I was still listening and suddenly living in the past.
There was minimal explanation. If Dan had a chance to say goodbye, I didn’t hear it. If he subtly hinted at his departure, I missed it. (He also had a television show, but I don’t know anything about that.)
It wasn’t just that I liked most of the music, or learned about many artists I had not heard of before. The show, with its consistent format, became comfortably familiar, something I could count on to ease me through “the Sundays.” I looked forward to the “bumper” musical fillers leading into and out of segments, even after listening to them hundreds of times over the years. I’d never known about the Rankin Family before I found Dan. Now I hunt them down on You Tube.
Dan was a wonder to listen to. Part of it was that he absolutely loves the music and the people who make it. And, he was so friendly, so knowledgeable, so self-effacing and oddly humorous that it was like having a friend doing a radio show in your living room.
Dan is also a familiar musical performer around the Northwest and recorded several albums, as most of his followers know. But I did not know until I started typing this, and did a little online research, that he has been blind from birth.
I found an article posted by Northwest Public Broadcasting (NWPB), headlined “‘Inland Folk with Dan Maher’ came to abrupt end. Why?”
Excellent question, and only partially answered, although it seems the reporter did his best. Here are a few excerpts:
Maher was a longtime student advisor at Washington State University, which runs NWPB. He retired from that position in June, but was expected to continue producing his longtime radio program.
In an interview on Sept. 3, Maher said he’d decided to end the show abruptly after personal struggles.
“I don’t want a lot of questions,” he said. “Things are happening in my life that are just leading me into areas that I need to square away.”
He insisted that his retirement from WSU and the decision to end “Inland Folk” were voluntary, and said he’d decided to retire earlier this year.
Spokane Public Radio, which also aired “Inland Folk,” was surprised to hear the show was ending and will air the last episode this weekend, according to Cary Boyce, the president and general manager.
Dan, at the end of each segment you always implored us to “hang on, hang on, hang on” because you’d be right back, and we counted on it.
What are we going to do now?
Live, from Mazama
With this issue we introduce a new Valley Life columnist. Shelley Smith Jones will be filling in from the far end of the valley while Erika Kar is off in Mexico with her family. You’ll find her introductory effort on page B8, which will help you get to know her.
Shelley was actually the subject of an earlier column by Erika, after she published the autobiographical book “Petting Tigers: My Life as a Witness of Jehovah,” published in 2018. The book is a finalist for the High Plains Book Award in the creative nonfiction category.
Shelley and her husband purchased 2 acres near Mazama in 2011 and morphed from part-time to full-time residents, sharing the place with a couple of horses.
She is a native of Montana but also lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and in southern Idaho, where her three sons grew up, before moving to Seattle in 2001. She had started a career as a paralegal in Idaho and then worked for a Seattle law firm until 2017.
Shelley will be making an effort to be visible and accessible in the community, and she welcomes your contact at email@example.com.