See "Editor's Note" below for an update on the future of Down Memory Lane.
Toby LeBoutillier (left): "Well, here we are early again this week, and so we'll just have more for you." That's Toby Leboutilier, who for 33 years has - true to the spirit of public radio - put on a show that defied convention.
"I believe I was going thorugh Hallowell one time and I heard this radio program playing these old 30'ish type songs," says Glen Adams, a reporter with The Associated Press in Augusta.
"I cut my teeth on classic rock and I've heard those songs so many times - so many times - that I've grown weary of it," Adams says. "And, when I started listening to this Down Memory Lane program, it was like a breath of fresh air, it was entering a whole new world."
A world in which Al Jolson is heard only on radio, because movies were still silent. (Clip of Al Jolson song.) The oldies program is a tried-and-true staple of radio, but what Toby did was to compress into two hours a parade of music spanning six decades. Two weeks ago, he started in 1912 and stepped up to 1972.
Toby has been doing this so long, there's probably a lot his MPBN listeners don't know about him, which actually reaches back into the 1960's.
"You know he actually started with MPBN before there was any MPBN radio to speak of," says Charles Beck, who knows because he's our vice president for content and has been with the network since the late 1970's. "He started on the television side and was actually the television promotions manager," Beck says. "That was when MPBN was located in Orono in the '70's or so."
And that's not all. Toby was also a classical music host.
"And he also had a segment that we called the 'Crash, Boom, Bang' segment, which was avante-garde modern music," Beck recalls. "And, in his daily rotation on the afternoon concert, at about 2:10 each afternoon, he would play one of these recordings and the phones would light up back then with people complaining left-and-right that 'This isn't music,' and 'What are you people thinking?' And those were the great - the good old days."
But, for the last 33 years, Toby has led us all back to the very beginnings of recorded, popular music, scratches and all. In his most recent time slot, he's created a kind of portal to the weekend, a sound that says, "Ahhhh, Friday."
Toby wants, in the worst way, for us not to make a fuss over the end of Down Memory Lane. He told me he plans to do nothing different this afternoon than what he has done for the past 33 years.
So, at two o'clock, Benny Goodman's "Let's Dance" will once more be "on the radio" all across the state. MPBN will lurch backward in time to early in the last century. Our deep-voiced announcer will bring back the music and the news from back when.
Over the next two hours, the quality of the recordings will improve, the styles change and we'll draw closer, but not too close, to today. And, just before 4 o'clock, to the happy strains of "Night with Daddy G," by the Church Street Five, Toby LeBoutillier's Down Memory Lane will become part of our collective memory.
Though this afternoon marked the last time Down Memory Lane will go out over the radio waves, those of you who were listening just before 4 o'clock this afternoon may have caught Toby's announcement:
"We'll continue on the MPBN Web site. I'll be in next Friday afternoon to put it there, and you can download it on demand, as you have. So the Internet is where you go for this from now on."
So, Toby may be gone from your dial, but he's not gone for good. You can still find him at MPBN.net -- same time, just a different place.