Broadcaster Mike Flynn ends 40 years of 'The Folk Sampler'

Broadcaster Mike Flynn, the golden voice of Siloam Springs, has signed off from the foothills of the Ozarks.

Flynn, host of "The Folk Sampler," ended his syndicated program with a farewell show that included a new song by Ryan Bowers of Fairbanks, "The Morning." Flynn's show, which was heard on a variety of stations across the country,  was a Saturday afternoon fixture on KUAC  in Fairbanks for decades.

He was a welcome alternative to the high-pressure aggression and phony urgency that has taken over much of broadcasting. His voice was calm, never hurried and it always seemed he was speaking to friends. "Thank you for being such good company," he would say.

Flynn, a retired broadcasting professor who did the radio show in his spare time, picked songs from a collection that had already grown to more than 4,000 albums by the early 1990s. He developed many connections to Alaska over the years and visited the state on occasion, helping local musicians reach new audiences.

One of his loyal fans in Fairbanks was the late Sister Felicitas Farrell, an unstoppable soul who worked for many years at Immaculate Conception School and loved children, gardening, dog mushing, and Irish music, among other things.

After her death in 2005, Flynn wrote about the time he had heard from his friend in Fairbanks about failing to take proper notice of St. Patrick's Day on his show.

"Sister wrote me a sweet note, but wanted to know if I had lost my mind," Flynn said in 2005. "I told her I just forgot and she said, 'Well, you just can't do that.'"

"I won't ever do a St. Patrick's Day program on 'The Folk Sampler' that isn't for her," Flynn promised.

Flynn grew up in Kansas and dreamed of going into radio. He became a TV news anchor in Tulsa and taught broadcasting for many years at John Brown University in Arkansas, retiring in 1999.

He started his radio show in 1978 and began syndication four years later. In 2003, he came to Fairbanks at the request of Trudy Heffernan and taped his first show outside of Siloam Springs.

"The Folk Sampler" featured folk, blues, bluegrass and traditional music that appealed to Flynn. He picked songs for each show that related somehow to themes he chose that ranged from holidays and travel to home life and memories of times gone by.

That evening at the Davis Concert Hall, 18 Alaska groups performed. When he walked on the stage and said, "My name is Mike Flynn and I am from the foothills of the Ozark Mountains," the audience saw a man in blue jeans and checked shirt.

Perhaps, he said, they had expected a guy in overalls and a razorback hog or two. He followed that with a quick philosophical observation, the sort of comment that made his show unique.

"There are lots of surprises in radio and you build up in your mind what something is going to be like and then sometimes it's not that way," he said.

On his final show he said that most of us make big changes once in a while. "Leaving is harder than I thought it would be, but I'm not kicking and screaming about it. But I certainly leave reluctantly. And I also just want you to know that this was never my career. It was something I did in my free time because I loved it."

He ended with "Boats to Build," by the late Guy Clark,  featuring this refrain:

I'm gonna build me a boat
With these two hands.
It’ll be a fair curve
From a noble plan.
Let the chips fall where they will,
'Cause I've got boats to build."


Dermot Cole1 Comment