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Monday, June 24, 2024
<p>Grow Radio founder Bill Bryson sits in his radio studio located in downtown Gainesville.</p>

Grow Radio founder Bill Bryson sits in his radio studio located in downtown Gainesville.

One Gainesville man has planted the radio seed and is watching it grow.

Bill Bryson, founder and manager of Grow Radio, Gainesville's community Internet radio station, has seen his business triple in listeners during the past eight months, according to disc jockey and friend Dale Gunnoe.

"When he sees a need for something in the community, he makes it happen," Gunnoe said.

The road to filling the niche of Gainesville's community radio stations is just one of the ways Bryson has brought music to the area. This is obvious in his long resume of notable music and business accomplishments, many of which laid the groundwork for the Gainesville music community as we know it.

"Bill has dedicated his entire adult life to bringing music to the people," said Chris Coates, Grow Radio DJ and friend of Bryson.

Discovering Gainesville's Need For Music

Bryson spends his days managing Grow Radio, but his roots in the music business began at an early age.

His musical interests were fueled by his experience living in England in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a period defined by British punk rock and new wave music.

"I was exposed to a lot of music I never would have known in suburban Indianapolis and am grateful for the cultural exposure that shaped my later passion for music," Bryson said.

During college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bryson worked as a promoter at a famous independent music club and a DJ at a student radio station. Here, he got his first exposure to the kind of college-driven indie music that drives his station today.

While visiting a friend who owned a record store in Gainesville, Bryson noticed the town's need for a music venue. Using contacts he attained from the club and radio scene, Bryson opened the Covered Dish in Gainesville in 1992. The rock club soon became Gainesville's premier live music destination, booking many up-and-coming bands.

Bringing Live Music to Gainesville

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"Somehow, he was able to do what no one else could do before and, frankly, since, get prominent indie and punk bands to make the trek down to Gainesville, a city they would otherwise skip to do the Tampa-Orlando-Jacksonville loop," Coates said. "I met many of my musical heroes at Covered Dish."

In 1994, Dave Matthews Band played its first concert in Florida at the Covered Dish. Green Day also played there before it was signed to a record label.

"Bill is too humble to cop to this, but he is on a first-name basis with just about every figure in the music scene you can think of," Coates said. "I'm one to announce to the world when I've met someone famous, but you would have to ask Bill directly if he knows someone, and then you get a story so cool you are left speechless."

Musicians such as Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys and Jonathan Richman of The Modern Lovers are a few notable friends of Bryson. Richman has performed in-studio at Grow Radio, guest DJ'd and taken call-in questions from listeners. Mike Watt, a punk luminary most well-known for his band The Minutemen, has also joined Bill in-studio before gigs at Common Grounds.

Bryson brought mass amounts of diverse, live music to Gainesville at the Covered Dish. The trend continued when the club changed ownership and became Common Grounds.

Globetrotting in a Punk Rock Band

In 1996, Bryson joined Causey Way, an alternative rock band that toured the U.S., Canada and Europe and consisted of notable members Rain and Summer Phoenix, sisters of actors Joaquin and River Phoenix.

"It was all a dream to me - something I never expected to be a part of," Bryson said.

The band was featured in the movie "The Daddy of Rock ‘n' Roll," which portrayed Wesley Willis, a famous schizophrenic musician who toured with Causey Way in Canada.

Causey Way stayed together until 2001.

"There was an explosion of personal band problems and we broke up," Bryson said.

Creating Outlets for Gainesville's Artists

In 1994, Bryson started Put It On A Cracker record label to support Gainesville bands with no music outlet. He also co-founded Satellite Magazine in 2002 with friend and journalist Denise Trunk to promote art and culture in Gainesville.

After experimenting with pirate radio and a small AM radio station, Bryson decided he wanted to start an Internet radio station a few years ago as a community hub for alternative music.

"There was always an audience for some other radio station, but no platform," Bryson said.

The 2010 demise of Rock104, a largely student-run radio station, and The Buzz's format transition from alternative to modern rock, left a void of student-run rock radio stations.

Creating Grow Radio

Grow was created to fill the absence of a community college radio station, playing diverse music.

"There is a huge amount of intellect in Gainesville. I think people are hungry for a radio station that has more to offer," Gunnoe added.

Bryson said he wears many hats at Grow.

"He is there all the time," DJ Ben Markus said of Bryson. "He fills in for DJs when they can't get there and does all the little things that need to be done."

The volunteer-based radio station can be streamed online and also by iPhone application, enabling people to play it in their cars.

"In no other real situation could you program whatever music you like and run your show however you like," Markus said. "It gives people an accessible platform to play their music with professional equipment. "

Bryson said he chose Internet radio because there are few regulations, low overhead and potential for a global audience.

In addition to Grow Radio, Bryson also serves on the board of the Alachua Conservation Trust, a group dedicated to protecting historical infrastructures and natural resources in Gainesville.

He manages the nonprofit company, Number 9 Productions, which umbrellas Grow Radio but was created to support diverse forms of art in Gainesville. Number 9 recently hosted a local visual arts show, which was a success and will be put on again in March.

"He doesn't like to own up to the glory, but he's the man who makes it all happen," Gunnoe said of Bryson.

Grow Radio founder Bill Bryson sits in his radio studio located in downtown Gainesville.

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