Austin, Music, Pop Culture

An Open Letter to John Aielli

via KUT Flickr page

Dear John Aielli,

A few weeks back, I saw you for the first time out in this strange and beautiful world. I was walking into the alley below UT’s School of Communication as you were shuffling out.
A smile was playing on your lips– not a smug, pretentious smile, but a smile of someone who appreciates life, the birds in the trees, the geckos on the sidewalk and the clouds above our heads.

Seeing you smile to yourself made me smile to myself– you were exactly how I pictured you (this is bordering on slightly creepy, but something makes me think you’d appreciate “borderline creepy”).

When I first arrived in Austin 4 years ago, you were the jovial “is he drunk or isn’t he?” uncle figure that welcomed me to the city with your weekday morning program “Eklektikos” on KUT.

I’ll never forget the first time I felt the uncomfortableness of your dead air and the sounds of you mispronouncing a band’s name or accidentally playing the same song over again, even though you just played it, and leaving it on air.

This caused me to drive slack-jawed with bewilderment that something this unconventional could exist on the radio.

I’ve been a fan ever since.

Though it makes me snicker when I see the occasional “If You Don’t Tell Your Children About John Aielli, Who Will?” bumper sticker around town, I’ll never understand the curmudgeon who dislikes your disc jokey services; I think you’re a breath of fresh air. So what that you end up having an entire conversation with yourself on air without any regard to the listener? So what you play several hours of Celtic music one morning, then the X-files theme song several times the next? And so what that your use of non sequiturs is spellbinding and disorienting? You always keep us guessing, John Aielli, and for a medium that often becomes stagnant with canned radio talent, I applaud your bravery or “who gives a flying f attitude”…. I’m not sure which one it is, but both are admirable.

I don’t always listen to you, like right now, but I can imagine exactly what you are saying. You’re probably waxing poetic about the moon, dinosaurs or the gym. Or maybe you’re talking about what it would look like if a dinosaur was working out at the gym with you on a full moon? Or if a moon was working out at the gym while a dinosaur watched on?

It’s hard to imagine a day when John Aielli is no longer on KUT. In other words: you’re not allowed to retire. Or leave this planet. We will devise a way for you to live forever.  You epitomize the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” and without you to start our days, we Austinites wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves. You are what is holding us back from falling into the seven-lane highway and highrise inferno. Every time an iconic Austinite retires, a developer gets his wings. Don’t let that happen, John Aielli! We need you to continue leading the ragtag army of weirdos, free spirits, lovers, pacifists, artists and dreamers that make this town special.

If I ever write a screenplay, there will be a character modeled after you. I will call him Hans Bailey. He will be the benevolent neighbor who brings the protagonist baskets full of garden vegetables and shares the meaning of life with her. Something makes me think you know the secrets of the universe, John Aielli. I can tell from your smile the other day.

Forever your fan,



via KUT Flickr page

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  • Reply april dawne December 5, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Awww, I love this, Lauren. Well-written AND agreed.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      Thanks, April!!!

  • Reply Bill Gould December 5, 2012 at 11:53 am

    You could say almost the same things about Larry Monroe, but KUT let him walk away.
    He’s the one I miss.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      Larry Monroe must have been before my time. Is it possible to listen to him anywhere? Archives?

      • Reply Yvonne December 5, 2012 at 2:33 pm

        You betcha. Check out, in Dripping Springs and the southmost parts of Austin or online. Blue Monday lives.

        • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm

          Awesome! Thanks!

    • Reply austexgrl April 23, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      Larry, walk away? No.. they ” hounded” him away.. for shame.

  • Reply Marshall December 5, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    This is lovely. Hating this guy has become fashionable, and I say F that noise.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks, Marshall! Yeah, I’ll never get the hate. I can understand why maybe he’s not somebody’s cup of tea, but hate? What is there to hate?!

  • Reply Sandie Nieves December 5, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I have always loved John, notice how we are on a first name basis, and I really dont care if I am cool or NOT for doing so……thanks Lauren! Great article….I sure do miss him living in Galveston!

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      It is VERY cool to like John Aielli. In fact, I think there should be “John Aielli is my homeboy” t-shirts available for purchase.

      • Reply Sharmyn Lilly December 5, 2012 at 5:59 pm

        Amen! The originalpost ws so well-said. I agree completely!
        I’d like to start a drive to have John Aielli’s Ekletikos on both the future KUT music station AND the fuure KUT all-talk station. Afte all, he’s such a phenom, the engine that drives KUT, and I love the shopw for 2 reasons: the music and the John-talk. I couldn’t do without either. Take care, John. We could never do withot you! We love you! I’ve learned/expeienced some of the things most important in my life through your show.

        • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 6:05 pm

          I agree!

  • Reply John Jordan December 5, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Mr. Aielli’s is hands down my favorite Twitter feed (@Eklektikos Be careful – those splinters can sneak up on you sometimes, teeny tiny, they come out of nowhere. Well, they come out of wood.) (!)

    …and every time he’s hosted some band I’m in in Studio 1A (or whatever it’s called since the move), he’s been gracious, knowledgable, funny –– and a close listener, too boot.

    On the downside, there was a couple of months back in the day when he played that awful caterwauling Celine thing from “Titanic” over nine trillion times, but really, even that is part of the legend.

    All Hail-ey John Aielli!

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Shit John Aielli Says is the BEST! I think they just won a Chronicle “Best of” honor too! John Aielli’s words never cease to inspire or amuse!

  • Reply kimfromaustin December 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    One of my favorite things you have ever written! You have written a lot of great things too. The real reason is is one of my favorites is because you put into words my sentiments toward John.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Hahaha…thank you, Kim!

  • Reply beth vlasich pav December 5, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Fabulous piece! Enjoyed reading it.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Beth!

  • Reply Jennifer December 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I go back and forth on John Aielli. Generally amused/fascinated by his outlook on life and lack of filter, yet occasionally forced into tuning out due to sheer frustration. The music is always great, though.

    Just checked out the Twitter feed and, John Jordan, you are totally right! It’s amazing! And I keep imagining it in that soft cadence of his.

    @Bill Gould: ditto on Larry Monroe. Except I don’t see how anyone could have much negative to say about him! A class act with impeccable taste in music.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      Jennifer, yes, Shit John Aielli Says is THE BEST! It is one of my faves.

  • Reply Yvonne December 5, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I adore John, as much for his quirks and peregrinations and flights of fantasy as for his encyclopedic knowledge of music. When I look at my music library, it is literally full of wonderful artists I’d never have known about if not for John’s show. I never want it to end!

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Excellent point and one I forgot to put in there! I’ve learned of some great music through him as well!

  • Reply Karen Blizzard December 5, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Well said! John Aielli is one of a kind, and selfishly speaking, I hope never retires. 🙂

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      I hope he never retires either, Karen!

  • Reply Philip Goetz December 5, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    KUT occasionally sounds like KVRX lately. Free tickets, shuffling papers, dead air, talking freely… KVRX is the student radio station. Anyone hear the 50 shades of burnt comment a couple weeks back during the UT game? Those were KGSR DJs who are now at KUT, so it was okay. Left of the dial? I don’t have buttons or a dial. PLL synthesized tuner.

  • Reply Peter Staats December 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    john is the ONLY thing other public stations do not have. He is an audio artist, discovering new sounds a year before the rest of us, making connections where we did not see them, brings a context to music that is not there for others. weirdly brilliant,

    peter staats

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      Peter, you’re right and that is something I forgot to write about. John is an excellent curator of music!

  • Reply jennifer T December 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    just love love love him always and for ever where ever he is

  • Reply Jane Fleming December 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks for the piece. I enjoy Aielli, though I’ve “only” been listening for 21 years. I like not knowing what the music will be on any given morning, and even being saturated with his latest enthusiasms. You are right, he is *exactly* like the relative at Thanksgiving who will always have a story . . . of sorts.

    He also has given air time to hundreds, if not thousands of local musicians, singers, actors and writers – in my memory, generous with praise and graciously chatting when he couldn’t praise – and when he’s not quite on point, he’s always himself.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      Jane, you are right. He has done an excellent job of showcasing new and local talent. He is definitely a supporter of the arts!

  • Reply Sharmyn Lilly December 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Thank you for yor wll written words about one of my favorite Austin treasures. I became a fan soon after moving here in 1974. I did have to live away from Austin in the early 1980s before straming and I missed KUT generally more than nything besides my friends and joh Aeilli specifically and felt so blessed when I was able to return.
    I’d ike to tart a drive to ask KUT to brodcast the show on both of the two future stations. I love his show for two reasons: th music and the John-talk. So I think he belongs on both. After all, he is the genius engine that drives KUT.
    John, I’ve learned so much from your show and some has been some of the most important things for me in my life (seriously) And you’ve been so gracious and extraordinary when I’ve had the privilege of being with you on your show.
    I would grieve if you left KUT or Austin. I do mss yo on Fridays, but I’m glad that you get more time off. Stay well, and thank you, John.

  • Reply Sharmyn Lilly December 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I’d like to start a drive to have John Aeli’s Ekletikos on bot the future KUT music station AND the fuure KUT all-talk station. Afte al, he’s such a phenom, the engine that drives KUT and I love the show for 2 reasons: the music and the John-talk. I couldn’t do without either. Take care, John. I miss ou on Fridays, but I’m glad or you having more time off. Tke care; we love you!

  • Reply Jeanne Henry December 5, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    When I moved to Austin 13 years ago, he played a full hour of songs about Jeannes… I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair, Cheer Up Sleepy Jean, Jeanne Marie You Were a Lady, Jean Jean, etc. I was hooked after that!

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 11:02 pm

      That’s awesome, Jeanne! I can just picture it!

  • Reply tito December 5, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    when Young Frankenstein was playing at the Paramount a couple of years ago John Aielli got so excited he mixed a whole morning of at least subtly Young Frankenstein-related music, with long pieces of the film interspersed and the frightened horses sound that comes after anyone says ‘Frau Blücher’ popping up from time to time, randomly. It was amazing- great music, great movie talk, I think it might have been Cloris Leachman’s birthday, too; suffice it to say, John Aielli is the best radio DJ I ever heard, and when I don’t like what he’s playing I just think of that morning years ago.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2012 at 11:03 pm

      Oh man! I wish I heard that! I LOOOOVE Young Frankenstein, so an entire morning devoted to that movie would be heaven!

      • Reply tito December 6, 2012 at 10:58 pm

        surely they record and archive everything at KUT? at least from the last decade or so? or is that totally unrealistic magical/wishful thinking… one call will probably get an answer…

  • Reply UT Alum December 6, 2012 at 9:52 am

    He was probably just thinking of some young pretty boy… and that is what makes life beautiful! 🙂

  • Reply Amanda December 7, 2012 at 10:28 am

    This sums up John perfectly. He was just talking about the full moon last week!

  • Reply Chris December 12, 2012 at 11:35 am

    John is the greatest music teacher I’ve ever had. Love him as much as he loves Mummmmmford and sons…Ready to follow the music to 98.9

  • Reply Katie December 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    this made me SMILE! agree with every word 🙂

  • Reply Nat December 18, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Pre.Cise.Ly. We love you John!!!!!!!!! Well done, Hipstercrite!

  • Reply Emily January 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm


  • Reply Artesian April 4, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    If you love his show, pony up with your money. Not me. He is self-centered and past his time.

  • Reply Alex July 16, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Hate to be the only decenter here, but this guys drives me nuts. The vapid non-sense that he spouts off always frustrates me and makes me change the station.
    Ok, I understand the guys been at it forever, and is a cornerstone of Austin media, but the guy is straight up annoying! Playing bob Schneider the other day was the last straw really.

    • Reply oaksong June 16, 2014 at 11:28 am

      Really? Get a life……that is, when you grow up a bit you’re more likely to appreciate both the eccentricities and his music knowledge.

      Hopefully you’ll someday come to realize just how special John is, compared to all the other drivel that’s on the air waves. Having something this original is exceptional in our overly homogenized reality.

  • Reply Merideth August 22, 2013 at 9:50 am

    This is lovely. I’m an Austin ex-pat missing John terribly, and it’s always good to share the love. I can’t communicate the magnitude of his awesomeness to people who’ve never heard him. This comes pretty close. Thanks.

  • Reply Raele Ohana November 26, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Oh my goodness. I love this letter! John A. means the world to me! He fills me with joy every time I listen to him. He is the most sincere & real person anyone could ever be. He just makes me feel warm and happy when I hear him mumbling to himself. The last time I remember the exact feeling is growing up watching Mr. Rogers. He says the best things! Some are pure genius. The first time I visited Austin, I saw the “If you don’t tell your kids…” letter, and I wondered what in the world it meant, who this man was. I wondered if there was some kind of legally untouchable pedophile out on the streets of Austin! When I moved here, giving up KCRW for KUT, I finally heard John on the radio one morning, and I could not BELIEVE he was allowed to be on the air…I also listened “slack-jawed”…then slowly started to grin, then laugh…then just fell in love. With Austin. He seemed to embody everything I love about Austin. The classless society, come-as-you-are, no judgement, deep thinking and easy sharing place that it is. I wish he were younger, because if he dies in my lifetime, I don’t think I’ll be able to stop crying.

  • Reply Capt. Spastic August 26, 2014 at 9:12 am

    I couldn’t agree more. John is a treasure. Sadly, he’s not getting that kind of treatment any longer from KUTX, and they are instead, note treating him like the truly great radio personality he is. One that showcases music, instead of their ego.

  • Reply Robert Newman April 24, 2015 at 11:53 am

    It has been my great privilege to have known John for over 50 years. He is an original and so brimming with life and new ideas that it is hard not to like the guy. He is a testament to the notion that everything is connected.

  • Reply Paige April 5, 2016 at 9:59 am

    Thank you for writing this! I am new to Austin and have fallen in love with John on my way to work in the mornings. You have so eloquently and respectfully put into words what John means to myself and I know the rest of the Austin community.

  • Reply Ed April 6, 2016 at 11:41 am

    I’d like to add just a bit more to this character’s development: “He will be the benevolent neighbor who brings the protagonist baskets full of garden vegetables and shares the meaning of life with her, and with a wink to the camera, reveals he is THE John Aielli, quirky radio host, and he is in a witness protection program. In a nod to De Niro’s role in the movie “The Family” where De Niro, a criminal in a witness protection program, is asked by the town’s people to be film critic for, in an ironic twist, “Goodfellas,” John takes it upon himself to become a radio host, thereby hiding in plain sight. It is revealed that it is not brilliance, as many suspect, but his bumbling inexperience that is the true explanation of his quirkiness. Lauren, relishing in the shared secret, sees this as a bond that assures her a place in Johns life.

  • Reply Carol Hawkins April 6, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    I was just thinking how much I miss the old KUT format. I liked having quirky shows like Eklektikos interspersed with the great NPR news. John brought so much love and pleasure to my life. All news all the time does NOT! Now it’s not nearly as convenient to listen to Eklektikos. Maybe I’ll figure out a way…

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