MP3 stands for Monkey Paws: In the KDHX Studio with Gabriel

Brian Heffernan
Gabriel (bottom) sits at the control desk in KDHX's main studio with Dennis Brannaker (right) and Hound Dog Brown (left)

Dennis worked the overnight shift for Victory Cab Company in the '60s. After 2 a.m. when business would die down, he and the other drivers would pile into one car and tune in. Gabriel was on KATZ then, from midnight to 6 a.m. "He kept that clock spinning like we was workin," says Dennis.

Gabriel came to KDHX 23 years ago. Dennis joined him a few years later as his in-studio sidekick. He makes weather forecasts, laughs heartedly at Gabriel's jokes and answers the phones. Together, they run Gabriel's Tin Pan Alley from midnight to 3 a.m. on Monday morning. Gabriel wears two hearing aids that he dials in to hear the program through his wireless headphones but not much else. The only way to ask a question is to write it down on scratch paper that Dennis brings. Dennis says they've worked out a bit of their own sign language to communicate easier.

Brian Heffernan
Gabriel's suitcase. He used to bring two, but now brings all of his CDs to play on-air in one.
Sometimes, Dennis writes down songs that listeners call in to request, but the playlist is usually completely planned out by Thursday or Friday. One listener calls in to ask for a Johnny Winter tune, but all of Gabriel's Johnny Winter collection got burned up in a 2010 fire that ravaged his home. "Sorry," Gabriel responds on-air.

The walls are lined with racks of red-labeled rock CDs, but none are touched. The only songs Gabriel plays, he hauls in with him in a leather-bound burgundy suitcase filled with burned mix CDs, rubberbanded together in colorful plastic cases, and a few cassette tapes.

Playback on Gabriel's show is imperfect--a technology hiccup here and there. "I have trouble with these mp3s--these monkey paws. That's what mp3 stands for. Did you know that, Brian?" But the looseness makes it all the more listenable. It gives the sense that there's some semblance of a real man behind the voice, not just a corporatized radio machine.

And tonight, as the clock ticks close to 3 a.m., that man is getting tired.

Brian Heffernan

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