Real People Stories

Bottom 40 Radio

UPDATED 10/06/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 10/06/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT

GOT A FEW MINUTES? GOT A high tolerance for music that will set your dog's teeth on edge?

Then has Jim Nayder got a song for you! He's the host of The Annoying Music Show, which airs weekly on 108 public radio stations, making it what must be the most popular three-minute show on radio.

A three-minute radio show? "People should be grateful it's only three minutes," says Nayder, 43, "because three minutes feels like 30. If it was 30 minutes, it would feel like two hours."

Nayder's playlist includes such lost—and unlamented—classics as Leonard Nimoy's rendition of "Proud Mary," Mae West's assault on Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman" and Sebastian (Family Affair) Cabot's lead-footed trudge through Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." His all-time favorite, though, is the Brady Bunch's cover of Don McLean's "American Pie." "The original's got to be almost 10 minutes. They speed it up to a 2½-minute version," says Nayder, with a visible shudder of pleasure and pain.

The son of a Chicago construction executive and a homemaker, Nayder was hosting an entertainment show on Chicago's WBEZ in 1995 when a producer asked him to fill two minutes of airtime while she set up a live band. "I don't know why," he says, "but with me I had Slim Whitman's version of 'It's a Small World.' The song is annoying to begin with, but when it's done by a yodeling cowboy, it's worse."

He played the album—and the phones lit up: listeners wanted more, and not just of the yodeling. Soon, Nayder had his three-minute niche, and on Aug. 20 he went national. "Annoying music has a weird attraction," says Nayder, who searches flea markets and thrift stores in his tireless pursuit of new material. "It's like passing an accident; you don't want to look, but you sort of have to."

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