This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
If you're looking for a ringer to add to your bar trivia team, get a hold of Adam Reader.
Only thing is, Reader probably wouldn't have time to play. He's too busy producing his new streaming shows, "Songography" and "Fables of Rock."
The big-brained dude with the signature bowling shirt and porkpie hat pretty much knows everything about the history of rock 'n' roll, from the stories behind obscure B-sides to one-hit wonders to who played what on which top-40 single. His knowledge-dropping is in full effect during the interviews he conducts with some pretty big names, including Brian Wilson, David Crosby, Kenny Loggins, Carlos Santana, Journey's Neal Schon and Heart's Ann Wilson.
Already known to Utahns from his "Rock & Roll Rant" segments that aired on the Sunday night ABC Good4Utah news, the West Jordan resident has now taken his "Professor of Rock" brand (which the Beach Boys dubbed him) worldwide, or at least where there's decent Wi-Fi. "Songography" and "Fables of Rock" are currently airing exclusively on Vudu (http://www.vudu.com), Walmart's streaming platform. There are more than 30 shows available for viewing, and more are being added about as fast as Reader can make them.
Reader's chats aren't the kind of mindless yak-fests that focus on the salacious like those old VH1 "Behind the Music" episodes. Instead, he's all about the music and goes deep into the details on how classic songs were birthed, in easily digestible 5- to 15-minute episodes.
"I don't care about the sex and drugs part, I care about the rock 'n' roll part, and what makes these musicians tick and who they are as a human being," Reader says. "I look at it like this: If Alice Cooper's tour bus broke down and he didn't have a cellphone and he knocked on your door for help and if he was waiting in your house for 30 minutes for somebody to come get him, what would you ask him? You wouldn't ask about alcohol or drugs. I want to know where his creative process comes from. That's what I want to show my audience. I want them to feel these musicians are sitting in their own living room and they're getting to know them as people."
Breakout hit • Reader was running an artist development company and getting discouraged after learning how many of his clients primarily teens and young adults were all about becoming the next Justin Bieber but had never heard of the Beatles. So he would give them homework assignments: "Revolver" and "Pet Sounds" and "Led Zeppelin IV."
"They would come back and their faces would be lit up and talking about how incredible these albums were," says Reader. "It reminded me of the first time I heard rock 'n' roll. Their minds were opened to a whole new world. But you can't blame kids for liking Justin Bieber when that's all they're hearing on the radio."
Reader thought about ways to build on those teachable moments by opening his vast sonic expertise to a wider audience, an extension of how he learned about music history growing up in Blackfoot, Idaho.
"My dad is a '60s guy, and he was always playing records back when it was almost a ritual experience," he says. "Holding a vinyl album in your hands. Studying the cover as if it was a piece of art. Pulling that big black circle out of the sleeve and putting it on the turntable. Reading the lyrics and the liner notes."
Reader's spongelike pop obsession only grew with many devoted listenings of Casey Kasem's "American Top 40."
"He would play Kim Wilde's 'You Keep Me Hangin' On,' then play the Supremes' version, and I would learn who the Supremes were. And I'd learn about all these other bands. So with the show, I thought it would be cool if millennials and others could have this same experience I did."
That's been Reader's approach since his "Rock & Roll Rant" segments started airing in 2013. He's done about 250 interviews since, and with the new Vudu arrangement, those insightful talks will be available to an audience of up to 30 million.
Teach your children well • "The idea isn't just to be a nostalgia trip," Reader makes clear. "It's to tell the history of the band and have people discover or rediscover why this band or song or artist is so amazing, and then push people to go buy the physical product, not just a download. Because think about it: Is there anything exciting about digital music? Is there anything exciting about streaming a song?"
By concentrating his interviews strictly on music, Reader also pulls off something of a miracle: getting people like Ted Nugent and Vanilla Ice to sound deep and eloquent when discussing the cultural merits of "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Ice Ice Baby."
Yet there's a more altruistic motive behind the interviews: capturing the stories behind songs before the people who created them are no longer around.
"We're losing music legends every day, it seems, so we have to get that wisdom recorded. These song stories may be in books, but people don't read anymore, and first you have to know that a book exists, and then you have to read the whole book to get that story. This younger generation, they watch. So we're letting them know about great music and also giving them a history lesson. Five years from now, I hope we'll have the stories behind the greatest songs of all time."
Reader looks at his shows as something of a musical anthropology class equal parts TED talk, personal genealogy and pop culture, with drizzlings of history, spirituality and humanity, "straight from the artists' mouth," he says.
He's also encouraged by what he sees from a younger generation that's not necessarily swallowing what pop radio is force-feeding them.
"I was in Barnes & Noble the other day, and I saw these teen girls going through the vinyl section. One girl had Dr. Dre and Journey in one hand, another had Bob Dylan and The 1975, another had Depeche Mode and Marvin Gaye. And that's amazing. That's the future of music, right there."