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Access Cleveland 

Local musicians get face time in Tommy Wiggins's basement.

Anne E. DeChant
  • Anne E. DeChant
When a musician -- any musician -- talks shop in your basement, his tunes tend to take on greater meaning. At least that's what Tommy Wiggins hopes to prove with his cable-access shows Words & Music and Crooked River Groove, both of which are devoted to featuring Cleveland musicians.

"There's absolutely nothing like this that champions local, original music of all styles," brags Wiggins, who runs Studio Guy studios and heads up Tri-C's new Recorded Arts and Technology program. "Radio has always sucked, wherever you are. So screw everybody else. We're doing what we want, and we're showcasing good art."

The two half-hour shows, which air Friday nights on Tri-C's Smart TV, are produced and engineered by the college's "full-time professionals," giving them a polish not typical of cable-access programming. Words & Music, taped on a set styled after Wayne's World's basement studio, is centered around artist interviews; Crooked River Groove is a 30-minute performance recorded before a small live audience.

"Crooked River Groove is basically like Austin City Limits," says Wiggins. "Same thing, smaller stage." In the first year, Wiggins has turned out 24 episodes with 12 artists, including Carlos Jones, Anne E. DeChant, and Mike Farley.

And the groove is growing. Wiggins says he's struck a deal with the Beachland that will allow his crew to tape shows of national performers at the club. He also boasts of plans for a Crooked River Groove CD and even a jump to broadcast TV.

"We haven't even scratched the surface," he says. "When I think of Northeast Ohio, it could be a Pittsburgh band, it could be a Detroit band, and there are a lot of good bands in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo. There is good, original material everywhere."

"It's so exciting, and I don't sleep at all, and it doesn't matter," Wiggins says. "What we're doing here is phenomenally beneficial to the music community."

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