Anyone tuning in to San Diego State University’s KCR radio on August 18 may have heard the deep, rich tones of a familiar deejay voice, back-announcing another adventurous set. It was a Saturday, after all, and, for most of Scott Tissue’s quarter-century-plus stint at the student-run station, that was when the SDSU grad hosted his Music for the Open-Minded show.
If you were listening, could you have really heard Tissue execute an animal-song-themed segue from Athens, GA, indie-rockers Elf Power’s “Let the Serpent Sleep” to obscure Virginia gospel/jazz virtuoso Banjo Ikey Robinson’s “You’re Bound to Look Like a Monkey When You Get Old”? Yes. How about John Cale’s “I Keep a Close Watch,” followed by Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line,” capped by the Godfathers’ “The Walking Talking Johnny Cash Blues”? Absolutely. His “Tim Buckley Song of the Week” feature? Check.
Yet, “Scott Tissue” — known beyond KCR as Russ Lewis (and the Reader’s top proof-reader for 28 years) — was only present in sound and spirit that Saturday. In the same Grossmont Hospital where he was born 53 years earlier, he had succumbed to a half-decade battle with cancer on February 23, 2011.
On August 18, KCR’s faculty/staff advisor Skot Norton hung a laser-etched red alder “Scott Tissue” memorial plaque on the station’s wall during a KCR alumni meeting. Over the air, they played one of Tissue’s “DJ in a Can” CDs: recordings of his live shows he left for use as ready-made programming. (He also distributed those playfully named CDRs — “Afterbirth of the Cool,” etc. — to grateful friends.)
Selecting the right words for the plaque, Norton admits, wasn’t easy. “Where to start...? ‘Greatest KCR DJ of All Time’ was a no-brainer, but...to accurately recognize the scope of his contribution...was...daunting. He was also a rite of passage for all new KCR [deejays]. So many...share similar stories of an unexpected late-night call from Tissue with constructive criticism and a timely request that would meld perfectly with their set.
“The three-word tribute took a while. In the end, ‘mentor,’ ‘musicologist,’ and ‘muse’ sort of popped into my head. In all likelihood, Tissue himself reached out from the great radio station in the sky and simply stuffed them into my head bone. So, in a sense, he did his own proofing of the prose...”