What's On Your Daily Soundtrack?

Jun 2, 2015

Ben Kieffer
Credit Ben Kieffer

Name: Ben Kieffer

Job: Host of River to River; Host/Producer of Java Blend

What is the last thing you listened to today? Be honest!

An audio book version of "Dead Wake", the latest book by Erik Larson about the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. I love Larson's historical work and once had the pleasure of interviewing him. 

The Weepies
Credit theweepies.com

What album have you been listening to lately?

Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks". It reminds me of being young!

What's your favorite song today?

"No Trouble" by The Weepies.

What is your current musical guilty pleasure?


What's your favorite new release from the last 30 days? 

The Weepies' new album "No Trouble". They performed recently on Java Blend. Deb Talan and Steve Tannen are as fun and inspiring in conversation as they are in their songwriting.

What was the last concert you attended? 

The awesome Iowa blues artist Catfish Keith on Java Blend at The Java House in Iowa City.

What was your favorite concert you ever attended?

A toss-up between Fleetwood Mac and The Who, both during the 1980s at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

How about your first concert?

The Cars, also at the UNI-Dome in the 1980s. 

Do you remember the first album you owned?

Not sure, but one of the first albums was Jethro Tull's "Aqualung" on vinyl LP. Before that, I had a 45 rpm of Cherokee Nation by Paul Revere and The Raiders. We played it so often we wore it out!

Where is your favorite location to listen to music?

Walking my dog on a beautiful day. I also like to listen to music with my waterproof MP3 player while lap swimming in the pool. Yes, there are such things as underwater MP3 players!

Do you play any instruments? 

Sadly, no. That's probably why I created Java Blend some 15 years ago. I adore musicians and want to be with them, but don't have the talent to be one. Maybe I'll have musical talent in my next life?

If you could be any musician for a day, who would it be?

Oh, that's a tough one! There are so many. How about Freddie Mercury when Queen was at its height, singing Bohemian Rhapsody. 

Bob Dorr and Ben Kieffer at The Java House in Iowa City
Credit Ben Kieffer

What is the weirdest way you ever discovered an artist or song?

When I was a kid in the '70s, we once got an album in a box of laundry detergent. One side was Diana Ross and The Supremes and the other was Neil Diamond. It became a favorite of mine.

Also, in the '70s I created a contraption to record and edit Bob Dorr's show called "Progression" on KUNI. I listened to the tapes again and again. Even today, IPR fans can't get enough of Bob!

Do you have a fond music related memory from your childhood?

Hits from the mid-'70s always remind me of the old Ray Edwards Swimming Pool in Cedar Falls. Much of my summers were spent there and I later worked a lifeguard at the pool. Thursday nights they stayed open until 10 p.m. My friends and I listened to the hits from those crummy outdoor speakers and leapt again and again from the high board into the lighted pool. 

Is there a particular Java Blend performance that sticks out in your memory?

Again, tough because there are so many memorable ones. I've had hundreds of talented artists and bands on the show. Here's one that sticks out, but not as your might expect. The Indianapolis band Hero Jr. played a full-on electric set that literally shook the furniture at The Java House. Afterwards, I discovered the volume caused me to lose hearing in one ear temporarily and gave me vertigo for several days. Since then, this awesome band has returned for another Java Blend performance - acoustic!