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Midnight in the Desert with Art Bell

Art Bell Returns (Again)

I have a soft spot in my heart for Art Bell. As a former overnight DJ and grad student who kept relatively nocturnal hours for a good portion of the 90s, I admired Bell’s unique ability to engage guests and callers in topics that ranged from scientifically plausible (the theory that there have been multiple Big Bangs) to hilariously absurd (blood-sucking Chupacabra) with equanimity.

While some critics pilloried him for uncritically harboring all manner of superstition and psuedoscience, I enjoyed his Coast to Coast AM as a sort of straight-faced performance art that provided an entertaining alternative to most late night commercial radio, offering stimulating company to night shift workers across North America. Heck, I remember tuning in for a show tackling pirate radio, in which he discussing the topic straightforwardly, neither treating it as enticingly taboo nor recklessly dangerous. (In fact, Bell was himself a radio pirate in the 1960s while serving in the Air Force at the Amarillo air base.)

Bell held court over nationwide nocturnal amplitude modulation for some fifteen years before going into semi-retirement in 2003, handing over the weeknight reins to current Coast to Coast host George Noory. Bell then took the mic for weekends until 2007, then doing occasional fill-in slots until 2010 when he retired. That first retirement only lasted until 2013, when he had a brief foray into satellite radio with Art Bell’s Dark Matter on SiriusXM for six weeks.

July 20 is when Bell will return to broadcasting once again, according to a FAQ posted to his own website. This time he’ll be on the internet station Dark Matter Radio with a live weeknight program called Midnight in the Desert, airing midnight to 3 AM Eastern Time. The show won’t be on terrestrial broadcast, with one exception. Apparently Tennessee-based Christian shortwave station WTWW will broadcast Bell live to the world.

As much as I like and use internet radio, I have to admit it’s a little disappointing that Bell won’t be back on AM. I have fond memories of road trips over the Midwest interstates where I listened to Coast to Coast, hitting the seek button when one station faded, knowing I’d soon encounter another transmitting the show. It’s unlikely I’ll go through the trouble of tuning my shortwave receiver just to recreate the experience.

Nevertheless, I will probably check out Midnight in the Desert, although at 9 PM Pacific Time it’s on a few hours too early here in Oregon. I’d go for the podcast to timeshift it after midnight, but on-demand episodes will be reserved for paid subscribers, and I’m not that much of a fan (though might do the trick). Anyway, on-demand isn’t really the proper Art Bell experience–he’s really meant to be stumbled upon, in the middle of a nearly inscrutable interview that you’re surprised comes slowly into focus.

I’m sure there are Radio Survivor readers who will scrunch their noses at my praise for Art Bell. I get it–his nutty melange of guests and strange blend of libertarian, conservative and occasionally progressive political stances (pro-gun and anti-abortion, but pro same-sex marriage) is admittedly out of step with much of the radio we normally highlight. But, again, it’s a mistake to take him a face value. He may never actually wink at us, but neither did Andy Kaufman.

Plus, c’mon, he did this commercial:

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12 Responses to Art Bell Returns (Again)

  1. Brian N. Everett May 15, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    Coast to Coast with George Noory is censored, I have experienced this censorship, and I don’t mean censorship of dirty language or inflammatory lies, racist views etc. I called into “Coast to Coast, I was polite, and well spoken, the guest wanted to answer one of my questions, but the other half of that question touched on corporate media wrong doing, so they abruptly cut that out of the show. Art Bell was always much more fearless and independent. Great Art is back. Google: Robert Kardashian linked to unsolved 1993 murder, this was part of my call-in.

  2. John Anderson May 18, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    Were it not for Art, there’s no way I would’ve survived the paper-routes I had to do between radio jobs.

  3. richard of nemacolin May 19, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

    …..looking forward to Art’s return ! ! ! …….hope he stays for the long haul……wish more FM stations would carry talk shows……the music is getting repetitious……..

  4. richard of nemacolin May 19, 2015 at 4:39 pm #

    PS ……the aluminum foil commercial is GREAT ! ! ! ……

  5. James Donohue May 30, 2015 at 9:34 am #

    I heard the show will also be broadcast on WBCQ Shortwave 7.490 …

    • Wade S. July 19, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

      As a fellow Ham Radio Operator, I also look forward to Art’s return. Art’s Ham Call Sign is WB6OBB. Art, is the reason for one of my License Upgrades. I wanted to be able to talk to him on the Advanced Frequency Privileges of the upgraded license class. Also, besides the WTWW, Tennessee Short Wave Station of Ted Randall, also a friend, at 5085 KHz. Maine, has a Flame Thrower Short Wave Broadcaster. WBCQ, at 7490 and also 9330 KHz. These are 100,000 Watt stations. Twice the power output of the largest AM Transmitter in the Commercial AM Broadcast Band. Go to to see all of the latest station list as Program Directors across the United States are Signing On, to Rebroadcast the Show. I personally hope and believe that Art, will have Many Other Commercial Stations willing to jump aboard. Willing to play be Art’s Rules! As the word gets out. Best Regards or ” 73 ” as we Amateur Operators say, from Wade/KJ4WS

  6. Guber June 16, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    Wow…This is great news! Art is coming back and Donald Trump is running for president.

  7. John Howard June 30, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    This time I’m not buying. Art you’ve retired too many times. I think you’ve treated your fans with an utter lack of respect. Last time I subscribed to Syrius for a year and you could even go two months for quitting. So I won’t be joining your subscription service. I will listen live to your podcasts, if I happen to be doing nothing else at that time but never buy from any of your sponsors. I will never buy your books or anything else you may be selling.

    Furthermore, quite frankly paranormal radio programs are now all over the place.

    • Earl September 23, 2015 at 10:37 am #

      Wow; you sound bitter. Art is like any of us, with biases, traits, foibles and fortes. His XM broadcast had browser-based client problems, issues which Sirius refused to fix. Art has reached a point in his career where he deserves/ed to get what he wants/ed as far as his broadcast. Sirius blew it, IMO, and it’s a dying service which could have benefited from a little bit of a shot in the arm. On top of that, Sirius refused to release him from the non-compete clause, and filled his slot with C2C AM! Slimy to say the least.

      I write this in September, 2015 and the show is going strong and the quality of the broadcast and the technical setup involved, are to be admired. I think he will do this show, Midnight in the Desert, for as long as he can, health-wise. He finally has his own show on his own terms and taking advantage of new internet/radio technologies.

      As far as not getting money back from Sirius, I would have pursued it. My wife has Sirius/XM in her car; I no longer have it. Their WX-based products are quite good, but their radio content, for the MOST part, sucks.

      Be well

  8. stan swanson July 13, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

    Good luck to art —–he opened up my mind will helping me get thru eight years of fed time for growing pot !!!

  9. Jashuh July 30, 2015 at 11:48 pm #

    It’s nice to see Art Bell returning to the broadcasting – he is the best at what he does ! I hope this new format works out ok for him, it’s a big gamble but lots of people present their product this way so it should work for him as well …
    The Sirius XM format just didn’t reach enough audience for him, Surius claims big numbers of listeners but these figures are simply not accurate and highly inflated .. He discovered this before it was to late to get out of his agreement with them and therefore his quitting to soon pissed off lots of his followers who got stuck in a contract with Sirius XM ..
    He had an enouous following from truck drivers and nightly communtors who now will not be listening because of the costs involved with streaming, these are now lost listeners ! Also: many of his original fan base have moved on by death or other directions in their lives, they are lost listeners! So this new adventure is going to have to really stand out to get people interested again and he really needs to find local AM nightly stations to try to build up his base again …
    But wishing him the best and good luck …

  10. Liz August 24, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    I’m so happy Art is back. If it doesn’t work out, the PayPal payment it required can easily be switched off. Frankly, I suspect he won’t be doing it much longer, maybe for a year or two (at most). It’s okay. I’ll take what I can get. He does a superlative job with his interviews and his open line shows are the best. Imagine any other talk show host giving the entertainment he gives with unscreened calls. You can’t. There is only one Art Bell.

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