Cerphe’s Up: A Musical Life with Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat, Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, CSNY, and Many More

Cerphe’s Up is an incisive musical memoir by Cerphe Colwell, a renowned rock radio broadcaster for more than forty-five years in Washington, DC. Cerphe shares his life as a rock radio insider in rich detail and previously unpublished photographs. His story includes promotion and friendship with a young unknown Bruce Springsteen; his years at radio station WHFS 102.3 as it blossomed in a new freeform format; candid interviews with Little Feat’s Lowell George, Tom Waits, Nils Lofgren, Stevie Nicks, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Steven Van Zandt, Robert Plant, Danny Kortchmar, Seldom Scene’s John Duffey, and many others; hanging out with George Harrison, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, John Entwistle, Jackson Browne, and many more; testifying on Capitol Hill with friend Frank Zappa during the “Porn Rock” hearings; and managing the radio syndication of both G. Gordon Liddy and Howard Stern. Player listings and selected performances at legendary DC music clubs Childe Harold and Cellar Door are also chronicled.

Cerphe’s Up is both historically significant and a fun, revealing ride with some of the greatest rock-and-roll highfliers of the twentieth century. Cerphe’s Up belongs on the reading list of every rock fan, musician, and serious music scholar.

About the Author

Cerphe Colwell began his career on WHFS 102.3 radio, one of the first freeform stations in the United States. Cerphe (pronounced “Surf”) helped promote the early careers of Bruce Springsteen, Lowell George, Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, and many other rock luminaries. Cerphe’s radio resume includes WAVA, DC101, WJFK, and current station Music Planet Radio. Cerphe lives in Leesburg, Virginia.

Stephen Moore has coauthored three books, Johnny Holliday: From Rock to Jock, Helen Hayes: A Bio-Bibliography, and Hoop Tales: Maryland Terrapins Men’s Basketball. A research technologist at Georgetown University, he plays in the Bethesda, Maryland, rock cover band The Razors.

Editorial Reviews

“Colwell’s memoir is pure fun and, for many, a joyful trip down musical memory lane.” –Booklist

“Colwell’s memoir provides the distinctive perspective of a rock personality. . . . When he puts himself into the story, as when he discusses the introductions he used to do for Bruce Springsteen at live shows or his time at D.C. radio station WHFS 102.3, the narrative comes alive.” –Publishers Weekly

“Like his voice, Cerphe’s book, written with Stephen Moore, is smooth and inviting.” –John Kelly, Washington Post

“Somewhere in the 1960s, someone said ‘Let’s put some rock and roll music on FM.’ So there weren’t that many people listening, so not much pressure. The FM stations became very creative. You could play what you wanted and you could create an art form out of your own broadcast. Cerphe was involved in this.” –Frank Zappa

“I’ve been a fan of Cerphe for decades, as a friend and a musician. He’s always searched for and shared great music with his radio listeners. I always appreciated Cerphe’s sharing my own music, too. I’ve enjoyed many colorful discussions with Cerphe through the years about the wonders of all types of inspired music, and believe we share a common belief that music is truly our planet’s sacred weapon. I recommend his book to all music fans.” –Nils Lofgren, solo musician, member of the Rock Hall of Fame with the E Street Band

Reader Reviews

An Insider’s Look at Some of Best Music You’ve Never Heard
By Dr. Dan Hardcrab Poe on November 6, 2016

I was lucky to grow up in the Washington DC area and be able to listen to some of the best music from “up and coming” artists. A lot of famous musicians got their start there. There were so many great clubs from Northern Virginia to Baltimore and even Southern Maryland. But one didn’t have to go to any of the local venues to hear them. You just had to tune your dial to FM 102.3 WHFS. This was no Top 40 station. This was a station with a bunch of eclectic DJs that played whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. One of those DJs was Cerphe Colwell. Cerphe played music from (then) unknown artists that you had never heard of, but if he played it or had the artist on his show, you know it was going to be good! His in-studio interviews (which always meant the artist was going to play something live!) were legendary. This book is about that romp through the years of giving us this (to take from an upcoming documentary on the heyday of WHFS) “Feast for Your Ears”. The artists, the songs, the clubs where they played, the people behind the scenes, other DJ’s, you name it. It’s in this book. And I guarantee you that you will learn some things you never knew before (I did!). So if you want a trip back through the years of the way music was done right, then pick up this book. Cerphe Colwell and Stephen Moore did it right with this one!

Not only his story, Cerphe’s Up focusses where the reader is most interested – on the artists and their art
By John Friedman on November 16, 2016

The book describes his life as a disc jockey at WHFS 102.3 during a time that is now considered the ‘peak’ of alternative, free-form FM radio and how he was instrumental in introducing unknown artists like Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and Frank Zappa (to name a few) to radio listeners. Cerphe includes contributions from many of his favorite ‘HFS co-workers which provide revealing details of what is was like to work there. Throughout his long career at WAVA, DC-101, and other radio stations he has known the biggest names in rock history.

He writes about his Boston and backstage encounters with Van Morrison, a personal invitation to tea with George Harrison, and joining his friend, Frank Zappa in the infamous PMRC ‘porn rock’ hearings on Capitol Hill. Other adventures with the Rolling Stones, Howard Stern, Clarence Clemons, Fleetwood Mac and others are shared. He includes interviews with artists like Graham Nash, Little Steven Van Zandt, Steven Tyler, Jackson Browne, Rod Stewart and Nils Lofgren that reveal not only his obvious connection to the artists and their music but also their intimate personal bonds.

It’s a fabulous read. Cerphe’s Up is right up there with Keith Richard’s enlightening, witty and fabulous tome, Life. What also shines through is the humble, unassuming and sometimes shy nature of many of the artists Cerphe and his co-author, Stephen Moore profile

Great job on this
By Howie Kweller on November 14, 2016

Great job on this, Cerphe!
The book is a real page turner!
I made it thru UMD and med school thanks to all of you at ”HFS. Like the simulcast with a live tv broadcast of the Alman brothers live concert and ‘hfs gave us an amazing FM stereo audio! (1973?) Used my daddy’s home stereoFM hook up in the hall of our dorm, and a little black and white TV.

The book makes me feel like I’m back in Bethesda, going to drums unlimited for my weekly lesson!

Bethesda sure owes you a debt of gratitude for this great book, documenting a significant part of their history that you and ‘HFS gave them and all of us.

A Great Read Of A Life In Music And Broadcasting
By Doug L.on December 3, 2016

This new memoir by nationally known radio personality Cerphe Colwell, written with Stephen Moore, is a great, entertaining, humorous, warm and personally revealing narrative of his 40-plus year career in broadcasting. Cerphe describes his roots in a loving family outside of Boston, and how he began his career in a serendipitous way, right out of college at the dawn of the 1970s. He sat in with a friend at a local FM station in Washington, DC, which at the time allowed a few “off-hours” for broadcasting music that he and his friend liked. That station morphed into the first progressive rock station, WHFS, in Bethesda, Maryland, and Cerphe quickly became the most prominent DJ, with a voice born for broadcasting. He describes many fascinating personal stories and interviews he did with rock stars, including those who were just on their way up at the time, who have appeared on his shows over the decades. Cerphe describes his long-term career in the music industry, as both on-air personality and executive with major broadcasting corporations. Unusual for someone in the music industry, he developed an early interest in meditation, vegetarianism, and concern for the environment. Interestingly, he managed to avoid the often-destructive drug indulgences of many of the rock stars over the years. He also touchingly describes how the universe “conspired” to bring him and his wife together after several near-misses; while navigating the “slings and arrows” of life and loss that we all face as decades go by. Today, Cerphe has an internet-based radio network, Music Planet Radio, which has an expanding program lineup, including the flagship program, Cerphe’s Progressive Show. For anyone interested in the inside stories of rock artists – and especially, for people like myself, around the same age as Cerphe, who entered young adulthood at the beginning of the progressive rock era and have traversed the decades since with his voice always in the background of our lives – his book is a “must-read!”

By D. Sean Brickell on November 18, 2016
A must-read for anyone who worked in the music biz or green up in DC. Superb stories told so well from a fresh perspective. Highest recommendation.

… artists and the music scene that Cerphe Colwell has enjoyed for more than forty years
By Dean Perry on December 11, 2016

Cerphe’s Up is a unique hardbound insider look at rock artists and the music scene that Cerphe Colwell has enjoyed for more than forty years. Much of the book is made up of tantalizing bits of interviews, photographs, insights and quotes from the artists themselves. Long a fixture in the Washington DC music and radio business, Cerphe was fortunate enough to witness the rise of many of the great bands of the 1970’s through today, long after they became legendary. This book will be popular reference material for many music buffs who have lived in the Washington area, but the tidbits and trivia throughout make for interesting reading for anyone wishing a peek inside the music industry.
As a former resident of the DC area, I was a fan of Cerphe Colwell from his earliest days at free-form radio station WHFS and recall his on-air interviews with many of the great names of rock, but this book isn’t just a trip down memory lane; it fleshes out the personalities of many familiar names. I highly recommend it; it is easy to read and never over-long in his chapters, Cerphe Colwell and co-writer Steven Moore have crafted a well-constructed book with unique personal insight.

One of the best books written about the Rock era by a genuinely …
By Edward P Engle on December 11, 2016

One of the best books written about the Rock era by a genuinely authentic voice. It’s a wonderfully written book which transported me back to a time where the music was real, magic was in the air, and everything seemed possible. Cerphe has real “street cred” when he writes about the artists and the music industry in general. Loved this book!

By Brian on December 6, 2016
A quick read and an amazing piece of American music history.

Simply One of the Best Rock’n’Roll History Books I’ve Read
By Charlie Young on December 13, 2016

“Cerphe’s Up” is simply one of the best Rock’n’Roll history books I’ve read (and I’ve read a LOT). While the book offers the personal story of the beloved DC-area radio personality, Cerphe Colwell, the narrative also delivers a rich array of stories that will grab the ear of music lovers who may never have had a chance to hear Cerphe’s show back in the days “when the music mattered.”

Highlights of Cerphe’s extensive personal photo archive and other previously unpublished photos turn up throughout the book, illustrating his vivid recollections of memorable encounters and friendships with major musical figures including those in the subtitle as well as George Harrison, Van Morrison, Stevie Nicks, Rod Stewart, Steven Tyler, Nils Lofgren, and many more. He draws from the transcripts of recorded interviews he did over the years with these artists, so the quotes are accurate and authentic, as well as entertaining.

Cerphe takes us back to the days when WHFS-FM in Bethesda, Maryland became one of the most truly creative and “progressive” radio stations in the country, one with a wonderful team of on-air hosts who let their sense of camaraderie and love of the music captivate the listening audience, who often got to meet them at concerts and other events in the DC area. Cerphe has made the spot-on observation that WHFS and other radio stations like it became “social media” before such a thing existed, bringing a generation of listeners together in a community shaken by the Vietnam War, and united in a counter-cultural reaction to it.

Beyond the national names mentioned above, the book also offers a rich appreciation of the DC area’s great local music scene in the WHFS era, with clubs including the Psyche-Delly, the Cellar Door and Childe Harold. There’s a list of most of the artists who played the Childe Harold over the years, as well as an entire chapter devoted to the Cellar Door. The book also includes a detailed index, a rarity in non-academic non-fiction these days.

Cerphe also includes chapters about his later radio days when he acted as boss for various famous figures including talk show stars Howard Stern, “the Grease Man,” and G. Gordon Liddy. Those stories are especially funny, and demonstrate how times changed in the post-Vietnam radio era, as the music became secondary to talk radio.

It all makes for fun and enlightening reading, and thanks are due to Cerphe’s co-author, the accomplished biographer, Stephen Moore. He clearly deserves lots of credit for shaping the book and making it so informative and readable. It’s worth the price of admission for anyone who loves music.

Order Your Copy of Cerphe's Up Today!