‘The night I hung with …’: 7 Cerphe brushes with greatness

Cerphe Colwell has been behind the microphone for decades, at WHFS and other stations.
WHFS, 1975. Cerphe Colwell, Jonathan "Weasel" Gilbert, David Einstein, Josh Brooks, Damian Einstein, Thom Grooms, at Glen Echo Park. (Courtesy MusicPlanetRadio.com Archive. All copyright/licensing is covered.
Cerphe and Linda Ronstadt, backstage at Georgetown's McDonough Arena.
Cerphe, backstage with Aerosmith at Verizon Center.
Billy Joel speaks with Cerphe at the Capital Center, in 1985.
In 1993, Cerphe hung with Keith Richards at DAR Constitution Hall.
While at DC101, Cerphe helped celebrate the contributions of DJ Carroll James, who first played The Beatles "I Want to Hold Your Hand."
Cerphe and WHFS's Damian Einstein at the Chesapeake Blues Fest, in Annapolis.
Cerphe and Little Steven.
Cerphe and Stiing.
Cerphe's online show airs daily, on MusicPlanetRadio.com.
Cerphe Colwell's new book recounts his more than four decades behind the microphone.

WASHINGTON — Most music fans who have lived anywhere  near the nation’s capital for the past 40 years have spent some time listening to Cerphe.

The longtime radio broadcaster, who got his start in the early 1970s at the iconic WHFS, has talked on air and backstage with some of the most influential musicians of our time.

In his new book, “Cerphe’s Up: A Musical Life with Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat, Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, CSNY, and Many More,” co-authored by Stephen Moore, Donald “Cerphe” Colwell tells some of the stories he’s gathered, in his years at stations including WAVA, DC101, WJFK, and Classic Rock 94.7.

Cerphe now hosts a daily online show, at musicplanetradio.com, unencumbered by the limitations of commercial radio.

In September 1985, Cerphe testified on Capitol Hill, with Frank Zappa, Dee Snider and John Denver, opposing a rating system for music suggested by the Parents Music Resource Center.

In a WTOP exclusive, Cerphe shares audio recollections of seven  brushes with music and entertainment greats.

Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler acknowledged some of the temptations of rock stardom.

1. Talking (cold) turkey with one of music's great frontmen

Stevie Nicks has been Cerphe’s guest often, through the years.

2. The local road sign that inspired a rock classic

Not all of Cerphe’s memorable moments happened on the air, or on stage.

3. Fistfights, partial nudity at Cellar Door

Stars, including Kris Kristofferson, sometimes let their guard down around Cerphe.

4. Confidant to the stars

In June 1973, after the release of his first album, Bruce Springsteen played an acoustic set in the WHFS studio.

5. Up close with Bruce and the E Street Band

In 1985, Cerphe testified against record labeling on Capitol Hill, with Frank Zappa, Dee Snider, and John Denver.

6. Sometimes you have to bend your own rules

Cerphe’s wife, Susan, had a literal run-in with Pete Townshend.

7. The kids are (lucky to be) alright

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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