All for the Music: Remembering longtime WEMU and WCBN DJ Michael G. Nastos
Michael G. Nastos, a longtime music journalist and radio DJ in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, died over the weekend. He was 70 years old.
Nastos had been struggling with health problems and was using a wheelchair for the past year or so in public appearances—of which there were many.
Because even with the issues he was facing, nothing could keep Nastos away from engaging with the driving love of his life: music.
Nastos never stopped searching out new sounds, making best-of lists, writing about music, attending concerts, or being an avid supporter of the many fellow musician friends he had from spending his life living and working in Washtenaw County. (Nastos was a percussionist.)
I didn’t know Nastos but I listened to him on the radio for large portions of my life. While he started on WCBN-FM 88.3 in the 1970s, I first heard Nastos as the night host on WEMU-FM 89.1 when I was an undergrad at Eastern Michigan University in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. His tastes ran from the ragtime of Jelly Roll Morton to the avant-garde jazz of Sun Ra and listening to Nastos’ show always turned me on to something great. My tastes were equally eclectic, and I would often write down what Nastos played and then go buy the music at Wazoo Records or Tower Records—or perhaps one of the other four to six record stores in Ann Arbor at that time.
On the radio, Nastos spoke clearly, calmly, and with authority. He always made a point to back-announce extensive details about the tracks he spun, offering insights and giving full context to the music he played. Listening to his shows was an educational experience.
The music I heard on WEMU, and on Nastos’ program in particular—along with my uncle’s massive jazz collection and my own obsessive dives into punk, new wave, hip-hop, and beyond—helped build the foundation for my 30-year journalism career, which has focused on covering music mostly, including six years of editing a jazz magazine.
I left Michigan in 1994 to be a journalist and didn’t move back until 2016. When I checked out local radio again for the first time in 22 years, I was surprised to hear so many familiar voices still on WEMU—except Nastos’ wasn’t among them, with his late-night program being replaced by a syndicated show.
But I was happy to discover Nastos was still on the radio, having returned to his free-form WCBN roots. In addition to being a frequent fill-in DJ, he was a regular host of the Sunday show Sounds of the Subcontinent, which focused on music from the Indian subcontinent and its diasporas. (Nastos was a lover of all genres of music; look at the diverse names he lists on his WCBN bio.)
Nastos was an early writer for Pulp, but after I came on board in late 2016, he didn’t like my edits of his articles, so we parted ways in early 2017. (It’s fine, it happens, no hard feelings.) During that time we only communicated over email, so I never got a chance to meet Nastos in person to tell him how much I loved his radio programs, but I did tell him in writing.
A couple of years later, I was working the checkout desk at the Malletts Creek branch of the Ann Arbor District Library and a man came in looking for a CD: “Do you have the latest album by Snarky Puppy? I want to see what all the hype is about.”
As the man and I walked to the music section together, I asked him if he was a jazz fan. The fellow twisted his face a bit and pulled at the logo affixed to his jacket; it was for SEMJA, the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association. I don’t remember what he said next, but whatever it was, I finally recognized the distinctive voice I had listened to almost nightly 30 years ago.
I introduced myself to Nastos and finally got to tell him, in person, how much his radio shows meant to me.
I’m sure thousands upon thousands of listeners share a similar sentiment about the man everyone called Michael G.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.
At the time of this writing, no details have been announced about a memorial for Michael G. Nastos. Follow the Facebook group Lifting Up A2 Jazz for any further details; the news of his death was announced here.
You can learn more about Nastos’ life and career by scanning his Facebook page, where he posted frequently about the music he was enjoying as well as some of his other interests, including baseball and drag racing—he was the longtime announcer at Milan Speedway and a formerly a correspondent for racing newsletters.
More resources to learn about Nastos' life and career:
➥ Articles from AADL's Old News site that were written by Nastos or that mention him.
➥ "Interview with Michael G. Nastos" [SEMJA newsletter, November 2016]
➥ "Michael G. Nastos: Jazz, Baseball & Funny Cars" [Agenda, September 1997]
➥ "Music Historian Michael G. Nastos" [Michael Erlewhine's Spirit Grooves, February 11, 2015]
➥ "Living Writers Interview: Michael G. Nastos [audio]" [Living Writers podcast, May 11, 2022]
➥ "Michael G. Nastos, Oral History Interview, 2019" [Eastern Michigan University Archives transcript, 2019; audio below]