Martin Bruestle programs the coolest radio station on the planet, even if it is fictional. Tucked away in the small town of Cicely, Alaska, KBHR (K-Bear) — where Billie Holiday and Lynyrd Skynyrd rest cheek-by-frozen-jowl on the playlist — is the audio pulpit of Chris Stevens, the philosopher king-DJ on CBS-TV’s eccentric hit series Northern Exposure. And it’s up to Bruestle, the show’s 27-year-old producer, to make sure the music on the station — as well as on the jukebox at Holling’s bar — is as quirky as the rest of the series’ characters.
According to Bruestle, the Exposure offices are flooded with calls each Tuesday morning from fans with questions about the music. Some of those callers should be thrilled by MCA’s just-released Northern Exposure soundtrack. In addition to the now-familiar harmonica-drenched theme, the album includes cuts from South African vocalist Miriam Makeba, opera singer Frederica Von Stade, ’60s R&B outfit Booker T. & the MG’s, crooner Nat ”King” Cole, and the forgotten Eurodisco ensemble Magazine 60.
The wide-ranging versatility of the show’s soundtrack is, Bruestle adds, in keeping with the series itself. The residents of Cicely are ”a collection of individuals who’ve made their own choices,” says Bruestle, who coordinates music selection with postproduction supervisor Steve Turner and Northern Exposure‘s cocreator, Joshua Brand. ”So the whole idea of the show means there is no one sound.” The only musical rule on the show (and on the album) is that the songs not be too well known. ”’My Girl’ will draw attention to itself,” says Bruestle, ”so it doesn’t work.”