Uncle Junior and the Chances With Wolves DJs Kray and Kenan, outside of the East Village Radio booth. NYC, Monday, April 14th, 2014. Episode #289.
To tune in to Chances With Wolves, the popular program broadcast each week on the imminently defunct East Village Radio station, was to get really familiar with the voice of a scrappy, scruffy-voiced Puerto Rican. “Chances With Wolves is not a radio show, it’s a state of mind,” he would say, and that made him the voice inside your head.
There were nearly three hundred “episodes” of chanceswithwolves—a fantastic, genre-agnostic tour through music history with particular emphasis on the strange, the forgotten, and the rare—and the voice has been there since close to the beginning, appearing for the first time somewhere around episode thirty two.
The man behind the voice remained a mystery to me and most others. That is, unless you were one of the adults who played on his father’s Brooklyn Little League team as a child. Or if you are one of the residents in the building he supervises in Crown Heights. Or perhaps you would know the man behind the voice, one Junior Acosta, or “Uncle Junior” as the Chances DJs affectionately refer to him, if you worked or partied at Brooklyn nightclub Southpaw before it closed. This is where Junior was a janitor and where the first Chances With Wolves shows were recorded, late in the small hours once the night’s festivities had ended. Junior would raise hell about the condition of the club in a way DJs Justin “Kray” Cox, Kenan “Kool Kear” Juska, and Mikey Palms thought humorous. A light bulb went off, and soon after Junior and his now legendary one-liners (“Once you run with the pack, you never go back!”) were being recorded.
On a show like Chances where the DJs didn’t talk much if at all, these bits, along with wolf howls, were the punctuation that held so many disparate tracklists, songs that would probably not bump into each other in any other DJ set, together into a cohesive whole.
On a recent trip to NYC, I was fortunate enough to arrange a meeting with Uncle Junior. We made photographs and then sat in the tiny East Village Radio booth while Kray and Kenan took turns weaving together episode #289 live. At that time, no one knew East Village Radio would soon be shutting down—the station’s final broadcast is on Friday, May 23rd. I watched as Junior helped write new lines to be recorded.
Somehow, though the show in its current state will no longer exist, I have a feeling we will one day get to hear those lines. The wolves will continue to roam free. There will be more strolls through the marigolds. Chances With Wolves is not a radio show.
The final broadcast on EVR.com will be streaming live today from 4 to 8pm EST.