|This biography of a living person relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (October 2009)|
Mark Wheat is an English disc jockey working at the Minnesota Public Radio station KCMP where he provides one of the outlet's unique voices because of his background. Wheat grew up in the small town of Clenchwarton, near King's Lynn, Norfolk, England, where he dreamed of becoming a radio host while listening to British DJ John Peel. His first radio break came when offered the chance to guest on the briefly incandescent Big Joe Wilson show on CXR Hospital Radio where he riffed with luminaries of the 80’s radio scene such as Karl ‘The Teaman’ Warkus, KY’s Doodie Watson Jones and the Fruit Poets — Fringer Turner and Chucky C Farren. The interweaving of soulful talk and thoughtful music which was such a hallmark of the show, would prove a useful addition to Mark’s kitbag when he later moved to the United States and picked up his radio career.
While living in the area of New York City, Wheat became interested in the WFMU radio station in New Jersey, and spent some time there. He eventually moved to the Twin Cities region of Minnesota where he became heavily involved in the local music scene and did radio shows on KFAI and the short-lived Zone 105 (now known as Love 105). During the mid to late 1990s, he hosted Local Sound Department on KFAI, and also worked at Zone where he did a show named Across the Pond which focused on what was happening back in the United Kingdom.
In 1998, he was hired to work at the University of Minnesota's music station, 770 Radio K (KUOM), which is one of the most popular college radio stations in the country. Wheat spent six years at the station, acting as program coach, DJ, and host of the weekend show The Music Lover's Club. He became so identified with Radio K that he was inadvertently labeled in the local press as head of the station. However, Wheat was just part of a small full-time staff that oversees students who do much of the work at the station. As his time there came to an end, Wheat expressed confidence in the ability of the students to continue the station's mission.
Wheat made a significant move in 2005, leaving 770 AM for a new station that was being started by Minnesota Public Radio. KCMP 89.3 FM is an "eclectic" music station, playing a wide variety of different music. In fact, KUOM has a somewhat similar format, so some have expressed concern that the launch of KCMP could affect Radio K negatively. However, many music and media critics had described the Twin Cities music radio landscape as desolate up until this time, and many listeners in the area had decided to turn their radios off in favor of Internet radio streams or iPods and other portable devices. In an interview made shortly after the station's launch, Wheat expressed hope that those former radio listeners might be drawn back to the medium, and therefore might discover (or rediscover) Radio K and KFAI.
Wheat has related a number of different personal stories in between playing songs on the radio. One unusual occurrence happened when he was living in St. Louis, Missouri. Some of his friends convinced The Minutemen to come and make a personal performance on his birthday. He has also mentioned that many people—even in his home country—mistake his accent for Australian. This is somewhat to be expected, though, since he has now spent decades in the United States.
Several awards have been granted to Mark Wheat in recognition of his talents. Most recently, he won the City Pages readers' poll for "Best AM Radio Personality" in the 2004 Best of the Twin Cities awards.
The Fall, a punk rock group from Manchester, is his all-time favorite musical group. He's also a fan of Manchester United football club. He attended the University of Leeds while members of The Gang of Four were seniors and during the time The Mekons formed. David Gedge of The Wedding Present was also entered the university at the same time, although Wheat didn't meet him until an interview years later.
On Sept. 6, 2012, Wheat became a naturalized U.S. citizen; he is now a dual citizen of Great Britain and the United States.
- "Stay safe, be peaceful to one another, and I'll see you tomorrow" – a common signoff
- "I think we're all radio-heads as well as music-heads, so there's a part of us that doesn't want to see radio as a medium die. I think that's part of what we're doing, trying to reinvigorate people's passion for radio and trust in it as a medium where they can find out about music."
- Boland, Tylor. "Starring Mark: up late with Mark Wheat weeknights on The Current." Minnesota Monthly, November 2008, pp. 146 - 147.
- Taylor, Luke. "Citizen Mark: DJ Mark Wheat reflects on becoming a U.S. citizen." thecurrent.org, accessed Sept. 7, 2012.