The Record Keepers: Ann Delisi

The WDET host has deep roots and eclectic tastes
Ann Delisi - vinyl
Ann Delisi

Ann Delisi has worked in Detroit radio since 1983, primarily with WDET-FM 101.9, where she hosts the weekend show Essential MusicBut in the early ’80s, while studying music at Wayne State University and working at WDET, she also had a job at the original Sam’s Jams store in Ferndale, which was a magnet for record collectors.

“Sam’s bought and sold records, and we would keep a card file in which record collectors would let us know what their holy grail records were, and we would try and locate these out-of-print gems for our customers,” Delisi says. “It was actually more satisfying to see people come in to pick up the records they had been searching for — sometimes for years — than to buy something for myself.”

Conversely, Delisi’s own holy grail record wasn’t something she had been searching for; it came into her possession through a pal’s providence.

“Marvin Gaye is my favorite singer,” Delisi says. “In 2016, his masterpiece What’s Going On was remastered at Abbey Road Studios and released as a four-album deluxe reissue. It was a gift from a dear friend who bought it for me when she was in London. I didn’t realize it was my holy grail record until I heard it.”

As a DJ, Delisi has been gifted her fair share of records over the years, and her current vinyl collection numbers around 2,000 LPs that span a wide variety of genres, much like WDET’s diverse programming. “Having worked at WDET for almost two-thirds of my time in radio, I was exposed to everything from reggae to jazz to rock, so my collection reflects that amazing musical environment,” she says.

Eclecticism is a hallmark of Detroit record collectors, in part because radio stations like WDET and DJs like The Electrifying Mojo set the free-form tone back in the 1970s and ’80s by playing music they thought was good, no matter the genre, breezily bouncing between funk, rock, electro, and rap. Delisi’s catholic approach to music appreciation defines her radio show, whose roots go all the way back to her clerking days at Sam’s Jams.

“It was a slow Saturday night, and three of us were working at the store,” Delisi says. “A very nice, quiet man came in and bought a huge stack of vinyl and left. After he walked out, my co-worker said, ‘Do you know who that was?’ I shook my head, and he said, ‘That was The Electrifying Mojo.’ To this day, I wish I had known that while he was still in the store. I admire him as a broadcaster, for his adventurous nature and his uncanny ability to pick the artists and records that would resonate with people, way ahead of anyone else.”