“Cerphe’s Up”: Renowned DJ Cerphe Colwell Shares Career Experiences

Senior Felipe Osorio and host teacher Sallie Street posing for a photo with famous Radio DJ Cerphe Colwell.

Photo Provided by Mrs. Street

Senior Felipe Osorio and host teacher Sallie Street posing for a photo with famous Radio DJ Cerphe Colwell.

Written by Hannah Schneeberg

Nationally renowned DJ, Cerphe Colwell, recently visited Mrs. Sallie Street’s Den-time class to share experiences from his lengthy career as a DJ in the DC area, and to introduce his new autobiography, Cerphe’s Up, co-written by biographer Stephen Moore.

Laughing, Colwell told the students, “I’ve been on DC radio since your parents were your age.”

Hailed by The Washington Post as “the voice of Washington’s rock generation,” his first foray into radio began while he was attending American University in the ‘70s. He first worked for the legendary rock station WHFS, and later worked for DC 101, WFJK and The Arrow.

Colwell has interviewed hundreds of musicians through the years, and he lists George Harrison of The Beatles as one of his favorites. Harrison and Colwell kept in touch through the years, and a photo of the two graces the cover of Colwell’s autobiography.

Colwell said, “I met George Harrison about seven or eight years after The Beatles broke up. He ended up talking to me longer than anyone else in the press room that day, and we continued to have contact throughout the years.”

As for other intriguing interviews, Colwell says there are too many to recall, but he did mention an interview with Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. He said that he believes that the band is still popular after all these years because “they still resonate.”

While sharing his own personal story, Colwell gave Mrs. Street’s class advice on finding success.

“I started out purely by mistake 45 years ago. I was an art major, and yet my first big job ended up being in rock radio. You never know where your path is going to take you,” Colwell told students. “I got lucky, and being lucky is a combination of paying attention to detail and being smart. Always pay attention to what’s going on around you, take notice, read, and keep a journal.”

Colwell and his wife Susan reside in Leesburg where they run Music Planet Radio (MusicPlanetRadio.com), streaming songs by many of the same artists Colwell interviewed through the years. The Colwells are also strong supporters of musicians on the local scene.

Colwell is humble and claims that all of his success came from the music he played, but his on- air personality is more than a just a persona. Washingtonian Magazine once referred to Colwell as “everyone’s cool older brother,” and indeed that is a great description of how he interacted with the students and teachers of Woodgrove High School.

Several teachers who grew up listening to Cerphe attended the event. Attendees included Mrs. Street, who hosted the event, and Mr. Tim Brown, Mr. Tim Greening, and Mrs. Lea Longerbeam.

Mrs. Longerbeam said, “Cerphe has always been my favorite DJ. He always had a great on-air persona, but he is just as friendly and personable in real life. During the presentation, he made every student and teacher feel comfortable and important. I think that his gift for relating to others is a big part of his success.”

Colwell’s book, Cerphe’s Up, is available on MusicPlanetRadio.com, and Colwell and Moore will also be promoting the book at several events around the DC area. By sharing his story, Colwell hopes to give fans “a little peak behind the curtain” of the music world.

Asked to sum up his successful career, Colwell said, “Always let the music be the star.”