With a knack for conversation and a voice for radio, Paul “The Lobster” Wells is among a fading class of disc jockeys. Wells has more than 40 years of radio and broadcast experience at California stations, broadcasting rock classics and his trademark wit. But it’s in San Francisco’s Media Gulch – a cluster of multimedia companies located in an area bounded by the Embarcadero, Washington and Union streets – where he’s built his career and reputation.
“There’s a photo in my office of Media Gulch, taken from the Embarcadero, where you can see the offices of nine jobs I’ve held,” said Wells. “I’ve worked everywhere in the Gulch.”
Wells’ production company, Flow Communications, is best known for producing “The Will and Willie Show,” featuring former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown and local comedian Will Durst, which is recorded in front of a live audience once a month and distributed by Wells’ company on willandwillie.com. “The show was originally named ‘SF Point of View’ to broadcast our perspective to those who feel the pull to come here,” Wells said. “San Francisco is a cultural petri dish, everyone comes here; like filings to a magnet!”
Wells channels that cultural melting pot into his radio show, “Lobster’s Sunday Brunch,” which airs Sundays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on FM 97.7, “The River.” With a focus on Bay Area artists at the top of the program, he deploys his years’ worth of musical knowledge, playing a range of artists from across the decades. He sees San Francisco as a pivotal component in music’s development. “Enrico Caruso, the Sex Pistols, The Beatles…all had their last concerts here,” Wells said. “Add that to the Fillmore’s jazz, the Haight’s Hippies, even Brannan’s Mormons and you have something special.”
Wells is a San Francisco Beautiful board member; the organization helped save the City’s famous streetcars. He serves as District 10’s representative to the City and County of San Francisco’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC). BAC meets monthly at City Hall to draft recommendations to the Board of Supervisors concerning bike policy.
“We’re currently working on cleaning up ‘The Hairball,’ and are developing something similar to ‘The Wiggle’ from Potrero Hill to the 22nd Street CalTrain station,” he said. “We want to ensure safety for our bikers and alleviate congestion and, in regards to the Wiggle, we want to give bikers the flattest route up the hill as possible.”
When Wells first moved to the Hill’s southwest slope decades ago, commercial services consisted mostly of a laundromat, Blooms and Goat Hill Pizza. “You have to have anchors in a community,” he said. “The Potrero Hill secret is out – we’re the first to get sun and the last to get fog – and with that change we need to keep supporting the businesses that have become institutions of our community.”
Wells is glad the Hill hasn’t seen the same litter from increases in bar traffic as other City neighborhoods, such as the Mission. He attributes the problem to a lack of civility and laziness in society that has even seeped its way into the way DJs do their jobs.
In the Jedi DJs Facebook group, a group of veteran and retired radio DJs, Wells finds solace from others who understand the fading art of playing songs based on accessing deep emotions. Wells is one of the last Jedi DJs still on the air. “Playlists should be about what comes from [the heart],” said Wells, pointing to his chest. “Not a computer-curated hit track on repeat.”