How the late DJ made his mark in Columbus in just four years

It’s 11 a.m. on Sunday, and “Ceremony” by New Order begins playing. The 1981 song kicks off the Stash, a CD102.5 show. Usually, the Stash pays homage to classic alternative music, but on this day, it’s got another purpose: to honor the late DJ whose passion, enthusiasm and charisma defined the weekly program.

“You pick the music that makes you think of Mase,” DJ Brian Phillips tells listeners. “This was his baby.”

Ten days earlier, Mason “Mase” Brazelle was on the air in the morning, as usual. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit Ohio in March, only he and CD102.5 owner and president Randy Malloy have been in the Brewery District station—everyone else has been broadcasting from home. 

“He hadn’t been feeling good for a little bit of time; he said he was really tired and just didn’t look so great,” Malloy says. “He called his doctor and the doctor said I should take him down to the emergency room. He went into the hospital mid-morning.”

Mase died two days later at 6 a.m. He was 53. He had been taking medicine for a bleeding ulcer, but doctors haven't confirmed a precise cause of death.“It looks like it might’ve been something septic, but they don’t really know; there’s no autopsy being done,” Malloy says. 

Phillips was given the difficult task of announcing Mase’s death on the air. “Randy called me, and he goes ‘I want you to go on the air and do a few hours, play some music and just tell people what happened,’ ” Phillips says. “My heart is in my throat, and I’m just like ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Since then, messages have been posted on social media, cards have been mailed to the station, and flowers have been left outside the building, all to grieve over the loss of the DJ, even though some of the mourners had never met him in person. 

“Mase has only been here for four years, so for him to make that much of an impact in Columbus in four years is pretty amazing,” Malloy says. “It says a lot about the man, and it says a lot about how radio affects people and how they actually have a kinship with someone that they might not have ever met because of the music.”

After Phillips made his June 6 announcement, DJs Nate Puderbaugh and Adam Latek used their show Radio Nowhere to play not only songs Mase liked but also ones he didn’t, which Mase would’ve enjoyed, Phillips says. “Mase did not take himself seriously, and I guarantee you he would’ve thought that was the funniest thing he’d ever heard,” Phillips says. “I knew that was a really appropriate sendoff.”

On June 9, radio stations across the country played the 1981 single “This is Radio Clash” in honor of Mase, who’s favorite band was The Clash.  “In the 30 years that I’ve been doing radio, I’ve never seen anything like that,” Malloy says. 

More than 70 people met June 12 on Zoom to mourn the loss of Mase. Friends and family shared stories and wished they could gather and grieve together. Due to the pandemic, however, they couldn’t have an in-person memorial, Phillips says. 

“I could just see the pain on their faces because they so want to be together,” Phillips says. “I understand now, better than I did before, that word ‘closure’ and we haven’t had that, and that’s made it even more difficult.” 

Mase came to CD102.5 in 2016 after working at WKZQ, an alternative rock station in Myrtle Beach, for 11 years. A Georgia native, Mase always had a love for music—he imitated Johnny Cash at the age of 2, his mother told Malloy—but his first radio gig was a happy accident, occurring after he followed his wife, Joy, to South Carolina.  

“He didn’t have a job when he moved, she had the job,” says his brother Nate Brazelle. “So he worked part time on the radio just for something to do until he got started, then he started doing well on it.”

At CD102.5, Mase worked as a part-time DJ before becoming the station’s program director a year later. As program director, Mase never got mad and “was just a pleasant person to be around,” Phillips says. 

“The part of being a program director where he felt like he had to lean on people, he just didn’t think that that was necessary and he would just trust people to do the right thing,” Phillips says. “He let people be human.” 

Even after Mase’s passing, the Stash will continue to air every Sunday with alternating hosts since no one can replace him, Phillips says. 

And throughout the week following his death, the support from people locally and nationally toward Mase continues to exceed expectations.

“When something like this happens and people are outpouring of love and gratitude and compliments, it’s just overwhelming and really nice,” Nate says. “I’m really happy to hear that my parents did a good job and he meant that much to people.” 

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