Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bill Ashford Live Today

For all of you who are moaning and growning about the lack of freeform in the present day, you have not checked into Bill Ashford's "The Rock Garden." The following are excerpts from how the project depicts itself:

"... the Rock Garden... is the outgrowth of a chance telephone conversation between John Sutton and Bill Ashford in 2004. Sutton and Q Hutchison were already working together on quality jazz streams from studios in Parker, Colorado, and dispersed world wide by Warp Radio.

"During that first conversation from Florida to Colorado,, the rock stream came up and how it was just languishing because there just weren't enough hours to devote to what would obviously be a major start up. Deals were struck and the project, still unnamed began. Ashford, Sutton and Hutchison poured every laser stroke and vinyl tic when absolutely necessary, obscure to some, but not all, into a mountain of music . Ashford then agreed to work with Hutchison to develop flow streams, that have absolutely nothing to do with playlists. This is a stream of consciousness presentation that rarely sounds the same from day to day...
"Ashford already acknowledges that he was here before the cooling of the earth's surface. Dinosaur Rock indeed. John Sutton jumped into radio with both ears around 1969 and just will not go away. He was one of the men with an impeccable taste and understanding of Jazz, that made KADX-FM, one of the finest jazz stations, ever. Not unlike other trailblazing gems, few though they were, this man and this station were thrown into the water, with an anchor attached. Sutton discovered there are many ways to peel the layers of the onion, so came Oz Productions, in partnership with Jonas Olmsted and the hired gun musical sensibilities of Ashford and his wife, Gail, and others, made tapes for clubs, parties, bar mitzvahs, front range frozen faced week long parties and any other requests. Good, but gone too.

"Sutton eventually hit on a syndicated big band jazz show that aired throughout the nation, primarily on am. Sutton and the real talent in the family. Denise, formed Warp Radio and it would be easy to say the rest is history, but it's not. Warp is currently one of the top 5 and still growing radio broadcast streaming companies on the internet. Next comes Q. Hutchison, whom we're not entirely sure about at all, except to say he wrangles all five current streams on Warp Radio, including his own new offering, Continuum, which is his own uniquely twisted stew of music new and old, balanced with a strong interest in audience participation that keeps Continuum fresh and fun. Q started in radio at 16 at WLBH in Mattoon, IL starting as a staff announcer and board operator. Over the next seven years Q wore many hats, Program Director (making sure programming and staff were in the right places), Music Director (picking out good tunes), News Director (writing and reporting news), Sports Director (reporting sports, sometimes even play by play and color commentary at local sporting events) and the occasional engineering job wiring and rewiring studio equipment. Q moved on to Warp Radio in July of 2000 and still wears a lot of hats. Good thing he has a size 7 7/8 noggin!
"Bill Ashford has been around so long that his rumors have grown their own extended legends. When asked about the many sites, quotes, tribute pages and blogs that exist in remembrance of stations he has been seen in and the man himself, he simply replies that all stories are true, but some actually happened. A couple he will admit to are that he really did believe there were people living in the family console radio and that he did get his first radio job as a teenager in Fayetteville, NC when he just walked in and asked for it. Any experience? Yes sir, listen to it all the time.

"There was a folk music club in Fayetteville, kind of a halfway house for artist to have and extra gig each way between the clubs of New York and Coconut. Most stayed with Ashford when in town and he started traveling to New York and hanging with the first wave of folk-rockers... He heard Bob Fass on WBAI and Rosco and Muni [on WOR]. It was spiritually obvious that THIS was how radio should sound. Ashford's battle cry became "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows..." Actually, the CIA suggested a few changes to his show being broadcast just outside Ft. Bragg, NC.
"He took his family to Denver, where he became one of a very small circle of people to start one of the first five 'underground/freeform' fm stations in America. New York, San Francisco, L.A., Detroit and Denver, where he and that small group of the obsessed, assembled to set Colorado on fire. They were all eventually bastardized by corporate America and what you have now is Album Rock radio.
"During that chance phone call in 2004, it was decided that what we were missing was a freeform station. Not a copy, tribute or heavy guitar metal death machine. What was needed was an outlet that did as it did in the beginning, play whatever the moment called for lyrically, rhythmically and spiritually. We have not stopped building Rock Garden for one day since we agreed in 2004 to treat listeners as we would like to be treated. We have made only one conscious deletion and that has been to leave most jazz out as we already have four fine jazz streams (,, and and some pop stuff heard on Continuum...
"Just like '68 or '70 or now, everyday is different. Currently Ashford is the primary player/programmer at The Rock Garden, with considerable help from Q, who listened to Bill talk, then created and weighted categories and style rotations to create something that sounds like Ashford is there, which he is in the mornings, or not. John and Denise Sutton, Q Hutchison and Bill Ashford are the Rock Garden, open twenty- four hours a day, playing music you love, or just don't know you do yet."

Image at top of Bill Ashford at KFML-AM & FM, Denver, Colorado circa 1971 courtesy of:

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