Saturday, December 01, 2007


For those of you not on the mailing list for the Freeform Radio Google group, here's another installment in the "OFF THE TRUCK SERIES" where my friend and legendary freeformer Bill Ashford lays it out...



Sitting here doing my show today and listening to Patti Smith sing
"Midnight Rider," I have one of those in the mirror moments when I
wonder why I keep doing this. It's sure not the glamour although I
certainly had my share of that, "living the life I sing about in my
song", as Judy Roderick sang on a long ago out of print album on
Columbia. Quite to the contrary, it's quiet these days. A long time
and space from my start in 1961 in Fayetteville, N.C., trying to sound
like those top 40 "Good Guys" on WMCA, and Cousin' Brucie and Scott
Muni on WABC. What a time, I didn't know a turntable from a toenail.
All I knew is I had to to it. I had to, just not being cut out for a
lifetime in retail management that my dad wanted so much for me to
have. I couldn't. Sorry, Old Man.

I have been quite fortunate, making a king size jump from Fayetteville
to Denver in '68 that people still talk about. It just didn't happen
that way, but it did for me and soon with a handful of scruffy
pioneers, we helped invent something full time that we had been
messing with, at least in my case, since 1966, when we started
inserting Beatles and Stones album cuts into the playlist and playing
Mothers of Invention singles as "golden oldies", til I got busted by
the owner and told to knock it off. That's when the tape went to
Denver and two weeks later, we were on our way, my wife, daughter,
adopted son and our German Sheppard, driving to Alabama with our hair
tucked up under baseball caps, hoping not to get killed. I don't
think the flower on the back of the Volkswagon helped much, but we
made it on the George C. Wallace, Great White way, past the Arkansas
muddy river pirates to Denver. We discovered there that cowboys
didn't much like hippy boys either. Not for a couple of years when
they began to realize that long hair on men was attractive to women
and suddenly they were long haired cowboys.

I lived a life in rock radio I never imagined, running with the
artists, blind eyed high and drunk for days, weeks at a time and
managing to turn out good radio. We were for a while #1 in our key
demo in Denver. We had grabbed the gold ring, but as usual, the
owners grabbed the gold and we were doing a lot of different things to
stay alive and we did until ultimately, our dream was stolen pieces at
a time by business men and copycats who didn't have a clue why we did
what we did. I still know some of them and they still don't know.

Anyway, that's a longer story better told by others. Now I'm an old
man living quietly with my family in the South. I have my souvenirs,
photos with my heroes who were peers at the time, boxes of promo junk
and children who are curiously interested in the old pics they see of
their old man with people they've only read about. I also have a body
riddled by cancer, lung disease and a heart attack. All that gross
abuse was fun, but you WILL pay for it in time, so the drugs we used
to take for fun are just medically necessary.

I get up every morning and come into my home studio and stream to the
world, the music I loved then and the newer music I love now. I
confess to being especially prickish to criticism. If you can't say
something nice, just shut up, don't try to pidgeon hole me. Just like
the old days, I sometimes lean heavy on the blues, or Americana or
whatever and if I'm lucky, it all merges well and I've had a good
day. I have a bad habit of asking what people I respect think of it
and if they find fault, I get pissed. Just tell me it's OK and leave
me alone because after all these years I have discovered this: I do
this because I can't help it and I've always done it not for you, but
for me. I have to be happy with it, and like those holes in one in
golf, that's what keeps me coming back everyday, sick or not, to see
if I can nail another one. I hope so and I do truly hope you like it
too, but in the end, I'll do it one way or the other.

Keep Freeform Rolling,

(aka "Dump Truck O'Neill")

The Rock Garden

Friday, November 09, 2007

Vin Scelsa 40th 'Idiot's Delight'

[ Excerpt from: "Vin Scelsa marks 40th anniversary of 'Idiot's Delight'," By DAVID HINCKLEY, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, November 8th 2007 ]

Vin Scelsa, whose "Vin Scelsa's Idiot's Delight" is heard on WFUV (90.7 FM), marks his 40th radio anniversary starting this weekend.

This Saturday night, 8-midnight, he'll be joined by past colleagues, including Rita Houston and Meg Griffin, former WNEW-FM and CBS journalist Robin Sagon, his K-Rock and WNEW producer, Kara Manning, and his WFUV producer, Kim Ferdinando.

Scelsa started his radio career on WFMU and has kept the free-form flame burning. Besides eclectic music, his shows may include readings from novels.

On Dec. 13 at Lincoln Center, Scelsa will receive the 2007 ASCAP Deems Taylor Radio Broadcast Award.

In announcing the citation, ASCAP said, "Vin Scelsa, a mainstay of New York radio for four decades, is one of the last true free-form radio hosts. He is a sharp raconteur, a champion of new and unusual music and, with his devoted listening public, an important tastemaker."

Vin Scelsa marks 40th anniversary of 'Idiot's Delight'


A growing resource on the history and current state of Freeform Radio is Wikipedia:

Freeform (radio format) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunday, October 28, 2007

WFUV Archives

You can hear the recent programs from Vin Scelsa and Pete Fornatale on WFUV at:

WFUV Public Radio: FUV Audio Archives: "Search by"

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Summer of Love 40th

Old Leadfoot has some highlights of the Summer Of Love 40th Anniversary Special available for streaming at his website at:

Old Leadfoot: Summer of Love 40th Anniversary mp3

After some preliminary songs, the stream includes highlights from the free concert held in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco on September 2, 2007 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Summer Of Love (1967). Ends with some great cuts off of The Mothers' "We're Only In It For The Money."

My bro from KFML days, Ed Chatham shot some footage of the set-up:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Jake Einstein, WHFS, R.I.P.

[ Except from: "Jake Einstein, 90; Took Area Radio From Pop to Rock," By Matt Schudel
Washington Post, September 16, 2007; Page C07 ]

Jake Einstein, a colorful radio innovator who launched the Washington area's first alternative rock station, WHFS-FM, which left a lasting mark on the region's music scene in the 1970s and 1980s, died Sept. 12 at his home in Potomac from emphysema and complications from an aneurysm. He was 90.

Mr. Einstein had been a newspaper columnist, speechwriter and advertising salesman before becoming general manager and part-owner of the low-rated 2,300-watt Bethesda station in 1967. Within a year, he introduced rock-and-roll to a staid musical lineup, and the station's fortunes began to rise.

Under Jake Einstein, WHFS promoted local bands and brought musicians into the studio for interviews and performances.

In 1971, WHFS -- then broadcasting at 102.3 FM -- became Washington's first 24-hour rock station and quickly blossomed into a cultural force. Mr. Einstein gave his young DJs freedom to broadcast whatever they wanted, and for the next 12 years WHFS was at the center of Washington's progressive music scene, attracting a loyal following of students, musicians and young urbanites.

It was the first local station to play such bands as REM, U2, Simple Minds, Depeche Mode and the Cure. It furthered the careers of then-undiscovered stars Bruce Springsteen, George Thorogood and Emmylou Harris, who sometimes showed up at the studio. WHFS played the records of many local groups as well, including Tru Fax & the Insaniacs, the Bad Brains and Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band.

"It seemed like an unlikely place to be the center of Washington's music culture, but Jake took a chance, and it paid off for him," said Mike Schreibman, president of the Washington Area Music Association and a part of the D.C. music scene since the 1960s. "He gave voice to a type of radio that, without him, wouldn't have happened. It was a real sense of community."

When Mr. Einstein became general manager of WHFS, the station had been on the air for six years and was lucky to draw 800 listeners a night with its format of pop, light classical and jazz.

"Then a guy named Frank Richards came in one day wearing cutoffs and a leather vest, played me a tape of rock music from Los Angeles," Mr. Einstein told The Washington Post in 1983. "We were losing so much money that another couple of dollars couldn't hurt, right? So we put him on. My God, the calls! I never knew we had an audience!"

In 1969, three would-be DJs -- Joshua Brooks, Sara Vass and Mark Gorbulew -- approached Mr. Einstein with an idea for a free-form rock-and-roll program. They went on under the name Spiritus Cheese (derived from a cheese company in New York), and a new era was born.

"It was Jake's vision that FM radio and rock-and-roll were about to collide," said Mr. Einstein's daughter, Rose, who briefly worked at WHFS. "He saw it as an all-night format that would sustain a station."

Within months, WHFS was drawing an average nightly audience of 32,700 listeners. Spiritus Cheese lasted just a year -- someone complained about a four-letter word in a Firesign Theatre skit broadcast on the air -- but by then the station had found its niche.

The station's rock-and-roll DJs -- who included Mr. Einstein's sons David and Damian as well as Tom Grooms, Adele Abrams and Josh, Cerphe and Weasel -- became known for their shrewd and esoteric musical selections drawn from the station's 20,000-volume record library. They explored the byways of rock, blues, jazz, reggae and even classical music but seldom included tunes from the Top 40.

"There were no restrictions," said Jonathan Gilbert, who began broadcasting as Weasel on WHFS in 1972. "We would play everything from [experimental composer Karlheinz] Stockhausen to bluegrass -- sometimes in the same set."

The station promoted local clubs and concerts and invited musicians to drop by for late-night interviews and impromptu performances.

"Jerry Jeff Walker took his whole band to the studio," recalled Joshua Brooks, who was part of the Spiritus Cheese trio and later broadcast as Josh. "We had to put the drummer down at the end of the hall. They were on from 12:30 till 6 o'clock in the morning."

Under Jake Einstein, WHFS promoted local bands and brought musicians into the studio for interviews and performances.

The hard-rocking Thorogood played an after-hours acoustic set in the studio, and on another night, members of a San Francisco all-star band got into a fistfight on the air. Once, when Jamaican reggae star Peter Tosh was being interviewed, Mr. Einstein found the studio filled with billowing clouds of marijuana smoke. He walked away, and the interview continued.

"Jake got it," Brooks said. "He didn't know about the music, but he trusted the DJs."

"It wasn't just about spinning records," Rose Einstein added. "It was about the community of music."

Jacob Einstein Jr. was born in Baltimore on Aug. 5, 1917, and grew up in Catonsville, Md., as one of 13 children.

He found his first job in radio in 1939, selling advertising at WINX-AM in Rockville. He worked for a newspaper in Flint, Mich., before moving to Annapolis in 1942. He sold advertising for a radio station, wrote speeches for a state senator and moved to Denton, Md., on the Eastern Shore, in 1953. For several years, he wrote a local newspaper column called "Einstein's Theory."

In 1964, he became an advertising salesman at WHFS, the area's first stereo FM station. (The call letters stood for Washington High Fidelity Stereo.)

Described in news accounts as "cantankerous and quarrelsome" and "crusty and ebullient," Mr. Einstein had a powerful personality.

"Jake had many different sides," his daughter said. "He'd tell you, 'If I want your opinion, I'll give it to you.' "

A sign on his door read, "If he ain't yellin', he ain't sellin.' "

A strong believer in local programming, Mr. Einstein never ran a syndicated show on WHFS. On Sundays, the lineup included a smorgasbord of ethnic programs in Greek, French, Italian, Spanish and Arabic, as well as Jewish and German music shows.

In 1983, despite a grass-roots campaign that elicited 17,000 letters of protest, Mr. Einstein sold WHFS for $2.2 million. He took the call letters to a station he had bought in Annapolis (broadcasting at 99.1 FM) and rehired many of his old DJs. In 1987, he sold WHFS and WNAV-AM for $8.2 million.

Mr. Einstein later owned a low-wattage alternative rock station (WRNR-FM) in Annapolis, as well as WYRE-AM, before selling them in 1998 to game-show host Pat Sajak and retiring.

He was married for 35 years to Rosamond Einstein before they were divorced in 1977.

His second wife was Rena Einstein.

Survivors include his wife since 2001, Teresa Tizon Einstein of Potomac; seven children from his first marriage, Timothy Einstein of Sterling, David Einstein of Cape St. Claire, Cass Collier of Baltimore, Jake Einstein III of Salisbury, Damian Einstein of Potomac, Rose Einstein of Los Angeles and Mimi Husser of Frederick; 23 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

In 1997, seeking to explain his unexpected rock-and-roll radio success, Mr. Einstein said, "I've always been an alternative guy."

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Freeform radio pioneers in Phoenix, Arizona, include the likes of William Edward Compton (aka Bill Compton) and Dwight Tindle...

(Bill Compton)

... and stations like KRUX-FM, KCAC-AM and KDDB-FM...

(KCAC Staff circa 1971)

There's a fabulous resource on KCAC, with some links to KDKB and other info on the stations and staffs at:

KCAC Lives!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

KPPC in Detail

Jim Hilliker has written what must be the definitive history of KPPC AM & FM. Here's a small excerpt that pertains to KPPC-FM's freeform era:


The days of station ownership by Pasadena Presbyterian Church were soon ending. The church leaders apparently found that programming and running a commercial fm station full-time was a lot more work than putting their non-commercial AM station on the air only two days a week. KPPC-AM and FM were sold five years after the fm went on the air, but the church kept the 1240-AM transmitter in the basement of the new chapel building, along with its 25 by 35 foot main studio with perfect acoustics (designed by Clayton Blake), two smaller studios, record library, shop, and a reception room. The church rented out the studio and transmitter space to the new owners.

Those new owners, Crosby-Avery Broadcasting, purchased KPPC, effective October 5, 1967. The sale was first reported in the Los Angeles Times on August 12, 1967. The purchase price was $310,000 for the AM & FM. The story indicated that besides the Sunday church services, KPPC-FM/AM was broadcasting news, “middle of the road” music, and a variety of community-oriented public affairs programs. At that time, these community-oriented programs on KPPC included a show called “About Science” featuring interviews by nationally known scientists, arranged in cooperation with Caltech and distributed by the National Education Network to 110 member stations; “What Is a City” produced by the Pasadena Rotary Club, and programs by the League of Women Voters of Pasadena, Pasadena Coordinating Council and the Pasadena Arts Council. The newspaper story indicated that the AM signal reached a distance of about 55 miles, which may have been a generous estimate for the signal to be heard on the average AM radio of the day. Station officials were also quoted as saying the station would likely remain in Pasadena, but at a new location. However that did not take place until 1970.

In 1967 the station had a staff of 10, including station manager Edgar Pearce and program director Bob Mayfield. The church had put the two stations on the market about a year earlier. Pearce told the Times the fm had not shown a profit for the church, but added, “…its income had markedly increased in the past several years.” Church officials reportedly felt the money used to subsidize the AM & FM could be better spent elsewhere. Pearce said, “A commercial effort such as radio in the non-commercial atmosphere of the church is just not compatible.”

The new owners would soon use KPPC/fm to change the course of L.A. radio. However, the new licensee was still required as a condition of the station sale, to continue broadcasting the Sunday morning services of Pasadena Presbyterian Church over KPPC-AM.

By this time, 1240 AM was an obscure weak signal buried among the many more-powerful AM radio signals in and around Los Angeles vying for advertising dollars, while KPPC was still non-commercial. That was about to change after nearly 43 years. KPPC-AM's schedule had increased at this time to roughly 22 hours per week: Sundays from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday morning, and Wednesday nights from 7 p.m. until midnight.


In late-1967, the new ownership and management at KPPC decided to broadcast a format on 106.7/fm that could not be done on AM at the time. It was already on the air at San Francisco fm station KMPX, which was also owned by Crosby-Avery. The programming, initiated by Tom Donahue was called "free form underground" or “progressive rock” radio, which gave the flower children and counter-culture of the day a radio voice of their own. It was unlike any of the Top-40 AM rock music stations in the country, which is what the new KPPC djs/air personalities were rebelling against. The decision was made to simulcast the KPPC/fm format on 1240-AM when it was on the air, so KPPC-AM became the first AM station in the U.S. to air such programming. It was a mix of long-play rock album cuts straight from the hippie-drug culture of the time. The disc jockeys were relatively young (though some were a bit older), were into the music and sounded very "mellow," as if they had woken up from a deep sleep and were about to doze off again. They communicated one-on-one with the young listeners. It was a style of talking on the air much different than the fast-talking, high energy djs on the pop/rock AM stations of the era. Unlike the AM music stations popular then, these djs didn’t talk over song intros and didn’t repeat the call letters over and over or play jingles. They played sets of several songs in a row without talking, and they played longer songs and rock music that couldn’t get airplay on AM radio then. Many young people who found the new FM station liked this format, with very few commercials, and language they could understand. The younger generation opposed to the policies of Presidents Johnson and (later) Nixon, a generation against the Vietnam War and the draft, social injustice, and who didn’t trust anyone over 30, had a radio station they could identify with, when they discovered KPPC. So, KPPC-AM could be credited with helping to start what would become a hugely popular fm radio station in Los Angeles and across the nation, by broadcasting the 106.7 FM station on 1240-AM on Wednesday nights and Sundays.

Here’s a piece of KPPC trivia that I did not find out about until December 2006! According to radio historian Bill Earl, in 1967, Tom Donahue tried to change the call letters of KPPC AM and FM to KHIP, but the station owners would not let him.

According to Ted Alvy’s Web site, KPPC’s change to freeform underground rock music got started with this lineup:

“Exactly 10 years after KFWB went Top 40, Program Director Tom Donahue debuted his KPPC hipster air staff on January 2, 1968 in the basement of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church:







The original 1968 KPPC air staff also included TED ALVY (Cosmos Topper) and STEVEN SEGAL (The Obscene Steven Clean).”

A man named Jay Murley had worked in sales at KPPC-FM/AM back then. He was about to be named FM-AM sales manager in March of 1968, when the air staff went out on strike, and according to Jay, “the fiscal structure came apart.” In 1973, Jay Murley wrote an article for the AM band DX club IRCA (International Radio Club of America), called “Not Your Average Radio Station.” In his story, Murley wrote the following about KPPC:

“With candid discussions of grass, acid, pot and speed, and anything else that might pop into some freak’s head (from studios where contact highs were unavoidable), KPPC-AM quickly became something much different from its original intended purpose. Those studios (in the church basement), thankfully, were separated from the front office by good air conditioning — for staffers and guests who didn’t appreciate contact highs.”

Murley also explained in his article that due to the twice-a-week simulcast, KPPC-AM forced the first exception to the FCC rule then, which said AM & FM stations could not duplicate programming more than 50% of the time if located in major markets. Crosby-Avery Broadcasting claimed in 1968 that it was the fm programming that was intended to be unduplicated, while 106.7/fm was being duplicated about 8% of the time on KPPC-1240 AM on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Murley referred to KPPC-AM’s engineering in 1968 as “atrocious.” He wrote, “Who worries about modulation on a hundred-watt share-time station, when your total music needs involved half-a-dozen pipe organ solos a week, or a few numbers from an off key choir?” As for the previously mentioned KPPC wire antenna system, Murley said KPPC’s flattop was different. While the antenna design looked good, Murley described it this way: “It’s roughly parallel with all the leaky auto ignitions of Colorado Boulevard. It’s anchored to a structure that anchors the printing press of the daily paper published next door. KPPC has a static machine for an AM long-wire (antenna), the sort of static machine that does a job on 1240 and local adjacent channel operations, such as the black-programmed KGFJ on 1230.”

“In spite of its extraordinarily limited schedule and its very limited coverage pattern (barely reaching West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, never reaching the Pacific and covering less than a third of the Los Angeles market within the half-millivolt contour), this relic out of the past once performed a key function. It offered to the listener without the fm set the chance to sample free-form underground radio during its initial growth period, without having to listen to a friend’s fm. FM set sales skyrocketed among 18 to 24 year-old males, audiences jumped and the rest is history,” Murley concluded. This goes along with what James Mason told me about why the church didn’t keep the AM when the fm was sold in 1967. Apparently, new owners Crosby-Avery wanted 1240-AM to promote the fact that if listeners wanted to hear B. Mitchel Reed and other KPPC djs playing this music every day, the listeners should go out and buy a radio with FM, so they could hear KPPC fulltime on 106.7, and not just the two days a week that 1240-AM was on the air with the same music. So, the church replied, if you want the AM station, you’ll have to continue to broadcast our Sunday service. The new owners agreed to that requirement.

One of the KPPC djs in those days was Ted Alvy. Ted related to me a story that shows the strange connection between the older AM station and the fm in those days, when many of the “older generation” members of Pasadena Presbyterian Church still tuned into KPPC-AM every Sunday morning to hear the church services from 11 a.m. to noon. However, they soon got an “earful” of what the younger generation liked, when the church service ended on 1240-AM and the noon simulcast began on 106.7/fm and 1240-AM. Ted recalled that incident:

”I remember that sometime in the fall of 1970 (soon after our fm station went full power from Flint Peak), KPPC/fm reclaimed the AM signal on Sundays at noon, when it started its simulcast of our hippie underground music, as KPPC AM & FM for the rest of Sunday (just after the end of the church service broadcast on KPPC-AM). An uninformed part-time deejay once played a ‘blue’ routine by Lenny Bruce just as the simulcast began, and our station gm got a serious complaint from a shocked Presbyterian Church listener. The KPPC studios were now located at 99 South Chester (since Les Carter took over as pd on April Fools day 1970). My memory is a little foggy here, but sometime later our fm may have also simulcast (on 1240-AM) for an hour or two on Wednesday night after the church service ended.”

According to then-chief engineer Mike Callaghan, a similar incident was heard over KPPC-1240 when the Sunday church service ended earlier than scheduled, due to technical problems:

“A fraternity brother of mine, Mike Mathieson, was running the board at 99 S. Chester one Sunday morning, when the mike at the Church suddenly opened and a hurried voice said, "This concludes this morning's service from the Pasadena Presbyterian Church. We now return you to the main studio.” Period. No warning, no nothing. (The church's console had started smoking). Mathieson had absolutely NOTHING cued up or ready to go. Veteran dj Don Hall was pulling records for his 12 Noon shift, and he handed Mathieson an LP and said, "Here, play this!" Mike grabbed the record and, greatly relieved, started tracking it. "GIVE ME AN 'F' -- GIVE ME A 'U' -- GIVE ME A 'C'.......” – It was The Fish Cheer From Woodstock. The old ladies tuned into ‘God Squad’ never even had a chance to turn it down. Mathieson didn't say a word. He just stood up, lifted his license off the wall, and walked out the door, never to come back.”

KPPC Strike of ’68 Brings Changes

KPPC had its share of growing pains and problems, just a few short months after the sale and format change to “free-form underground” rock. Both KPPC/fm and sister-station KMPX djs in San Francisco went on strike at 3 a.m. on Monday March 18, 1968. Ted Alvy explains how and why this took place:

“KPPC and KMPX employees went on strike against harassment by the management and their attempts to prevent artistic and personal freedoms by replacing the long haired, bearded, or barefoot employees who created success at both stations. Tom Donahue resigned his management position to join the strike. Management bled both operations financially, as checks bounced week after week while most of the salaries were far below the average in the industry, often below the level of decent subsistence. Management misrepresented the goals of the striking employees in order to induce people to work as scabs.

After the strike ended at the end of Spring of 1968, some employees returned to KPPC, because KMET would only hire B. Mitchel Reed. Some good deejays played music in the church basement studios, but with little overall direction. So it took the sale of the station and the hiring of Les Carter as pd and building the state of the art studio near Cal Tech at 99 South Chester to allow a freeform air staff that was both creative and influential in spreading good music over the airwaves. The increase to full power with a transmitter on Flint Peak in September 1970 gave KPPC/fm a much bigger audience, even against KMET/fm with their powerful signal.”

Alvy went on to say, “I believe that KPPC/fm had two amazing Underground Radio airstaffs: if KMET had hired the KPPC air staff with B. Mitchel Reed, Tom Donahue and Les Carter in June 1968, KMET would have revolutionized radio in Los Angeles, and across the country, as it would’ve made lots of money playing lots of great music, with many imitators; if the program director Les Carter’s creative air staff had not been fired on October 24, 1971. The freedom given to intelligent deejays at KPPC was responsible for its creative success.”

Charles Laquidara, who had an incredibly long and successful career in rock radio in Boston as host of his Big Mattress morning show on WBCN until 1996, got his start in radio at KPPC. After getting his Bachelor’s degree in theater arts from Pasadena Playhouse, Charles tried radio announcing as a job, while seeking acting roles in Hollywood. Charles was at KPPC twice, first in 1965 and again in ’68 after the church had sold the FM and AM stations. In an email to me, he passed on these memories:

“I worked at KPPC as a part-time Classical music announcer in 1965. [Actually got a write-up in the Pasadena Star-News from the Arts/Entertainment editor, who called me the "refreshing new voice on Classical radio" because of, "his simple, straightforward delivery, which brings classical music to the average working folk..." [Think he was saying I didn't sound snobby and sophisticated like most announcers of the genre.] I still have the article somewhere – very proud of that one! The show was a Sunday night feature called ‘KPPC's Opera of the Air,’ I believe. I left in 1966 to return to Boston because of illness in the family, and when I came back to radio at KPPC in 1968, it was an Underground Rock station. I was hired as the late night 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. announcer and worked there over a year. Because I didn't know that much about Rock – and only a bit of Classical, I got some kind of reputation [or notoriety!] as the "crazy dj who mixes the Beach Boys with Bach and Jazz with Jagger." Soon I was offered a job in Boston to replace Peter Wolf, who was leaving WBCN to form the J. Geils band.”

Charles also added that when he returned in ’68, an event at Griffith Park took place one day to pay tribute to Lenny Bruce. Charles told me that suddenly, without warning, a bunch of Los Angeles police officers swooped down on his group and attacked them for no apparent reason. He told me that young people today would have a hard time understanding this time [late-1960s] in the USA, when people in their teens and 20s didn’t trust anyone over 30, and the police who were supposed to protect you, were not your friend. Charles says he realized then that he could mix his radio entertainment show with serious social commentary of the day. He talked about the Griffith Park incident on his radio show that night and did much the same on future KPPC shows.

Mike Callaghan, who has been mentioned previously in this article, started at KPPC in May of 1970. Mike gave me the story about how he started working at KPPC, his first job in radio broadcasting: “I was taking the Electronics Curricula at Pasadena City College, and one of the classes prepared you for the FCC First Class License. The teacher, Ken Johnson, told us on the first day that if we passed the test and got the license before the course was over, he'd give us an 'A' and we'd never have to come back to class. It made sense to me, so I studied like mad and passed. When the license arrived I hung it on the wall at Dow Radio, where I was selling radio parts. One of the KPPC people came in, saw the license, and asked if I wanted a job. I'd always been interested in broadcasting, so I interviewed and got hired. That was in the basement of the church. We had a Collins FM transmitter, and when it rained we'd wait until it stopped and took the station off long enough to drain the water out of the cable that went to the antenna. KPPC's [FM] signal was terrible. One of my first jobs, as the new chief engineer, was to design an antenna made out of a broomstick and coat hangers. We called it the "KPPC Super-Signal-Sucker Antenna" and sent hundreds of copies of the plans to listeners that wanted to hear us better.”

I asked Mike to please share at least one interesting memory or story about operating the stations: “It was so loose it was ridiculous. When we were building the new studios so we could get out of the [church] basement, we ran into last minute problems. The dj on the air kept saying how excited he was to be getting out of the basement, and it was I who had to call [literally about 2 hours before we were supposed to move] and confess we weren't moving for a few more days. The phone in the basement rang and rang, and finally someone answered. I asked who it was, and back came the answer, ‘Oh, this is Howie!’ ‘Howie? Who the heck are you? Where's the dj?’ ‘Oh, he went out to get a sandwich.’ ‘He did, eh? Who's running the radio station?’ ‘Well, I guess I am... Anything special you'd like to hear?’ ‘Ah, Howie, do you happen to have a license to run a radio station?’ ‘License, why on earth would I want a license?’ And so it went.”

Mike added that generally, there weren’t any problems between the church and this underground rock station operating from its basement: ‘The church left us alone. Their business manager, Bill Benke, was my contact if I needed anything [circuit breakers reset, etc.]. I only called him once on a Sunday afternoon, and he was totally ripped. Not happy at all about coming in. Generally speaking, there weren't that many people in the basement at one time. The Church heard about the 'Flashing Statues' and did ask us to leave. But by that time, we'd already had the Beatles, Stones, and other stars down to the basement. It was more of a drag for us to ask them into a church than it was for the church.”

Mike includes this funny story about the statues on his own Web site. Just one month after starting at KPPC, Mike managed to get the entire station kicked out of the basement studios. As the new chief engineer, Mike had rigged a set of plastic statues of the Holy Family with lights hooked up to the cart machines. When the first spot [commercial] was done playing, Joseph would light up. When the second spot was done, Mary would light up. Also, when the disc jockey turned up the volume too loud for the transmitter, Jesus would light up. Quoting from the Web site, ‘The church elders decided it was time to get the ‘heathens’ out of the basement and gave us two weeks to move. The deadline to move was a Sunday, and the party held in the basement Saturday night is still legendary. About a month after the studio move, we started building a new transmitter plant on Flint Peak between Pasadena and Glendale.” (Photo: Mike Callaghan)

I also asked Mike about the AM’s 100-watt signal when he worked there and if the AM usually simulcasted the fm station twice a week. Mike replied, ‘The AM ground system was better than you might expect. When it signed on in 1924, the IRS donated a bunch of copper stills they'd confiscated, and they were buried around the perimeter of the newspaper building. Copper straps went up the sides to the roof and were tied together. The signal was really crappy, though. No real ground wave to speak of. When I did a request show with Art Laboe from a root beer stand in East Pasadena [on KPPC-1240 AM], I had to buy a top-notch Sony receiver to make sure we were on the air. Even so, I did get QSL reports from as far away as the Hague in the Netherlands. That one made my day.’ (Author’s note: I believe the copper stills used as part of the ground system came later than 1924. KPPC’s antenna from 1924-1936 was on top of the church roof, not on the Star-News building. The church got permission in 1931 to use the former KPSN antenna system atop the Star-News roof, and that’s where the copper stills for the ground system were placed, possibly in 1931 or when the antenna system was re-done in 1936 for the power increase from 50 to 100 watts). Mike added, “If I had nothing else to do on a Sunday afternoon, I'd feed it [KPPC-1240 AM] from the Production Studio and play stuff I'd brought from home. No one cared. When there was a significant election in Pasadena about the School District, I took a tape deck to the meetings and ran them on 1240 on Wednesday nights.”

Mike recalled more about the move from the church basement:

“I remember all this well, as I was still in school when we moved. The exodus from the basement to 99 S. Chester was in May of 1970. After that was done, we started on Flint Peak, and that move was in September. What it meant was that less than 6 months after being named chief engineer, I had moved the entire station to new digs. KPPC-AM did stay in the Church basement. It was remote controlled from Chester St. And on 'Black Sunday', when the staff got fired [October 24, 1971], the jocks all were despondent when the FM went off and the police walked in and gave the staff 5 minutes to clear out or get arrested for trespassing. They all forgot the mike was open and the AM was still on the air. Now THAT is an aircheck I'd like to have!”

There’s much, much more to the KPPC/fm story during its “underground rock” glory years, including details of its format, air personalities, photos, etc. For more details, you are invited to explore these Web sites put together by Ted Alvy and Mike Callaghan, which are dedicated to the memory of KPPC/fm: KPPC, DUCK RUSH (Neon Mallard) KPPC-FM 1967 – 71.

As Ted points out, a lot of talented people came through KPPC/fm during that era, including all the previously mentioned names above, along with The Obscene Steven Clean (Steven Segal), Dr. Demento (Barry Hansen), The Credibility Gap (Richard Beebe, David L. Lander, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer), Don Hall, Mississippi Fats (Joe Rogers), Miss Outrageous Nevada (Susan Carter), Johnny Otis, Cosmos Topper (Ted Alvy), The Firesign Theatre and Jeff Gonzer. Other names that I’ve found associated with KPPC during this general era include Paul Anthony/Ralph Hull (1968); Steve Dahl (1972); and William F. Williams (1971). My apologies for not finding and including more of you. I hope those from the fm side can tell their history one day. Also, for an excellent overview on the history of this era of American broadcasting, a good source is the chapter “The FM Revolution,” from the excellent book Listening In — Radio and the American Imagination by Susan J. Douglas. You may be able to find it at your public library or at a used bookstore.


KPPC AM and FM were later purchased by the National Science Network on October 8, 1969. I asked Ted Alvy if he knew why Crosby-Avery sold the stations. Ted said he believed Avery was ill and Crosby had financial problems. Ted added that two years later, General Manager Doug Cox fired the KPPC air staff on October 24, 1971. He claims that Cox also convinced the National Science Network that program director Les Carter was putting the station license in jeopardy for various violations the djs supposedly committed. The new owners also forced KPPC to run commercials for their own products, such as Isodine mouthwash and Kerid eardrops. Ted said Isodine turned out to be on a federal list of products known to be ineffective. Mike Callaghan remembers that National Science Network also wanted to run their pharmaceutical ads on KPPC/fm’s subcarrier, a hidden channel you can’t hear on a regular radio.


Mike Callaghan told me that L.A. radio legend Art Laboe was heard for a short time on KPPC-AM around 1972. So, I sent an email to Art to find out why he was on the low-powered Pasadena outlet. Here’s his email reply:

“In about 1970, Dick Moreland [previously with KRLA in the 1960s], program director of KPPC/fm decided he would like to try my old drive-in show on his #1 fm station KPPC/fm, but first he would try it out on his KPPC-AM station, 100-watts, which only broadcast Wednesday and Sunday evenings. For 4 hours each of those days, I was on from 8 p.m. to midnight. Just that one day per week. A restricted license held over from when KPPC-AM was owned by the Pasadena Presbyterian Church. PPC being the church's call letters. The show was on for about 3 months and for the 1st time in history was IN the Arbitron ratings. Quite a feat since it could only be heard in the general area of the church and [the signal] cut off at the freeway leading to L.A. The show was successful, but never got scheduled on the fm. That's the story. Thanks, Art Laboe.”

Mike believes Art’s show was heard on KPPC after the October 1971 firing of the air-staff: “It was later than 1970, because Dick Moreland didn't become the pd until after Les Carter and his cronies were fired. KRLA’s Doug Cox was the station manager, and Moreland was the pd. I remember being at a meeting at Moreland's house when he was picking the replacement air staff. He said, "Hmmm. Let's see who else I owe a favor to...”

Larry Miller, KMPX

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Vancouver Freeform, 1967-68

[ Excerpt of "When Vancouver rock radio bubbled up from the underground," by Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun, August 08, 2007 ]

During the Summer of Love in 1967, Tim Burge was a Boss Jock with Vancouver's CKLG-AM.

Frustrated with playing sappy pop singles while the psychedelic music scene was exploding, especially after attending the Monterey Pop Music Festival in the San Francisco Bay area, Burge suggested to LG managers that they try a new format, similar to that being pioneered by San Francisco disc jockey Tom Donahue at radio station KMPX -- a free-form, acid rock format that became known as underground radio.

His idea fell on deaf ears at CKLG. Oddly enough, Vancouver radio station CJOR, owned by businessman Jimmy Pattison, agreed to give the format a try.

Burge claims it was the first rock radio program of its kind in Canada at the time: During his 8 p.m. to midnight shift, he played everything from jazz (John Coltrane and Roland Kirk) to the Velvet Underground, the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix.

The show lasted only three months.

Burge recalls that Pattison was at home one night, listening to his station, and was shocked to hear Burge playing Hendrix's Third Stone from the Sun, a spaced-out psychedelic rap that fused together slowed-down sound effects, jazz and rock guitar.

Days later, CJOR hired a new program director, Red Robinson, who told Burge that his "hippie dippy garbage" had no future.

"He also suggested I get a haircut," Burge recalls.

After the program was canned, CJOR went back to playing Engelbert Humperdinck and Patti Page songs.

One Vancouverite who protested the loss of Burge's show was a young University of B.C. law student, Mike Harcourt.

"I regret your decision, Mr. Robinson," the future Vancouver mayor and B.C. premier said in a letter that Burge still has. "Mr. Burge's program excited me about radio programming for the first time in years . . . Unfortunately, you have turned him into one of the thousand and one DJs across the continent spinning out a phoney 'adult' sound reminiscent of the Doris Day-Rock Hudson movies."

But Robinson didn't relent and Burge went into exile at a Victoria station.

But CKLG called next spring, in March 1968, wanting him to return to CKLG-FM, which was adopting the underground rock format. Burge became a DJ and also assumed music director duties at the station, whose new DJs would include Terry David Mulligan, John Tanner and J.B. Shayne.

"It really was a wonderful time in radio," recalls Burge, now known as Pamela Burge. "It was free form. I remember Jimmy Page, then with the Yardbirds [and later Led Zeppelin] coming into the studio with his guitar and playing."

Now a community support worker in the mental health field, Burge has been living as a woman since 1993 and had a gender change in 1996.

He also recalls Mulligan decided one weekend to allow the public in for a tour of the CKLG-FM studio. "People were lined up inside and smoking pot. I remember one of the managers came in the next day and the place stunk."

Another pioneer in Vancouver radio in 1967 was 24-year-old Bill Reiter, who owned Bill & Bob's Record Shop, which sold rhythm-and-blues and soul records in the world's narrowest building at 10 East Pender St. in Chinatown.

CKLG program director Frank Callaghan asked Reiter to host an experimental program on CKLG-FM, which at the time was playing classical music and wanted to appeal to a younger audience.

Reiter called the show Groovin' Blue -- the title of a 1961 jazz album by Curtis Amy and Frank Butler. It was the first of its kind in Canada, playing only play black music: the latest R&B, soul, blues, jazz, funk, gospel and salsa. It first aired in September 1967 on Saturday nights from 6:30 to 8:30. Six months later, when CKLG-FM switched to all-rock, it ran 6-8 p.m, Monday through Saturday.

The 100,000-watt signal could be heard by fans in Washington state, recalls Reiter, who says a New Yorker phoned one night to say he'd recently been on a freighter in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, heading to Vancouver from Japan, when he picked up the Groovin' Blue signal. The Big Apple denizen said he couldn't believe anyone in Canada was playing New York conga drum hero Mongo Santamaria, as well as Pucho & his Latin Soul Brothers.

Reiter recalls that many recording artists got their first Canadian airplay on the program: Ollie & the Nightingales, Marva Whitney, the Dapps, Sy Risby, the Joe Tex Band, Sly & the Family Stone, the Trials of Jayson Hoover, Freddy Robinson, Mabel John, Oscar Toney Jr., the Raelettes, O'Dell Brown & the Organizers and Melvin Van Peebles.

Groovin' Blue lasted for two years, ending in mid-September 1969. Reiter says the Groovin' Blue format will make its home next February on the Internet via radio station WAGR, which he will co-host with Sunny (Sweet Daddy Fonk) Wong, Al (There's This Line) Foreman, Buddy Bok & Harry Bok (Chow) and voice-actor Jim Conrad.

Friday, August 24, 2007

How KFML Began

Received this from Herb quite a while ago and did not want it to get lost:



Wow! What an incredible treasure you have compiled! I loved Bill Ashford’s summary of Free Form and KFML. Not a day goes by that I don’t recall something about those incredible times (sometimes with horror—lol).

Brian Kreizenbeck was the man who initiated KFML. Thom Trunnell and I were sort of stranded at a station, KOME, in San Jose when Thom and I contacted Joe McGoey for a personal meeting in Denver. The deal would be that everybody would be paid $100 per week and we would split the profits every month. And that’s how it all came together as a sort of “collective”. I was the “sales manager”. I became totally caught up in the marketing and creativeness of Free Form back when KMYR was on the air. That station was staffed by some ex-KMPX air staff, as well as Ashford, Trunnell, Don Bridges, Ed Hepp and Jim Mason. A whole other saga.

I am so grateful that you have created this historic portal.


Herb Neu

(Picture of Herb courtesy of

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Dumptruck O'Neill told me about his early influences, especially WLAC-AM, outta Nashville, 1961-1968...

Please go to:

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Red Dog Saloon, 1965

Red Dog Saloon, Virginia City, Nevada, 1965... At last there's a DVD with footage of and about those days.

As one reviewer put it, if you're looking for stories revolving around the popular bands during those times, don't buy this DVD. But, if you have ever heard or read of the Red Dog Saloon, or -- better yet -- were a part of it if only for one visit, then this DVD is a must-have.

Amongst other things, it contains the only known footage of the Charlatans, the real pioneers of the San Francisco music scene circa 1965-66. Also, there are excerpts of the Red Dog Reunion concert back in the early 1990s with the Charlatans and Big Brother And The Holding Company. Lynne Hughes is there, too. The background of the Light Machine is explained. Interviews with people from the scene less famous than the typical names associated with it. Oh yes, and music. Music that is virtually forgotten by most of us today but still belongs and is easily identified as part of the dawn of psychedelic rock.

Product Description
With music by The Charlatans, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Lynne Hughes, Mark Unobsky, Dan Hicks, Alice Stuart, Ph Phactor Jug Band, Final Solution, Wildflower, Boston Wranglers, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service

Directed By: Mary Works

Their names and music became legendary: Big Brother & the Holding Company, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and the house band - The Charlatans. If the psychedelic sixties were born in the dancehalls of San Francisco, then they were conceived in a saloon in Virginia City, Nevada where the musicians carried Winchesters & the kitchen served French gourmet meals.

The psychedelic era fostered cultural growth and artistic expression. The Red Dog Saloon was the incubator for the lightshow and psychedelic poster art, an entire lifestyle that truly defined a remarkable era and defied classification as it weaved it's tapestry of free love and music, which the Grateful Dead would spread around the world.

Filmmaker Mary Works (assistant editor "Titanic", "Saving Private Ryan") was entrusted with access to the lives, antics and attics of this unique extended rock and roll family that grew out of these wild times.

DVD Features - A conversation with the filmmakers, Where are they now?, Jim Marshall Photo Gallery and Interview


Product Details
Amazon Sales Rank: #16145 in DVD
Released on: 2005-07-05
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Formats: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
Original language: English
Number of discs: 1
Running time: 91 minutes


Editorial Reviews
Michael Simmons - Rolling Stone, L.A. Weekly, High Times, BAM
"The best documentary on the `60s ever made. Red Dog Saloon rocks!"

Joel Selvin - San Francisco Chronicle
"…engaging affectionate…full of characters whose eyes still gleam…"

Audience Member
" amazing piece of Rock & Roll history...far reaching significance in the overall story of 20th Century America"


from "Haight Ashbury - A History" by Charles Perry:

"Around the same time that Owsley's name was becoming a household word in some households, there were rumors of a project that seemed designed to alleviate the adventure shortage. Some crazies were opening a totally Old West saloon with folk music in, of all places, the semi‑ghost town of Virginia City, Nevada.

"Virginia City wasn't actually such an odd place for a hippie saloon. The old boomtown capital of the Comstock Lode silver rush already had a colony of exotic people, including some psychedelic users. The latter group was centered around a second‑generation bohemian named Don Works, a member of the peyote‑eating Native American Church who had moved out to the Comstock country to be with his coreligionists among the Washoe and Piute Indians.

"Works lived on a little plot named the Zen Mine after a pair of nonproducing mine shafts running into the dusty hillside behind his cinder‑block cabin. The idea for the Red Dog Saloon had been formed there a few months before, when Works, a tall desperado type named Chan Laughlin (who had once owned a Berkeley folk music coffeehouse), and a rich folkie named Mark Unobsky were stranded in Works' two‑room cabin by a blizzard. With nothing to do but get stoned and play the board game Risk, they started fantasizing about a folk nightclub to enliven the mountain evenings. It actually sounded plausible, because there was no decent nightlife around for competition, and particularly because folk musicians were always passing through Nevada on their way between the Boston‑New York scene and San Francisco‑Berkeley. Some fairly big names might be willing to stop off and play a relaxed night or two.

"That was the original plan, anyway. Unobsky bought the old Comstock House building on C Street, near the original claim of the wild silver rush that financed the Civil War and drove Germany off the silver standard. Bohemian carpenters were called in from Marin County, and Laughlin was dispatched to San Francisco for antique red velvet drapes and brass fittings.

"On one of these buying trips Laughlin stopped off at Pine Street, where he'd hidden out for a while a few months before when he figured the police were after him for smuggling marijuana. While he was talking up the excitement of this stylish folk cabaret in the hills to a Pine Street friend, he met a fellow with a long blond Dutch boy haircut and a missing front tooth who was dressed to the nines in Edwardian duds. It so happened that this Edwardian dude with the elusive, slightly formal manner had put together a musical group that might fit right in.

"His was not a folk group, though, but a rock and roll band called the Charlatans. Well, why not? The Beatles, Dylan, this band in Los Angeles named the Byrds that was being called a folk‑rock group—suddenly it was clear that a hip rock and roll band was just what the Red Dog needed. And the Charlatans already had a following. Bob Hunter, the Dutch boy blond with the missing tooth, was a culture hero in certain circles at State College for his elegant Edwardiana. The pianist, Michael Ferguson, had the same sort of stature and had once run an unheard‑of kind of store at the edge of the Haight‑Ashbury. Magic Theater for Madmen Only had sold nothing but antique clothes, knickknacks, a little art and a lot of marijuana stash jars.

"The only problem with the band was that Hunter, an artist and boy‑wonder architect, had conceived the Charlatans as a sort of pop art statement, an American response to the British rock groups. At the moment it was really only the concept of a rock band; they had hundreds of publicity stills, featuring Edwardian clothes and twenties rowing‑crew uniforms, but had never rehearsed. For months now they'd been growing their hair down to their shoulders—much longer than the Beatles' hair—and carrying on like a rock band at parties, and now it was time to get down to finding out what they could play. A lot of work needed to be done. Hunter, for instance, couldn't play anything but tambourine and autoharp, and there were those who said he couldn't play that.

"The Red Dog became a sort of Pine Street project. A collage artist and one‑time motorcycle racer named Al Kelly went up to Virginia City to work on the remodeling. Ellen Harmon, the rangy woman who shared his tiny room in Pine Street where the walls were painted with pop art sound effects ("Poww!" "Bawannnngggg!"), went as a waitress. There was an abstract expressionist painter on Pine Street who managed two of the apartment houses, a shaggy‑bearded Southerner named Bill Ham. His light shows, which were like moving abstract paintings projected in brilliant colors on a screen, were Pine Street's favorite evening entertainment. He designed a light box for the Red Dog that would pulsate with color in time with the music.

"Altogether, a couple of dozen people from San Francisco moved up to Virginia City for the Red Dog project. After a number of delays and false starts, the Red Dog Saloon finally opened on June 29, 1965, advertised by a poster drawn by the Charlatans' pianist in a sort of old‑timey medicine‑show style that described the band as "The Limit of the Marvelous." The band moved up to Virginia City on opening day with one loudspeaker and a ten‑watt amplifier.

"The sheriff came to see opening night. The new place was the only nightclub in town, and people had been pushing him to look into it anyway. All these city people dressing in vests and string ties and celluloid collars—and that sign out front, too, with the slavering red dog on it.

"But he had to admit they'd done a hell of a job as he mounted the plank sidewalk, rebuilt and roofed over just as it had been in the 1860s. As he pushed in through the swinging doors, he could see they'd spared no expense on the interior, either. All period furnishings, red and turquoise velvet drapes with a lot of gold braid, the whole place painted red with black trim. The bartender was in a striped shirt with sleeve garters, and the waitresses were all in saloon‑maid bodices and net stockings. Some of the customers knocking back the beer and bourbon were in old‑time getups as well.

"A couple of things, you couldn't figure whether they were out of place or not. Maybe in the 1860s there could have been a 380‑pound Washoe Indian bouncer in a top hat and a Rainbow Girls sash. The musicians in those days surely didn't play rock and roll, but maybe they did get as looped as these guys on the stage seemed to be, rolling their eyes and staggering and trying to play each other's instruments.

"But all told, it was enough to touch a man's heart. The least the sheriff could do was to honor the hallowed Code of the West, which held that when a man entered a bar he checked all his firearms at the door. "Check my gun?"

"Without blinking an eye, Don Works plucked the pistol out of the sheriff's hand, threw a practiced glance down the barrel, spun the chambers, cocked the hammer and fired off two quick shots into the floor. "Works fine, sheriff," he said.

"Rock and roll meets the Old West—the possibilities were staggering. The Charlatans' gig stretched on far longer than the planned two weeks. People told their friends about it, and some of the posters made it back to San Francisco, where they tended to be handed around from person to person rather than posted. More and more people made the three‑hour drive just to see whether it could be true, an Old West Bar with a hip rock band in the Edwardian style.

"As a matter of fact, the Charlatans had started changing their style. Stuck in Virginia City week in and week out, they and everyone else working at the Red Dog fell into the Old West style. In a way it was the only thing to do: get a pair of chaps and a ten‑gallon hat and spend the afternoons picking off jackrabbits. Owsley's LSD had been around since opening night, and on Mondays, when the Red Dog was dark, the staff would have LSD parties. The sense of the frontier grew stronger and stronger.

"Some of the people envisioned the Red Dog as a movie. Chan Laughlin would lecture about it: "This is an Old Western town, and we're more Old Western than anybody else. Remember, when your feet hit the floor in the morning, you're in a Grade B movie. This is that saloon down the street where the manager has his office under the stairs and all the gunhands sit around out front and periodically he comes out and motions a couple of them to ride away and rustle some cows. It's that place, complete with fancy girls going around bending over tables and the music and people roaring and ordering more drinks and carrying on."

"Yes indeed. Everybody started wearing the clothes and carrying fancy firearms. Each bartender as he came on shift brought his own personally selected bar pistol. After a while the Charlatans had a set of matched‑caliber Winchester rifles they would carry onstage and lean up against the amplifier before picking up their guitars. Now, what was all this fuss about the Beatles and their so‑called flashy style?"

See Red Dog discussion at:

Rockin' At The Red Dog

Friday, July 27, 2007

John Peel

John Robert Parker Ravenscroft (30 August 1939 – 25 October 2004), known professionally as John Peel, was an English disc jockey, radio announcer and journalist. Although not known for doing a freeform show, the kinds of music and elements he incorporated into his programs were the same as many of the early freeform stations in the States. His eclectic taste in music and his honest and warm broadcasting style was akin to "The Father of Freeform," Bob Fass. Little known in the United States, John Peel was a popular and respected DJ and broadcaster in the British Isles. Amongst many other accomplishments, he was one of the first to play reggae and punk on British radio and was a significant influence on alternative rock, Pop, British hip hop and dance music. He was the longest-serving of the original DJs of BBC Radio 1, broadcasting on it from 1967 until his death in 2004...

There are extensive John Peel archives, with playlists and downloadable programs. Here's a good place to start:

Kats Karavan

For a good overview of who John Peel was and his contributions, please go to:

John Peel Wiki

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Early KZAP History

Back in 2004, Alex Cosper wrote about the early history of KZAP-FM, freeform radio in Sacramento, late 1960s. Give a read at:

Early History of KZAP

(Cartoon courtesy of

Alex Cosper also wrote a short, fairly accurate history of freeform radio at:

History of Freeform Radio

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pissing Contest

Little bit of a pissing contest going on between Michael Walker, author of "Laurel Canyon" and KMPX/KSAN alumnus Ben Fong-Torres about L.A. (Laurel Canyon) vs. San Francisco during the Summer of Love (1967). Goes like this, Walker starting out:


WALKER: Fallout from my New York Times Op-Ed piece about about the relative merits of San Francisco and Los Angeles during the Summer of Love continues.
The latest, as reported by San Francisco journalist and rock historian Ben Fong-Torres in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle...

FONG-TORRES: Michael Walker, author of the excellent social history “Laurel Canyon,” recently wrote an essay for the New York Times, “(Don’t Go Back to) San Francisco,” which The Chronicle also published.
It should’ve been printed in green ink because Walker was so envious of the attention given this city as ground zero of the Summer of Love 40 years ago. “As a lasting cultural artifact,” he wrote, “San Francisco’s Summer of Love can’t hold a stick of incense to the rafter-shaking sounds coming out that same year from a Los Angeles neighborhood 370 miles south, above the Sunset Strip.”
He refers, of course, to the title of his book, and to the amazing array of talent that lived or hung out in the canyon and produced such seminal hits as “California Dreamin’,” “For What It’s Worth” and even that wear-flowers-in-your-hair number.
Well! Edward Bear, for one, was incensed (pun intended). The former KMPX and KSAN DJ, e-mailed the article to friends, drawing this sage comment from Dusty Street, who worked with Bear: “I beg to note that (free-form) radio was started in San Francisco, where these bands got the airplay they needed to become successful, and it was Tom Donahue (at KMPX) who brought FM rock to L.A., after it had been established in S.F.”
Despite the rivalry between the cities, there was cross-pollination between San Francisco and Los Angeles that informed the music and culture of both.

WALKER: Nevertheless, as Laurel Canynonite Frank Zappa recalled:

ZAPPA: San Francisco in the mid-’60s was very chauvinistic and ethnocentric. To the Friscoid’s way of thinking, everything that came from THEIR town was really important Art, and anything from anyplace else (especially L.A.) was dogshit. Rolling Stone magazine helped promote this fiction, nationwide.

WALKER: Zappa also noted that “no matter how ‘peace-love’ the San Francisco bands might try to make themselves, they eventually had to come south to evil ol’ Hollywood to get a record deal.”

WALKER: In the end, more great records came out of L.A. that summer and beyond. As Chicago Sun-Times rock critic Jim DeRogatis noted in his retrospective of the Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow, which contained the band’s signature hits “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love”:

WALKER: The fact is, with a few notable exceptions like the sophomore album by the Jefferson Airplane, there wasn’t a lot of great rock made in the City by the Bay at the height of the psychedelic era.


Let me weigh-in a bit, here:

1) Freeform Radio started with Bob Fass at WBAI-FM, New York in 1965. I consider him to be "The Father of Freeform Radio."

2) The first commercial station to play the new music that was coming out but wasn't being played on almost every station was WOR-FM, New York, beginning in Summer 1966. WOR-FM was not "freeform" in format, however.

3) Tom Donahue was the first one to format a commercial FM radio station, KMPX-FM, beginning in April, 1967, in San Francisco. I consider him "The Father of Commercial Freeform Radio."

4) Tom Donahue took programmatic control of KPPC-FM, Pasadena (L.A.) in November 1967, bringing Freeform Radio to Los Angeles for the first time.

As for the music, I guess it depends on your tastes. But, if you were into psychedelia, there is no question that San Francisco was the epicenter.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

KCUV's Summer of Love

In honor of the Summer of Love, Denver's KCUV is doing an all-day tribute (today only, 6/21/2007 -- available free via Internet) to those days, featuring guest programmers:

Bill Clarke came out to Colorado in 1963 for college at the University of Denver. He became a disc jockey at KLZ-FM -- the first FM in Denver, if not the whole USA, to play album versions of rock hits -- before a two-year hitch in the Army brought him to Vietnam. He's now the Consumer Champ at 7News and a 20-year veteran at the station.

Bill Ashford was on the first full-time airstaff at KFML, Denver's pioneering "free form," or "underground" station. The emergence of KFML-AM and FM was a major influence in the Denver area radio market, a departure from programming tradition -- every disc jockey was free to play whatever music he chose in whatever sequence his ideas suggested.

Max Floyd started the original KLZ-FM along with Bill Gardner. He went to Kansas City and started the original KY102. He left for a bit in 1980 and came back in 1983, and he has been there ever since. Max is included in the group of pioneers in the broadcast section of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Jay Cooper was part of the "new crew" on KFML. Jay interviewed and introduced an amazing array of musical up-and-comers during the four-year run of Ebbets Field, Denver's premier concert venue of the '70. Hundreds of the shows were either simulcast live or recorded for re-broadcast on KFML. Jay has the beard.

Thom Trunnell, a free form programmer par excellence, was one of the founding fathers of KFML.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Larry Bensky Retires

Veteran newsman and activist Larry Bensky has retired, after 40+ years.

(Bensky image courtesy of

A two-hour audio documentary covering Larry's career in radio was produced by Aaron Glantz and narrated by KPFA News' Aileen Alfandary. It is available in mp3 format at:

Sunday Salon: Bensky Tribute

Also posted there is an mp3 file of the Bensky tribute of June 2, 2007.

All three hours are worth a solid listen. There are a lot of stories of freeform days and Pacifica.

(Bensky at KSAN image courtesy of

Laufer in for Bensky

[ Excerpt from KPFT Program Director Ernesto Aguilar's blog, concerning two legendary freeform broadcasters: ]

Laufer Replaces Bensky

Berkeley, June 1st - KPFA Radio 94.1 FM has hired award-winning journalist, broadcaster and documentary filmmaker Peter Laufer. Laufer will host the popular Sunday morning program, formerly called Sunday Salon, following Larry Bensky’s retirement. Laufer, who got his start in KPFA’s news room, has won many of the most prestigious awards in broadcast journalism including a George Polk Award and Peabody Award.

Laufer worked at the legendary freeform rock station KSAN and was a member of the award-winning KSAN news team that reported on the shootout at San Quentin Prison that occurred during the attempt at breaking free George Jackson. While a correspondent for NBC News, he also reported, wrote, and produced several documentaries and special event broadcasts for the network that dealt in detail with crucial social issues, including the first nationwide live radio discussion of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. “Healing the Wounds” was an analysis of ongoing problems afflicting Vietnam War veterans. “Hunger in America” documented malnutrition in our contemporary society. “A Loss for Words” exposed the magnitude and impact of illiteracy in America. “Cocaine Hunger” was the first network broadcast to literally trace the drug from the jungles of Bolivia to the streets of America, and alerted the nation to the avalanching crises caused by the consumption of crack cocaine.”Nightmare Abroad” was a pioneering study of Americans incarcerated overseas.

Laufer has written on issues ranging from the imprisonment of Lori Berenson in Peru to the rightwing Minutemen militia on the US-Mexico border for AlterNet, Mother Jones (where he set up Mother Jones Radio), and other alternative publications. Laufer’s books include “The Question of Consent: Innocence and Complicity in the Glen Ridge Rape Case” about the rape of a developmentally disabled schoolgirl by a gang of her classmates and the effect of the case of the health of the local community, “Inside Talk Radio: America’s Voice Or Just Hot Air” about the rise of conservative radio, and most recently “Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq”, published by Chelsea Green. Other books have focused on US-Mexico immigration, migration in Western Europe, and the US invasion of Iraq.

“Over the last several years my friend and colleague Larry Bensky performed radio magic Sunday mornings”,” says Laufer. “He combined an array of intriguing guests and audience participation with his own curiosity and thorough knowledge of current affairs to create a radio show that entertained while it informed. It is a privilege to seize the KPFA microphone now that Larry’s decided to retire from the show.”

“Peter brings a stellar background in journalism, strong progressive politics, and intellectual substance to the program,” says interim general manager Lemlem Rijio. “We are very pleased that he will continue the tradition of thoughtful, in-depth programming on Sunday mornings”.

Laufer... can be heard from 9-11am on KPFA 94.1 FM or KPFB 89.3FM in the Bay Area and KFCF 881.FM in California’s Central Valley, or online at

Thursday, June 14, 2007


NPR has Lou Adler and Michelle Phillips doing a slight retro on MONTEREY POP as it was 40 years ago. The NPR page also includes video of The Who and The Mamas and Papas, along with audio from Big Brother, Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix...

[ from NPR: ] 'Forty years ago this week, at the dawn of what would become known as the Summer of Love, a musical experiment unfolded in Monterey, Calif.

'The Monterey International Pop Festival, which preceded Woodstock by two years, brought together a diverse group of big-name acts including the Mamas and the Papas and Jefferson Airplane as well as some then-unknown performers, notably Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

'The 1967 event was organized by Lou Adler and the late John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas and it was caught on film by documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker. Adler and singer Michelle Phillips look back at the event.

"Some of the greatest performances of all time happened at Monterey," Adler tells Renee Montagne.

'Michelle Phillips, a member of the Mamas and the Papas, remembers how Hendrix amazed the crowd — and fellow artists — with his jaw-dropping performance, playing his guitar on his back, behind his back, lying down and setting the instrument on fire.

"I had never seen anything like it," Phillips says. "And I didn't understand that it was kind of theater. I was used to people singing and harmonizing and taking care of their instruments. It was shocking for me to see this kind of behavior on stage."

"The festival also exposed soul great Otis Redding to a new, primarily white audience, whom he called "the love crowd," Phillips says.

"A whole new audience opened up to him," she says.

'Redding was killed in a plane crash just months after that performance. A few, short years later, Hendrix and Joplin died within weeks of each other. Their performances at the Monterey Festival have become part of music legend.'

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sgt. Pepper's 40th

The Beatles', Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released June 1, 1967, in Britain, and on June 2 in the United States. The album became a phenomenon, spending 15 weeks at the No. 1 spot in the Billboard Top 200. The success came after the Beatles had announced that they would no longer tour...

Even AM radio was forced to play songs from the album — but the record was perfect for the then-new frequencies of FM. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was certified gold within two weeks of its release...

Take the link above to check out NPR's audio retrospectives, including complete original versions of "Getting Better," "Within You Without You," and "A Day In The Life."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Laura Ellen Hopper, R.I.P.

"KPIG's founder and program director, Laura Ellen Hopper, dies at 57"

By Wallace Baine
Santa Cruz Sentinel staff writer

ROYAL OAKS — Laura Ellen Hopper, the longtime program director and co-founder of KPIG 107.5 FM, died Monday from complications of lung cancer. She was 57.

Hopper of Royal Oaks was widely known to fans of KPIG as the mellow midday disc jockey who loved to champion emerging country/folk singer/songwriters, but she also was largely responsible for shaping both the sound and the public image of one of California's most idiosyncratic and beloved radio stations.

"Laura Ellen was the heart, soul and glue of KPIG," said "Sleepy John" Sandidge, a longtime KPIG on-air personality and friend. "Losing her is like losing an old-growth redwood tree"

After a persistent cough, Hopper had been diagnosed with cancer less than two weeks ago. It was then she learned that the cancer had spread to her liver, said her husband Frank Caprista, also KPIG's general manager. On Friday, her liver began to fail. She had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for years. Caprista said that his wife died early Monday morning without pain.

In 1975, Hopper originally helped found KFAT in Gilroy, a free-form country station notorious for its rejection of conservative radio conventions. After KFAT went off the air, she re-emerged with local attorney Leo Kesselman in 1988 to found KPIG in Watsonville, finally making a success of the station's renegade format in the 1990s.

Under Hopper's direction, KPIG married KFAT's pugnacious country/rock programming with a more savvy business plan. Eventually, the station became instrumental in establishing a new radio format, Americana, which emphasized artists who were often ignored by mainstream country radio, such as John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker and Peter Rowan. In the 1990s, KPIG's prominence in the Americana genre gave it the power to provide career-making exposure to such performers as Robert Earl Keen, Todd Snider and Iris DeMent.

Funeral services for Hopper are pending. Fans interested in updates on plans for memorial events can go to KPIG's Web site at The station is also setting up a forum for fans to reminisce and reflect on Hopper's career and influence.


Additional links:

KFAT Gallery
KFAT Online Archive
Mercury News (includes comments)
Lard Almighty
KPIG Squealing
Google Search

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

'Morning Becomes Eclectic' turns 30

KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" has been on the air for 30 years, now. Hard to believe, when most of our gigs could be measured by one or two or three years... Not freeform, as promoted, but, on occasion, close...

'Morning Becomes Eclectic' turns 30 - The Money Times

Monday, April 30, 2007

Dusty Street

Travus T. Hipp shouted out some good news about Dusty Street. You can listen to this day's newscast, along with word about Dusty at:

TTH: Dusty Street

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

KFML Homepage Updated

I've added all the external links to the KFML homepage, so as soon as you visit the site, you get to see the locations, with links, for other related pages with even more info. Click on the staff Boulderado pic, below, to get there:

Monday, January 29, 2007

Freeform Forum / Google Group

This is a Google group for discussions related to freeform radio, past and present.

It is an inactive group, but could be reactivated if there is some interest. No matter the activity or lack thereof, there's some neat info still contained within -- especially stuff written by Bill Ashford before his passing.

To check it out and/or contribute, please go to:

Freeform Radio Google Group

Friday, January 26, 2007

KPOO San Francisco

KPOO-FM still broadcasts in the Bay Area and now even streams over the Internet at:

"In 1971, with the help of broadcasters Lorenzo Milam and Jeremy Lansman, several community organizations with no prior radio experience applied for an FCC license to begin broadcasting community issues on the premise that any community group with something to say should be able start a low-powered radio station to serve that community. The result of that act was KPOO, the first Black-owned, noncommercial radio station west of the Mississippi River. Wade Woods remembers, "None of us knew anything about radio, but we had created the Fillmore Media Center, including video and audio." Two years later, Joe Rudolph took over as Station Manager.

"In the early days the station was housed at Pier 1 in San Francisco. In 1973 the station was asked to leave and moved to a garage on 532 Natoma Street, located in the South of Market neighborhood. KPOO broadcasted from the Natoma location (pictured right) until 1982 when once again it was necessary to find new housing. It moved first into a condemned building at 1325 Divisadero, then an old victorian structure up the street, before finally purchasing its permanent home at 1329 Divisadero in 1985..."

KPOO San Francisco 89.5 FM: About Us

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"Prime Green"

NPR's Terry Gross interviewed Robert Stone and there's some great stuff in it about Neil Cassady, Kesey, Kerouac and the Pranksters. Click on the title of this posting to go to the audio interview. Here's a write-up from NPR:

"Novelist Robert Stone has written a new memoir that begins with a stint in the Navy in the late 1950s, continues through his work as a journalist in Vietnam and then includes his counterculture years in the 1970s, taking hallucinogenic drugs, cross-country road trips, and hanging out with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. His memoir is, Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties. Stone's novels include Dog Soldiers (which was adapted into the film Who'll Stop the Rain), and Outerbridge Reach."