HOW I GOT INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY RADIO

During my last article I made brief mention of 90.1 KKFI-FM Kansas City, in particular pointing out that I had eventually made a transition by the turn of the millennium to listening to this station almost exclusively, in particular when 105.9 The Lazer was bought out and turned into a Top 40 station. I had actually been listening to KKFI some since the earliest days of the station. The station began in 1988 on the same frequency and with the same call letters that remain the same today, 25 years later. I remember being intrigued by the station from early on. It was sort of like a college radio station, but not affiliated with a college. Sort of like a public radio station, however, much more diverse and edgy. Early recollections I have from listening to KKFI as a college undergraduate in the early years was great reggae music during the lunch hour (reggae now airs early evenings on weekends on KKFI), plenty of blues and jazz and progressive political programming (these elements also remain). I also remember hearing the type of underground punk, metal, electronic music, etc. that I was used to only hearing before on low-powered college station KJHK in Lawrence. Little did I know back in the late 1980s that I would eventually wind up as a producer and programmer on KKFI decades later.

In 2000, I began to take special interest in a new program on KKFI, an overnight rock program called “The Rocker”, hosted by Curt Mason. I first met Curt at a concert in Lawrence, he was handing out flyers for his show. Sounded interesting, the show had been on only about a year at this point, so I started listening. I did not know at the time that me and Curt actually worked for the same “day job”, we both worked for a large government agency that employs thousands locally. It was about 2 years later when I got a promotion at work and ended up working in the same building as Curt and I remembered him from the concert 2 years earlier, and we started talking about music daily. Our musical tastes had some things in common, we were both very diverse in what we liked. He was more into metal than me, I was more into pop rock or garage rock, however, we both learned from one another and respected one another. I could see his unquestionable sincerity in what he was doing with his radio program and I began helping and supporting him with it in any way I could. All of us Programmers at KKFI (we are not disc jockeys because we actually get to decide what we play and have creative control), we are all unpaid volunteers. It is a lot of work, fun, but a lot of work and requires some serious dedication to try to make the programs something special. Curt had that dedication through and through. Over the years, Curt evolved into my best friend and he began helping me to get more involved with KKFI as a guest programmer on a number of occasions, both on his own show and, in particular, when he would fill-in Saturday nights on the Retro Redeye Express program. I was happy to help Curt and support his program. Sometimes he would try to show me a few things about how he was engineering the shows, etc. and he would try to get me to try to get a show of my own on KKFI, however, I was happy just helping him.

October 1, 2010 was very dark day for many of us. Curt “The Rocker” Mason died unexpectedly early that morning. I had actually been with him only 48 hours earlier at the station during his show. He had not been feeling well, we thought he had bronchitis and needed to see a doctor. It turned out to be far more serious. This not only created a terrible void in the lives of Curt’s friends, listeners, and family, but also meant that this overnight slot in the middle of the week would need to be filled. That is where we will continue our story next time.

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