Sunday, October 26, 2008

Calling Radio Free Omaha. Do you read me?

Mood: Sad. :.-(

I've just gotten back from a trip to 1968, and it has hit me exactly how dead radio is in America. Radio is dead in America because -- among other reasons -- nobody is going to ever again start a "progressive rock" radio station as a viable, commercial, over-the-air enterprise.

NOBODY IS going to do this, and then staff it 24 hours a day, seven days a week with live people who might know a little bit about what they were playing. Over the air. On free radio.

I'm sad because this is never going to happen again, and future generations will never understand the concept . . . or why "progressive rock" stations -- "underground" or "freeform," if you will -- gave so many in my generation such joy.

Well, for the short time they existed in any numbers, at least.

I try to do what I can with 3 Chords & the Truth in this new millennium, recording 90 minutes of freeform radio at a time for download on the Internets. It's good. But it's not the same.

Only old farts like me will know why that is.

ANYWAY, at least I can take you, for a brief moment, back to Nov. 5, 1968, with me. There, you can read along in the Gateway, the student newspaper at the newly minted University of Nebraska at Omaha (the former Omaha University), as a fledgling journalist tries to explain this exciting, new "progressive radio" thing to the young people of the great Midwest.

This is the story of KOWH-FM -- Radio Free Omaha:

Progressive rock music, which over a year ego started as a fluke, has now blossomed into a format at the Omaha FM radio station, "Radio Free Omaha."

This station replaced KOWH-FM.

It first went on the air Sep. 16, and plans on expanding its program to a 24-hour basis. As of now, air time is 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Currently the station has three disc jockeys. From 2 to 7 p.m.. Harold Lee Roberts leads the way with John Mainelli taking over from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. On weekends the station is disc jockeyed by Kevin Clark.

Progressive program music started over a year ago by Tom Donahue. Donahue, who has sometimes been called 'The voice of Hippie' set the format at radio station KSAN-FM in San Francisco. He is currently operations manager at KSAN.

“Radio Free Omaha” was founded by Program and Music Director, Tom Rambler. The station is located at 94.1 megacycles on the FM dial.

As pointed out by him, the advantage of FM over AM stations is is that it gives full sound stereo and is interference-free. Whereas AM stations lack these qualities.

Rambler said, "This type of radio broadcasting is going to replace AM radio." He continued, "The AM radio announcers and commercial aspects are not the same nowadays."


Rambler said, "The key to the success of the progressive rock format is 'loose' . . . be free to experiment with sound ideas. Music will be the only reason for a listener to 'tune in.'

The announcer will be there to take the listener from one experience to another, in an easy going, mature manner. The announcer should he free to bring new ideas to his listener.

Progressive rock stations are so new that nobody knows, yet, what is what, except the theory that has been formed on the music. Progressive rock music means anything new and exciting . . . rock, country, jazz, classical, blues, R&B, every form of music."

Generally this music cannot be played on AM radio.

The music played from 1 a.m. to 2 p.m. is called guru. A guru is a guide who guides you from one music to another. This music takes on all forms. It is anything non-commercial.


He said, "Our main support is from the coast. Especially from the 'head shops' and certain Hippie-oriented businesses."

He exuberantly exclaimed, "We're even growing faster than it is on the coast."

Just what type of music does this progressive rock movement air? It covers all areas of music. Some examples are: the Canned Heat, the Steppenwolf, the Wizard of Oz, the Hassels, the Bohemian Vendetta, the Spirit, and the Jiini Hendrix Experience, with many others.

FM stations carrying progressive rock music are: KGRD-FM, Las Cruses, N.M.; KCBH-FM, L.A.; WAVA-FM, Wash.; and many others.

The most elaborating sight is that progressive rock formats are turning many "dead weight" FM facilities into dynamic audience-grabbing radio stations with the potential for making money.

ALAS, Tom Donahue is long dead in San Francisco and, in Omaha, so is KOWH-FM.

And not many people are making money in radio anymore.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was there. Where else could you hear the long version (or any version) of Phil Ochs' "Crucifixion"? Where else would the airwaves be nightly singed by Serge Gainsborough and Jane Birkin's "Je T'aime"? Where else would they set aside the "same song can be played only once per day" rule for a Thursday afternoon back-to-back of John Mayall's "Room to Move"? Maybe the best DJ was Jefferson, but in the memory of all the great DJs there and their listeners Radio Free Omaha lives forever.