If the 90s and 00s are hip again I say we bring back the KFOG mentality and ethos to mainstream radio. For those in the Bay Area you know. For those outside of the Bay Area you know because you had your own local community stations and voices that got you through.
Dave Morey was one of the best to ever do radio and will be my greatest radio hero. The education I got from his iconic 10@10 show cannot be overstated and the way he conducted himself on air was one of the best educations ever. Though I admit I never actually learned not to swear on mic. For me his last day was a real end of an era. It was like saying good bye to a friend who was moving far away.
Annalisa carried the 10@10 torch pretty damn fine afterwards but you know how it is with first loves.
Anyway they say radio is dead. But I’m one of those stubborn mouthy types who is determined to bring some life to it and more importantly community back to radio. Thankfully, I met some folks who are doing just that. But before I get to them, I think some background on my history with local radio will better explain my optimistic and foul mood.
Listening to the upload of Dave Morey’s last 10@10 and hearing the Fogheads chiming in and his short and emotional last words… how we ever got so divided as we are now… it doesn’t baffle me but it saddens and angers me because the stuff that divides us is all surface bullshit that keeps us from focusing on our local communities and building our own community power.
The KFOG slogan was, “World Class Rock” but KFOG was not just a radio station it was a world class community that rose above politics that included everyone in the damn community, damn it. Things like KFOG Kaboom and the Christmas Concerts For Kids live shows and toy drives brought together many parts of the local community unrelated to music. And the Live From The Archives CDs gathered some great local live performances and got the local arts scene to do the artwork for the album covers. And that peak era with the morning show crew of Dave and Irish Greg and Renee followed then by Annalisa for the work day and Big Rick Stuart in the afternoons for the drive home… and Rosalie on Sundays…
I don’t even have poetic words for that magic. It was a wonderful place to be for somebody whose home life was utter chaos, abuse, and depression. And I should state it was KFOG that really pushed me out of my female pop singer bubble with the playlists of more alternative & folksy acts like 10,000 Maniacs, Brett Dennen, Vienna Teng, Chris Isaak and many others. To say nothing of the classics they played. And I should note they played new music from the classics acts that many other stations would not because they were trying to stay hip and cool. KFOG also played wider variety of females acts than any other station I can recall. It was the first place I heard people like Sheryl Crow and Sara Bareilles for example.
But more importantly these were all people, who, whatever their beliefs or political leanings were authentic and nice and to steal a political catchphrase, “Somebody you’d want to have a beer with”. Or to steal a phrase from Anna Lisa herself, “Phenomenal human beings”. They felt like people who lived in your neighborhood because they did. They were a real comfort and point of stability for the community of the Bay Area and for me personally even if it was just the voices announcing the weather or traffic or announcing the next song. Even if I wasn’t listening, just knowing in the back of my mind Rosalie Howard was there with Acoustic Sunrise doing the job of making the Bay Area the best Bay Area could it could be added to the over all health of me and the community at large. And that is something corporate will never be able to quantize or focus group.
I know people move on and things change. That is sad. But it doesn’t ultimately bother me (though I wish DJs had more tenure at their radio stations) change is part of being alive. What bothers me is everything KFOG built and stood for was not PASSED ON because some corporate suits who don’t live anywhere near the Bay Area decided they know what’s best for MY community. They didn’t allow the torch to be passed on, there was no apprenticeship or grandfathering with younger people who would continue what was started with 10&10 or Acoustic Sunrise or the Sunday Night Jam (remember that Sunday staple).
Listening to KFOG growing up was such a fundamental part of what it meant to live in the Bay Area. I remember seeing the giant Billboards on the 280 freeway it was a symbol of home. To say nothing of KFOG’s importance to my youth and growing into who I became as thriving human. It LITERALLY made me a more open minded and better human beyond just music. And these seeds are still here in the Bay Area, they were planted as far back as the 30s when my own grandfather planted his roots in Bay Area radio for NBC playing accordion. But it goes back further than that. They are there in the community soil just waiting for we the people to water them, even more than many of us already are. One idea I have for my radio station is on July 4th, either for the day or even the week, devote the programming solely to musicians from the bay area and maybe CA in general. I’ve done it annually on my PopOff! Show for SoudnwavesTV when I celebrate a my state.
To be honest here, we the people (me included) just let it happen instead of demanding more and better from our radio stations. KFOG was my musical home for years after school and in the mornings but others had or have Live 105 or KFRC. And there were other stations that meant so much to other people. Currently the best Bay Area radio going for my musically hungry ears is local college radio or indie stations like KFJC out of Los Altos or KCFM for jazz out of San Mateo. And while those stations are amazing stations doing what they do they don’t cast the wide net that KFOG cast. That beautiful balance of being Main Street yet somewhat niche at the same time.
I have said I will bring that local kind of radio back even against all odds, kicking and screaming if I have to. It has been is my life’s mission and passion to be a part of a music community in the Bay Area like KFOG was for all those years. And while I still want my own own off the rails radio station, thankfully I am part of a family that is doing the very thing I have been on about for all these years (see the website you are on for more info). But on the corporate scale I am happy to report that the rock station 101.7 The Bone is going strong and has been rebuilding the kind of ethos that KFOG had.
And this is thanks to people like local music fanatic, the fearless and peerless music community leader and radio host Chasta leading that charge. And I am here for it. Now, there may not be the corporate $$$ for big fireworks shows (yet) but they just had a hugely successful toy drive this December, like KFOG. So despite all my yelling, the work is being done. I’m just here making sure the message is spread and kept in the trades. And just fair warning I will be yelling for a long while because we can always improve and do better. But honestly, I’ll be happy if we just get more personality and musical variety in our local radio even if we don’t get fireworks again. That was just a bonus perk.
But I still say the common refrain that, “nobody listens to radio” exists because things like I Heart Media have all the real estate and all the voice and personality of a supermarket tomato. There is no local flavor tied to what people see right around them. It sounds no different from a corporate station in De Moines or Atlanta or Nashville or Miami or Portland. It has no community voice because it is not intended for any specific community just some vague audience every person.
Because the Bay Area IS NOT Atlanta, it’s not Chicago, it’s not Biloxi, it’s not Santa Fe. And when I take a road trip to those cities I don’t want to hear the Bay Area I want to hear what Salt Lake city is laying down musically and otherwise! And when travelers come here I want them to be able to hear what we have going on.
I don’t want a mono culture. I mean, who goes to Chicago for New York for style pizza? That ethos has to go. Because the mono culture leaves people feeling despondent and lost like they have NO real culture to call their own at all and culture creates community and family. It gives individuals a sense of belonging and purpose in their lives. I find very often in talking to people they don’t know there is something missing but when they get in touch with what I’m talking about they instantly realize something has been missing.
A mono culture leaves nothing specific for people to cling to that they can call theirs. That they can then tie to the larger universal ideal of being human and being alive. If people are gonna be stuck in 24/7 Bay Area traffic here they deserve radio stations that know it and empathize with that drudgery and don’t just phone it in from some L.A. or New York studio where the announcers record their vocals on a Monday and call it quits for the week. We need a radio landscape where those in it express the same shock members of the community feel when BART trains run on time for once.
Equally important, we need radio that caters to the community because the community has amazing music that doesn’t exist on a national level. And these acts are putting out music that in my opinion often surpasses what the mainstream labels are phoning in. Acts like State Line Empire to The Sam Chase and the Untraditional to The Hot Takes to The Helltones to La Misa Negra to Shannon and the Clams and Laura Benitez and the Heartaches to The Townes. These are acts that Charleston is not going to play because they don’t even know about these bands, though they should. And likewise, we could stand to know some of their great local talent.
Listen, we have to get away from this idea of some large national (or even state) entity doing what is best for the locals. We the people of the community have to build and support the community. I don’t see anyway around this if we want this to get better on the local level. Yes, it is more work on our end. But that work is far more rewarding than many of the current results we are currently getting.
And this brings me to the website you are reading this screed on, my new music family. This is one of the seeds I mentioned earlier that is being watered by the people in community and has been for 30+ years. I am so THANKFUL and blessed to have crossed paths with Soundwaves TV with their focus on the local music scene. I’ve done my annual California music shows as I mentioned. But the seeds being watered at Soundwaves TV have resulted Soundwaves FM.
This is a weekly show focusing on California (especially bay area music) hosted by another fearless and peerless music community leader (and my mentor) Dennis Wills. You can find it here and on The Bone on Saturday evenings. This is EXACTLY this kind of show I want travelers to hear when the come from out of town and I want to spread out to the day to for the locals.
But my personal dreams are ultimately not just tied to music or radio but taking these things and connecting them to the local food scene, theater, arts, education, even religious and science institutions… Getting all these segments of the local community talking and connecting and creating and building something so strong that it sets and example for other communities and other states and MAYBE just MAYBE sets an example for our toxic backwards national government.
Am I naive?
Well… I am Bear so if you know me you know I don’t care about that. Tell me, “No” and I will do all it takes to make it a, “Yes” or work with others making it a “Hell yes!” And we are turning it into a “yes” RIGHT HERE so follow me and I will show you all watching and listening just how fun and amazing and good for the soul that “yes” is for you and the larger community from San Jose to Marin, from SF to Livermore.
I have seen the promised land because I live in it. And part of that promise is that we the people of the Bay Area take care of this land and make sure is not corrupted or usurped by the powers that don’t know us, don’t care about us, and don’t have our community interests in mind.
So here is the link to Dave Morey’s Last 10 @ 10 and the final 10 @ 10 KFOG Christmas Card. If you don’t feel anything from this, check with your doctor. Or maybe you are a transplant and so the specifics don’t hit, yet. If so, well THIS is what the best of the Bay Area represents to me. So please foster this feeling. This, come together love everybody vibe. The specifics might be different from where you came but the overall metaphors and ideals are the same. Just tweak them a little if you want to get that local Bay Area; Giants, 49ers, Warriors, Fillmore, Tamalpias, Mt. Diablo, Tower of Power, Huey Lewis and the News, Martha Washington, En Vogue, Cyprus Hill, west coast rap & disco, Dave Brubeck, Grand Lake Theater, Haight Ashbury, Telegraph, Castro, Winchester Mystery House, Exploratorium, Freight and Salvage, Longboard Margarita Bar, Martuni’s, Top Of The Mark, Chinatown, midnight taqueria, greasy pizzeria, any cuisine you want any time vibe.
Now let’s get to work to making the Bay Area more world class just like Dave Morey did and just like my Soundwaves family continues to do.
Happy holidays and peace, love, happiness, music, & dancing,