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Saturday, July 7, 2012 - Page updated at 09:30 a.m.
Now & Then
Seattle's FM radio station KRAB was 'a marvel, an education'
By Paul Dorpat
IN THE SPRING of 1962 Lorenzo Milam first visited this 32-by-20-foot hut at the southwest corner of 91st Street and Roosevelt Way. When the real-estate agent asked $7,500 for the former doughnut shop that he said was suitable for a barbershop, Milam bought the corner. By late December his shed was an FM radio station, KRAB, with a studio, which I remember was fitted with a single microphone at the center of a round table.
The listener-supported station's creatively improvised transmitter both heated the place and excited listeners with diverse and "free-form" programming. Some of those tuned in were quite young, like this feature's weekly "repeater," Jean Sherrard. Jean recalls, "KRAB was programmed with great storytellers, and what was then called ethnic music but now more often world music. KRAB was a marvel, an education in and of itself."
Of the 23 KRAB engineers, programmers and volunteers draping the station here, I recognize six, including two one-time Republican candidates for state office. While both Tiny Freeman with the bowler hat and waving behind the fence, and Richard Green, also behind the fence, far left, made it onto the ballot, both were running for laughs. And both were wonderfully funny.
The giant Tiny, with his weekly show of Bluegrass music, also refined the art of "pledge night" so well that many listeners looked forward to those chances to support Tiny and the station. With Bluegrass musicians crowding the KRAB table, Tiny auctioned tunes to be played live for the highest bidders.
From the seed Lorenzo Milam planted with KRAB, he ultimately earned the rubric "Johnny Appleseed for free-form radio." Milam had a part in starting about 40 noncommercial community radio stations across America.
Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard's blog at www.pauldorpat.com.
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