Little Rock There’s nothing easy about keeping a 100,000 watt community radio station on-the-air and true to its mission any day of the week but to have it happen for 30 years in Little Rock since August 29, 1984, well, as the song says, “that’s something to be proud of!” And, proud and happy we were at Oxford American’s restaurant and our down-the-street neighbor, the South on Main Restaurant, celebrating and singing along with a couple of dozen Neil Young covers. As I often tell people, acting as station manager of KABF the last 18 months is actually fun, especially since we’re making progress, and it was great to see people, old and new, come out and kick it with us on a warm Saturday night.
I pulled some oldies on a last minute pitch and there was Lia Lent, a veteran of AM/FM, and Joe Fox of another South Main neighbor, the Community Bakery, who built some of our early radio stations, including KABF, almost by hand. Scott Holladay was there, a veteran ACORN organizer in his day, but also the first station manager of KABF when we first pushed the buttons down on Crystal Mountain and went on the air. Last night one of the DJs asked me what the first song played on KABF was? I asked Scott, he said bet it was rock, but, “Ask John.” I found John Cain, program director at KABF from day one and the glue holding much of the history of the station in his own head, and asked him? He bet it was country and western, which I didn’t see coming. We’re just going to say it was Hendrix and the song was “Are You Experienced?” And, it’s been an experience.
The board was out in full force headed by Toney Orr along with Paul Kelly, Zach Polett, and Norman Williamson. The DJs were everywhere from picking and singing on stage once the music began to working the merch table, signing the posters with most of their pictures on them, to just smiling and tapping their feet. Bryan Frazer, our assistant manager, was MCing, and Carly Garner, our development coordinator, was working the crowd. Landers-Fiat had stepped up, thanks to Bryan’s good work, to sponsor the event in a big way, and their representatives were front and center from the first bell until god knows when, since they outlasted me.
We had listeners showing up with their vintage t-shirts from pledge drives gone by. A listener for the last dozen years from Russellville, 60 miles away, came up to me and said that we had helped him get through a lot of years on his way to work. One listener after another came up to just shake hands and say thanks. People were standing in line to get in still at 9pm because we were at crowd capacity, and South on Main, said we may have set the record for attendance last night.
Organizations give people voice. We always knew that and prove it in the streets daily as our members struggle to build power. There are a lot of tools, powerful, powerful tools that can help amplify the voices of our people, and radio is one of the biggest. I’m always amazed more people don’t make the climb, but if they did, as KABF has for 30 years, they could hear the cries for freedom and the songs of Job from many of our mountain tops.
We could all hear as we celebrated 30 now and many more to come.