Bill Virgin's Radio Beat January 31, 2008

Includes archive of Bill Virgin's columns fromJ une 2006 - March 2009

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat January 31, 2008

Postby radiofan » Wed Jan 30, 2008 7:23 pm

On Radio: Rainier Radio brings back everyone's golden age

For those who grew up with radio in the 1930s and 1940s, that was when radio was at its best, with dramas like "The Shadow" and comedians like Jack Benny.

Not so for those who came of age listening to radio in the 1960s, when top 40 ruled AM radio with the booming voices of legendary DJs like Seattle's own Pat O'Day.

But that style of radio was hopelessly outdated for radio listeners of the 1980s, when personality-driven shows like Robin & Maynard in Seattle helped FM take over music radio.

Those wondering what all the excitement was about, and what they might have missed, have had to rely largely on the stories told by those who were there to hear it. While the "Golden Age" of the 1930s and 1940s is relatively well preserved, the audio record of later radio eras is fragmented, when it exists at all.

Rainier Radio seeks to change that. The audio archive of radio in the state of Washington got its official debut at a news conference last week at North Seattle Community College.

It's an archive accessible to anyone with a computer and Internet connection. Once they complete the free registration at, listeners can browse through what general manager Ross Davis estimates is 14 days worth of material.

Which, he hopes, is merely the start of the collection, which already contains programs, air checks, ads, jingles, newscasts, sporting events (including hydro races) and music from eight decades, and from not just Seattle but Tacoma, Olympia, Vancouver, Kelso and Spokane.

Rainier Radio was put together and sponsored by Davis, who has been general manager of Seattle Community College television and is himself a radio veteran; O'Day and John Maynard, who contributed their own material and rounded up recordings from other radio industry veterans and collectors; and the Washington State Heritage Center, a proposed facility in Olympia that will combine the state library, archives and capital museum.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, whose office oversees the heritage center, says the archives contain a wealth of printed material, including just about every newspaper ever published in Washington, to document the state's history. "What we've been missing is the electronic media," he said at the news conference.

"We didn't save that much," O'Day says. After all, there was always another show and "we were going to do it better tomorrow."

That material needs to be preserved because of radio's importance not just in big cities like Seattle but in smaller towns like Wenatchee, where Reed grew up. "Radio was so central to everything we did," Reed said. "It was so central to our lives."

Rainier Radio also opens a window to the epic battles between Seattle stations such as KJR and KOL, "a level of competition not seen today," said Dan Towey of Gig Harbor, who has worked in local radio and has contributed hours of programs to the archives. "People were afraid to tune out for fear they would miss something."

Rainier Radio's organizers hope that news of the site's launch will spur more donations of recordings that may now be hiding in closets, basements and attics. O'Day is hoping recordings turn up of the spoof mini-dramas he and Lan Roberts did, "Wondermother and Clyde." Towey is still looking for a song by DJ Gary Lockwood, "Cruising Lake City Way."

In other radio notes:

KIRO-AM/710 has canceled several weekend shows: the local talk show hosted by liberal commentator David Goldstein 7-10 p.m. Sundays; the talk show hosted by Bryan Styble 10 p.m.-1 a.m. Sunday; and Carl Jeffers' political talk show on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings.

Gary Ryan, who did talk hosting on KIRO-AM and before that was half of the morning Ryan and Ryan team on KBSG-FM, has joined KITZ-AM/1400 and KGTK-AM/920 as a regular talk host noon-3 p.m. weekdays.

With the end of "The Young Turks" nationally syndicated show, KPTK-AM/1090 is substituting "The Bill Press Show" at 3-6 a.m. weekdays beginning Monday.

KNHC-FM/89.5 begins its HD service Friday.

The Metropolitan Opera performs Wagner's "Die Walkuere" at 9:30 a.m. Saturday on KING-FM/98.1.

Sky Cries Mary and Daniel G. Harmann perform live from the High Dive in Fremont on "Audioasis" at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on KEXP-FM/90.3.

Lizz Sommars' guests on "Conversations " at 6 a.m. Sunday on KISW-FM/99.9, KKWF- FM/100.7 and KMTT-FM/103.7 and 7 a.m. Sunday on KNDD-FM/107.7 include Bruce Brennan and James Ehrlich of PBS' "The Hippy Gourmet."

KUOW-FM/94.9 launches a weeklong series, "Cracking the Climate Code," on Monday; reports on local aspects of the climate-change issue will air during "Morning Edition," "Weekday" and "The Conversation."

Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro performs in the studios of KPLU-FM/88.5 at 12:20 p.m. Monday.

James Blunt performs live in the "Mountain Music Lounge" on KMTT-FM/103.7 at 3:15 p.m. Monday.

P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat every Thursday in The Seattle P-I
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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