Friday, July 08, 2005

Phoenix Radio

Phoenix Radio


A note on underground radio history in Phoenix:  Does anyone remember KNIX?  I don’t recall (that old hippie memory thing!!) how long it was on the air, but it predated KCAC.  It was already shut down when the “gang from Texas” arrived on the Phoenix scene. 


A couple of names from the air staff that come to mind are Christopher and Rickets.  Stories have it that Rickets had a penchant for dismantling the studio broadcast equipment, particularly in the wee hours of the morning… the stories never did say why??!!!   I got to know Christopher post-KNIX when he was my roommate for a short time.  In addition to bringing to my house a certain fondness for things psychedelic, he also developed a certain fondness for my girlfriend of the day.  Unfortunately, when Christopher moved out, so did my lover… with him!  But… I’m getting off track here.  Back to radio… 


KNIX’s undoing began with its co-sponsorship of a concert featuring, among others, The Fraternity of Man, although, all things behind the scenes considered, I suspect it had begun unraveling some time before the show. Christopher was the MC.  The band (…Fraternity…) asked him if they could do a song called F--- Her.  Christopher’s state at that moment did not include the word “no” in its vocabulary. The song was sung, to the delight of the audience, but not so to the owner of the station at that time, a person known to lean rather heavily in the direction of conservatism.  A line had been crossed, and the station owner held the winning cards.   Sadly, that was the beginning of the end of KNIX, as we had come to know and love it.   Shortly thereafter they went off the air, leaving a creative void that was eventually filled by KCAC and later, KDKB.  To the best of my knowledge (not always something to be trusted), KNIX was Phoenix’s first underground station, and sort of prepared the ground for the good things that were to come. 


John Robertson




Mariah Fleming said...

Gee, I had completely forgotten that but you are right. I was a kid and remember talking to them (at least the Rickets fellow) at the station. I may be way off base here but wasn't it one of the first FM stations in the Valley? I think it was around 1967.

How cool it was to discover rock music being played in a non top 40 format! Weren't they on just 12 hours a day? Or maybe til midnight? I don't think they were on the air for very long at all-maybe not even a year. How crushed we were when we turned on the FM dial and just heard that awful "fssssss!" dead air sound.

How terrible it would be if KCAC and KDKB had not come to the rescue. The Valley was such a non-place in those days. KCAC/KDKB put us on the hip map.

vagabondvet said...

Hi, John, Howdy, Mariah,

I think Buck Owens was KNIX's owner, and he didn't really shut it down, he just went back to a country/western format. I'm not too sure about it (if you can remember the sixties you weren't really there...), but I think that's right... anyone else know about this?

John Robertson said...

Hi Daniel!
As I remember (Chuckle!!! Once again we enter the unknown... or, is it the permanently unknowable!???), you're right about the Buck Owens ownership. Plans may have been in the works for a change to a C&W format, but, according to Christopher, it was the station's association (concert co-sponsorship) with that "obscene hippie stuff" that pushed it over the edge, rather suddenly and abruptly.

Azmtbear said...

A couple years ago in my weird tape collection, I ran into an aircheck of Miles Scott, aka Scott Campbell on KNIX. He was playing the Gaylords' "From the Vine Came the Grape", and quitting his job. Scott was music reviewer for the Republic at the time, and is currently heard as the Freddy Snakeskin on Sirius First Wave.
Add "Johnny Brent", Brent Gabrielsen, who later ran a recording studio, to the KNIX rock airstaff.

It's interesting to hear this first progressive radio in Phoenix. Buck Owens bought KNIX from the Karshner family, in 1963. The station went rock in about 1968, I believe. It was stereo, relatively low powered at 3KW from central Phoenix, and first went on the air from the Karshner's house on Highland, then with a studio in the Camelback Towers. There were several other Phoenix FM's on the air before it.

I'm not sure why the staff chose to blow up the format, exactly. The issue apparently had to do with the institution of playlists, as the station had been freeform up until then. The station came to a bad end shortly after Campbell quit on the air, and the studio was toilet papered by the outgoing crew.

I worked for KNIX in the 1970's as a weekend, evening and utility guy. It was cool and the place was rock friendly, I thought, playing some country-rock crossover tunes. Owens' FM in Bakersfield was an early AOR which continued on for many years after the KNIX progressive meltdown.

vagabondvet said...

Ah! It DID go off the air, then. Don't know where I got that idea about the C/W stuff, probably got my wires crossed somewhere. I do seem to remember that flap was indeed over playlists, though. Didn't know about the TP-ing, but that must have been pretty funny.

Thanks for the good info, Mt. Bear!

Azmtbear said...

And to clarify a bit...I believe the controversy surrounding that notorious concert led to restrictions the airstaff didn't agree with, and that ultimately resulted in a rebellion. Those guys were very young at the time.

I always wondered if the rock format at KNIX had been salvaged, would the boys from Tyler, Texas have had the opportunities they had at KCAC and KDKB?

As it was, the ex-KNIX crew partially reassembled to do a freeform format in Houston, at Pacifica's KPFT, in the 1970's.

John Robertson said...

Thanks for filling in the blanks Mt. Bear. (As a post flower child era casualty, there tend to be a few of those!) Now that you mention it, I do remember the rebellion and the TP thing. Ah! The good old days!! I think in the eyes of many, we were just having too much fun!

Marty said...

Note to Vagabond Vet: Your memory IS slipping. During the dialogue around the time of Hank's death you sent us a number of clippings from Rebirth,the underground newspaper, one of which detailed the demise of KNIX as a free form rock station. If someone can tell me how to attach a file to one of these posts, I'll include it. Or Daniel, you can do it.
I do remember being introduced to the station by Chuck Mills (R.I.P.)
when he picked me up hitchhiking. Chuck eiher worked there or knew people who did.
And I distinctly remember hearing Hendrix on KNIX, a fact that I love sharing with my Clear Channel compadres who still work there.
Marty Manning

vagabondvet said...

Ha! Imagine that, my memory is slipping. You're right, Marty... I DID post some Rebirth articles about KNIX! They are hard to read, but you can make out most of it. They're in the Rebirth album in my Webshots pages, but to view the full-size versions, which are much easier to read, copy/paste the following links into your browser:

Thanks for reminding me!


Anonymous said...

We "blew up the format" because the manager wanted to control what we did away from the station, after his son had been popped with LSD at military school. I took the station apart to fix it. The stereo was all messed up. Listeners would bring me things...

Dave Rickmers

vagabondvet said...

Ah! Dave Rickmers! Howdy! You must know John Robertson, right? He's around, living up on Orcas Island... and if you knew Ray Thomson, from KRUX, he's up here in the northwest also. Are you still down in Arizona, or somewhere else? We may have a reunion again one of these days, so check back in once in a while! Great to see you...