I’ll never forget listening to Seattle’s KOL FM and KISW FM late at night on my Silvertone Sears countertop clock radio around 1967-68. The strangest undergound sounds emanating from my bed stand still influence me to this day.
I grew up in a small house at 11350 34th NE essentially across from Jane Addams Junior High and two blocks away from Nathan Hale High School in Seattle’s then north-end. My brother, Larry, and I shared a tiny room in the unfinished basement that was loosely called our bedroom at the time. My younger brother , Mark, for some reason got his own bedroom next to our parents on the main floor of the house. When I stopped by this house about 40 years later and told the current owners that my brother and I not only grew up in their house but shared this room in the basement with two very small beds and a couple of sticks of furniture, they couldn’t believe it. They thought it was just some old storage room. That gives you an idea of what it was like.
My days in the late 60’s were spent at Nathan Hale High School trying to get the highest grades possible to qualify for a college scholarship. Our parents didn’t have much money and I knew that was the only way I’d get to go to a school like the University of Washington. I also worked probably about 15 hours a week at the Wedgewood area Tradewell grocery store to earn some money for a little spending and again pay for some of my college expenses.
I started listening to different kinds of basic rock music at the time. I was playing in a band then which would eventually end up playing many Friday and Saturday nights on the same weekend. The interest in music was definitely there, but I was also a neophyte when it came to most music that wasn’t Top Forty. Although my parents had exposed us to a little bit of country and big band, I grew up spending extensive time listening to KJR AM in our family living room.
Much to my surprise on listening to FM on that old radio for the first time, there were stations called KISW FM and KOL FM, with music that was certainly different from The Beatles, The Beach Boys and the Monkees. I’ll always remember hearing the Iron Butterfly theme “Heavy” for the first time. You couldn’t miss the screeching guitar, ethereal organ and upfront drumming from that first album. It was almost scary… certainly eerie and almost apprehensive in its approach. Then there was the early Richie Havens Music, Ultimate Spinach, The Animals anti-Vietnam “Sky Pilot” and much more. I was strangely attracted to this strange music.
Some of the KOL FM announcers I remember were John Chambliss (later helped to put on the 1969 Seattle Pop Festival in Woodinville, WA), Pat McDonald, Tom Cordry, Robin Sherwood, Moe Shore, Davidson Corry, Jon Kertzer, Paul Gregutt, Joe Coburn, Bruce Bols, later on Leroy Henry and many others.
I continued to listen to AM Top Forty music as well as underground progressive rock music. But that experience of listening in my pitch dark bedroom to this unearthly (to me) music coming from that faintly glowing radio for the first time will never be forgotten. In fact, listening to the original “War of The Worlds” at the same time had a similar feeling for me. It might have even been played on one of those Seattle FM Underground rock stations.