Katherine, Christina, and I, along with everyone else in the Pappas family,
deeply regret that we will not be able to make it to the big KZEL reunion
We have many fond memories of our time in Oregon
There is, however, one memory that stands out above all: The memory of the countless people, especially all of you, who truly loved the station and showed up every day, day after day, to contribute their creativity and passion to an end product that was highly regarded by everyone I met. In the end, the station’s rich culture and colorful history was a reflection of each and every one of you. And for that, we thank you.
We have many fond memories of our time in Oregonand at KZEL, both during the early years (for us) in 1984-85 and from 1989-1996, including 1993-96 when Julie and I lived in Eugene/Springfield and worked at KZEL. Some of the memories have blurred together: The Rock Truck and Zel Bell, Grafitti Nights in Roseburg, Blues Festivals, Concerts, Promotions, and Remotes.
Have a great party!
Have a great party!
Sorry Eric, no chance. I'm traveling to one of our
markets over that weekend. My best to all the crew however. I did
KZEL twice, in the late 80's and then in the 90's....had great crews both times,
and some of the most fun I've ever had in this business. Love KZEL....like
everyone who ever worked there...the place has a soul you know....it's a living
breathing thing, and when the people who are in charge love it....the station
Not many of us ever get to work at a legend.
Sorry I can't make the reunion. Hell, I can't even get out of my driveway. I live 30 miles out in the boonies from Taos, NM. We have no streetlights here--no streets! Our dirt roads turn to chocolate Jell-O pudding when they get wet and it has been snowing and raining on and off for a month, interspersed by sun days when it all melts. Can you say, "quagmire?"
My stay at KZEL was enriching (though not in the wallet) and enlightening. I learned how to prowl the garbage bins behind K-Mart and the grocery stores to score tossed out food, clothes, etc. My family (wife, 4 kids) loved Eugene and would have stayed longer, but after getting appointed Program Director--voted in actually by the staff after Thom O'Hair left, I started to act like like one and this was not met with hearty approval by management. They decided they didn't need me any more. A few weeks later, as I was tripping on the grass under a large Weeping Willow tree in my yard, I realized I couldn't subject my gang to more $50 weekly paychecks (when they were paid) and called up O'Hair, which led to a job at KSAN.
I remember an incredible Grateful Dead concert in the Grove. There was a line of cars miles long to get there. It was slower than a big-city freeway at rush hour, but we had wine and reef along and there were entrepreneurs walking along the road, offering all kinds of psychotropic delights. Seems like it was about 110° that day and there were lots of people sans clothing. Everybody tried to find a shady spot in the trees which surrounded the meadow and were accompanied by lots of poison oak.
Hey, if anybody happens to have tapes of the feature series, "I Seem To Be A Verb," I'd sure like to get a copy. I produced the series with a strange guy who was into Buckminster Fuller big time. He talked in circles and tended to stray from the main subject often, so it was quite a challenge, editing his comments into something rational.
Have a great party. Say hi to the Wasted Potato, Harry Haller, Sherry Roach, Jim, Tom, Claudia and any others from the early 70's if they show up. Let's do this again not in wintertime. Maybe I can make the next one.
If anyone from the first air staff shows up, give them my best and tell them that I wish we'd been able to pay them more than trade-out meals at the People's Cafe. But who'd need money after the revolution, anyway? Sorry I can't be there, but I'll raise a glass to all of you at the reunion from here in Montara. By the way, I hope that Ken Martin is there. He deserves a couple of toasts in his own right. He made the 25th anniversary "Sunday Be-in and Blowout" a huge success. I ran around waiving my arms a lot while Ken made everything run like clockwork. Ask him if he has any of the tape from that show. Rick Cavagnero, the station manager at the time, deserves a toast, too. He gave us the run of the station without any restrictions, other than our promise not to say "fuck" on the air or blow up the studio. We kept that promise, of course. Just kidding. I don't think he even expressed a worry that we would misbehave.
So party down...
Tom Ballantyne (1st Program Director) read Tom's mini-history of KZEL here.
My memories of 2 years at KZEL (Oct 1979-Sept 1981) are many and vivid, but certainly one of the most defining moments of my radio career, of my life really, happened while I was on the air there, doing my 7PM-12 Midnight shift on Monday, December 8, 1980. I was ON THE AIR, mic open, when the deejay from KBDF stuck some AP wire copy in front of my face that I proceeded to read out loud to myself and all of Western Oregon (at least those who listened to KZEL) that John Lennon had been shot in New York City. Moments later, AP sent the news that he had died. Every one of the phone lines lit up and remained that way until the end of my shift with sobbing, disbelieving fans begging me to tell them it wasn't true. I was shocked and saddened like they all were but I had to do the show; I immediately started playing Beatles and John Lennon songs while answering the phones and tried to be professional and took my responsibility seriously but damn, I was so sad.
When I drove home that night, I was finally free to break down and sob myself. Like nearly everyone of my generation, the Beatles were a huge part of my life and the music of the 60's was what brought me to a career in radio. I never wanted to be a star; it was always the music and the artists who made it, which is how I ended up at KZEL, and after that, various stations in San Francisco. KZEL was a great station then because we had the biggest record library I had ever seen. I discovered a lot of great music there and was turned onto a lot of artists and songs that I hadn't known about previously, by other deejays and listeners. I think I may have contributed to the pool of "good ones" myself, at least to a small degree.
Even after going to work in San Francisco and doing a lot of on-air interviews with major stars, making personal appearances at huge events, emceeing concerts, doing live television and making a couple of movies, there was never a moment that was a bigger challenge for me than doing my show at KZEL the night that John Lennon was killed.
I'm currently doing a 3-hour
show every other week at KGLT, 91.9FM here in Bozeman, Montana, community public
radio at Montana State University, staffed by community members and students and
the BEST radio station I have ever worked at. My December 9th show was a
tribute to John Lennon, during which I related the story of that night on the
air at KZEL. Doing so brought back all of the emotions I felt that night.
After working for KRQR, the CBS O&O in San Francisco, I moved north about 50 miles to work at KVRE, Santa Rosa, another great station where the music mattered. I had the TV on one day and saw live coverage as TV-20 station owner, Jim Gabbert, announced his purchase of KKCY-FM, "The City," and signed a contract with a group of people who had organized to save the much-admired, free-form format of the station. Gabbert said the new call letters would be KOFY-FM, "The Spirit of San Francisco." Thom O'hair was introduced as the new PD and he signed the contract, too. I had never met him but I was aware that he had some connection to KZEL and I remembered that he used to come to Eugene to do a show on Christmas Day. I had heard one of them, probably in 1979 or 1980.
I phoned Thom and he took my call because he knew I had worked at KZEL. Although I had heard he had had not-too-flattering things to say about my on-air presence at KZEL when he had heard me one night in 1979 (he was doing a lot of drugs at that time, as were most of the staff of KZEL), I didn't mention it to him. We had a good conversation that lasted about an hour. I told him I wanted to be a part of the new station, which was going to bring back some of the former KSAN staff. He phoned me a couple of days later and asked me to come in for an interview, which of course I did.
He was holding interviews in a cubicle at TV-20 and because it was so stark and not at all radio-like, he had hung a huge pink tapestry of Elvis behind his desk. I happened to own that same tapestry (still do!) and took that as a good sign. During the interview, we talked a little about KZEL, about programming philosophies and at some point I told him if I got hired, I'd have to take a week off in August to attend my 20-year high school reunion. He asked me where I went to high school. I replied "Great Falls, Montana" and without missing a beat, he said "Great Falls, Montana, KUDI AM 1450". I was amazed; KUDI was the station I grew up with, the one that I lived by and sung along to. A month before my 16th birthday, KUDI announced that the Yardbirds were going to land at the airport in an hour for the show they were doing that night. I not only went up to meet the plane, but guessed which hotel they were staying at and met their limo when it drove up and got their autographs - THAT station!
Thom then told me the story of tripping around California in the mid-60's and reading a book that mentioned the "Lupine in bloom in the hills of Montana. . ." and he had just up and left California, come to Montana and finagled a weekend job at KUDI. He was only there for six months or so (he couldn't take the cold winter weather), but somewhere in my developing 13-year old consciousness, I had heard Thom O'hair on my radio station, playing rock and roll for ME. And here I was 25 years later asking him for a job in San Francisco.
He hired me out of some 500
tapes and resumes he had received and at the dinner he held for the new staff to
meet each other, he told me it was our Montana connection that got me the job.
But it was our KZEL connection that got him to take my phone call in the first
place, so for that, I am still grateful. Incidentally, when that station fell
apart several months later (due to the maniac who owned it going back on his
agreement both to the Coalition to keep the free-form format, and his contract
with O'hair), he sent me a card and wrote: "Montana! I took the
biggest chance on you, not knowing anything about you when I hired you and you
proved to be the biggest surprise. Only YOU knew how good you were, the rest of
us found out. I hope we Ozone Rangers can ride together again, sometime.
Love, O'hair 73's" That was in the Fall of 1988. I returned to
Montana in the Fall of 1991 and the next summer, Thom and his wife took the
train to Montana and visited me for a week. We had a great time, reconnecting in
the place where it all began for us, without our being aware of it, years ago.
That was the magic and mojo of radio. And KZEL certainly made sure it rubbed off on those of us who were fortunate enough to be part of it, giving us something to take with us as we journeyed on; a few precious memories, a "defining moment" or two if we were lucky, some of that radio sparkle dust to spread on our paths toward our next radio endeavors or the ones after that. I know there will be lots of it present at your gathering and even though some of us won't be there physically to throw handfuls of it up in the air and watch it float down, we will be there in spirit.
Thanks for doing such a nice thing, Eric. I hope it is much fun for all.
Love and best regards from Bozeman, Montana,
XO, Nancy Walton