“I think it went under that porch. I don’t think it’s coming back out.”

I used to work at a radio station called KUFO. It was a “heritage” station, which is radio-speak for “It’s been around for a real long time.” It enjoyed a sustained period of success in Portland, and then it faltered, and then it declined. I rode on the back of this confused colossus for 5 years. I had a fair amount of fun doing it. It shed me and my friends a couple years ago. We fell and we landed and we got up and went in different directions. We ended up in better places. We were replaced by fleas and parasites. They bit at the hide of the colossus until the skin broke. Tired, it fell to all fours, crawled under a porch, and this morning, it died.

I’m not happy to see her go. She could be pretty fun in her heyday. I guess the same goes for radio in general. Her death was inevitable, really. It’s probably not too long before the FM band gets sold off like the UHF band was, and AM signals are relegated to emergency broadcasts and traffic-only information stations. Sooner rather than later, the landscape will go dark and gather moss, and the whole thing will be fondly remembered in the amber hues of warm nostalgia.

There’s a bunch of ruddy-faced angry white men standing above her corpse now, yelling about God visiting earthquakes upon the East, shouting about Wisconsin sending messages to an outsider-President. For a city that was once known as “Little Beirut,” that is home to the one of the nation’s few openly gay mayors, that treats visits to its own 5 story tall bookstore in the same way 6 year olds treat visits to Disneyland – this seems an odd choice.

But what the old girl had become in her last year was none too inviting either. The station always had an element of the juvenile to it. A youthful recklessness in its best moments, an ugly crassness at its worst; but when it was good, it accurately reflected the face and the voice of her listeners. At some point in the late 90′s, Portland, a city that had always suffered a slight lack of identity, started fumbling towards one. Unfortunately, KUFO had lost her footing, and couldn’t keep pace as she had before.

The ability to adapt got harder and harder. She became seen as trashy. Nobody could tell who she was talking to anymore. She was affecting accents, posing, getting sloppy drunk in public and acting for all the world like if she opened a window and poked her head out, it wouldn’t be Portland outside. She was doing kegstands at a party made up of generic people, at the orders of generic people, for an image of youth that had long since been abandoned by the young.

The old girl didn’t have to go out like this. There was still some life left in her, sparks and guttering flames of inspiration. I saw it when I was there, briefly. For all the drama and trauma, it was a genuinely fun place to work for a time, before wiser heads started falling into packed boxes full of desk clutter and office accoutrements. There were people in that building who tried to steer her back towards something resembling relevance in the community. But “relevance” and “radio” are not words that are so easily married anymore. The rewards were deemed not worth the effort.

While I was there, I mostly enjoyed myself, and enjoyed the opportunity to reach out to a listenership and connect with them. It was a fun party. I got kicked out unceremoniously, but in retrospect, it was a good time to go. At least I wasn’t there when it ended. I feel bad for those, like Brent and Noah, who were still putting in the work, still showing up for their shifts and doing 3 to 4x the work listed in their job descriptions, to make up for ever-shrinking budgets. They were still clinging strongly to her side when she snuck away from her party and began stumbling for that porch.

I’m not happy to see her go, but I am happy to have been part of her existence, if only for a short time. I was part of an on-air tradition that includes people like Bill Prescott, Tawn Mastery, Al Scott, Tom Turner, Tim Savage, Dan Bozyk, Lisa Wood, Rick Emerson and of course, my Captain, Cort Webber, who stood on the shoulders of this poor, dead colossus for longer than any of us did.

Maybe in a couple years I’ll see some scraggly teenager rocking a washed out T-shirt with some permutation of the logo plastered on it. Sure, they’ll probably be wearing it ironically, but I’ll still smile. I’ve got some good memories attached to that logo.

She had a good run.

44 Comments

  1. Well put.

  2. Well said Bobby!

  3. One of our local stations was just sold,and I thought of you guys. Hope my friends there hang in for a while.Nice post.

  4. Great post!

  5. I doubt talk radio is going to fare much better.

  6. You and Cort WERE KUFO for me. I listened to you guys every day while you were on, and I still listen to the podcast. Hell, I even gave Alpha’s version of it a chance. I came to tolerate most of the new DJ’s, save Ricker. Can’t stand that guy. but I digress. I grew up listening to that station, and now that it’s truly dead, I don’t know that I’ll ever listen to the radio again.

  7. Portland is most definitely not the home of the first gay mayor. Providence had a gay mayor before us and there were probably tons of other smaller cities with gay mayors. It’s not the largest either, that goes to Houston (yes, Houston).

  8. Thanks!

  9. Great post, Bobby!

  10. This post genuinely made me sad, then I saw that Lars Larson was getting the frequency, now I am disappoint.

  11. Dammit Bobby, indeed! You and Cort were the reason I started regular afternoon listening sessions of KUFO. You’re gonna make me get all misty now. Shucks, this old man is gonna go find his own porch (temporarily).

  12. F’n bummed that corporate tight-wads can dictate what the public should have to listen to. LARS!??? give me a break. With no hard rock station, this city is at a loss. I will miss ALL the DJ’s and people who had made it all possible. You made me laugh in the morning and rock out to pass the day in the afternoons. (Cue Taps).

  13. STOVEMBER LIVES

  14. STOVEMBER FOREVER! STOVEMBER EVER MORE!

    Electricember, not so much.

  15. … Propaganda radio belongs on the AM dial.

  16. I just deleted 101.1 from my car… RIP

  17. Like Thomas, I deleted 101.1 from my radio.

  18. That’s it! I’m done with radio, period! What a disgrace! So many fond memories, the radio is for music not talk…… Looks like I gotta pick up an ipod and more cd’s….

  19. I hear you Fatboy…. I too am one of the people that listened purely to hear you and Cort. (I mean, I rocked out for decades with KUFO, I remember when she came online the first time to replace our old Z-Rock..)

    I stopped listening when Alpha bought the company and canned you guys.

    Best of luck brother.. Keep the faith!

  20. I only started listening to KUFO on a regular basis because of the parts of Cort and Fatboy I heard on the way home from work and the parts of Adam Corolla (and later, Emerson) on the way to work. YOU guys were the only piece of that station that made it a part of Portland. All of the imported DJs they brought in to give the station a new image could never have connected it to the listener base the way you guys did. I couldn’t stand listening to the drivel afterward, and won’t mourn its passing. I’ll just plug in my iPod with your guys’ casts on it and keep moving.

  21. I may have worked “across the street” before my unceremonious removal from the biz, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy to see this turn of events. A sad day indeed.

    And the new tenants aren’t exactly covering themselves in glory so far. Heard right before changing the dial just after 5pm today: “Remember, if you hear thunder, then lightning is not far behind.”

    …no, dude, if I hear thunder then it means the lightning didn’t strike me dead. *eyeroll*

  22. I like how it magically flipped overnight. No warning, just “Too bad, hope you like pop/rb/ranchero/classics/country. And now heres the agenda of the day, I mean news.”

    Fuck man, now I have to get satellite radio, or start feeding my MP3 through my cars speakers.

  23. I’ve listened to rock on 101 forever it seems. I even have a KRCK sticker autographed by Ronnie James Dio in ’84 to show for it and I gotta say the Cort and Fatboy show was the apex of that station’s history. You guys made for a great show that was connected to the community that listened. That made for great radio. The KUFO that just bit the dust was just a shell of what it once was.

  24. Great post, great prose.

    Reality bites: radio is a business and ya gotta get your numbs. The bait and switch fraud that was “commercial free” KUFO way back then, finally ran out ‘o gas. The prick tease whore came full circle. There is romance in radio, but nothing is for free, never has been, has beens.

    Now “Commercial free” forever.

  25. Fatboy,
    great post – beautifully written. I still quote sh*t that you and Cort had said on KUFO, its too funny to let die. After you two disappeared, I stopped listening to the radio. Replacing you with Ricker… Really?
    Anyway, thanks for the dedicated years of hilarity.

  26. I also deleted 101.1 from my car radio. The drive home from work was a quiet, solemn one. I was devastated by the news that Rock is no longer a part of my commute. I could get past the stupid DJs for the music. I can’t get past non-stop talking, though. Ever. :( March 15, 2011 is the second saddest day in history (second only to the dismissal of the Cort and Fatboy show on KUFO).

  27. I’d go w/ the 2nd option. It’s free, for one, and it puts you in total control of what you have going through your ears. Podcasts + music YOU pick ends up creating basically the perfect “radio station” for you.

    There’s a LOT of car stereos out there now w/ headphone inputs in the front. And a lot of people are plugging their iPods/iPhones/Zunes/what-have-yous into them.

    If you do go that route – we’re over at cascadia.fm. there’s a link to our site in my description page up top.

  28. Whats worse is Alpha handled this worse then the firing of you guys. They pretty much screwed Mike Thrasher by not even letting them know it was happening even though they were co-promoting several events. I guarentee alpha will never be involved with hard rock in the NW again

  29. This is a well written post but I note the lack of acceptance that much has changed in the world of modern music delivery, distribution and how listeners gain access to music. Blaming “angry white men” for the decline of radio listenership is entirely beside the point. There was nothing they could do unless they provided an experience that was deemed worthy of listening to by a large and diverse audience, not just a niche listenership.

    Terrestrial radio can’t compete with Pandora, the exception being NPR. And the “5 story tall bookstore” you mention can’t compete with Amazon.

    The reasons for this lack of competition within institutions and companies is known as “the curse of knowledge.” Large radio companies and large record companies are cursed with it. That’s why the record companies couldn’t create iTunes, Kodak couldn’t create Flickr, network TV companies couldn’t create YouTube or Netflix and why an Entercom or Clear Channel couldn’t create Pandora.

    Simply put, you have to give your customers what they want. They are out there showing us what they want. Unfortunately many media companies want to retain the status quo and therefore can’t see the new markets.

    They’d rather spend their money in the present trying to save the problems of the past.

    Dave Allen, North

  30. Nicely put Dave. Technological Darwinism is the issue here. Give the listeners what they want, let them take it for a test drive, not just kick the tires. Let them be part owner.
    A great example of FM radio is in Seattle at KEXP. Being from Portland and growing up having listened to every type of station under the sun (remember Magic 107?), I discovered this breath of fresh air back in 2004. It’s listener funded and the DJs can and will actually play your requests. They don’t just play what corporate shills tell them to.
    Give the people what they want and they’ll pay for it. I do. Every month, and it’s not even on my dial! I have to go the unorthodox route of streaming it on my iPhone or computer. Still, it’s better than anything this town has to offer. The $10/month doesn’t bother me because I adore KEXP. I can’t say enough about the structure and the product itself.
    If you build it, they will come…and they will pay!

  31. This sucks.

    I stopped listening to KUFO for a short time after you left. It sucked. It was depressing. And now this CRAP, KX-helL, attempting to rape my ears. I’m sorry. There’s two ways to go: internet radio station, or Sirius. I am done with terrestrial radio, and the old farts that think they know what people want. As a side note: I hope Larry Wilson gets molested by an eighteen-wheeler in traffic. Nuf said.

  32. It seems like this particular branch of the comment thread wandered in here from a different post. I mean, I specifically said I believe the entirety of radio is going to fail to the point that the fm band will be sold off, for the same reasons uhf was sold. I didn’t go into why because I believed that, at this point, it pretty much went without saying. I’m not saying I disagree with your posts, you two. I agree with 95% of them. I just didn’t think it needed spelling out, considering the state of the industry is what it is.

    So far as the “angry white men” thing – that’s a reference specifically to Glenn Beck and Lars Larson, two of the people on the right wing talk-entertainment station that has taken over the frequency, not a reference to executives at Alpha. I’m not blaming Beck for the death of an terminally ill station. He’s got enough shit to answer for without having that dumped on the pile.

    Also, it seems you’re under the impression i’d go back if I could. I wouldn’t. It was fun, but as I said, I’m in a better place. Especially creatively. The show has never sounded better, and we get more listeners now than we ever did on the radio. Maybe I make less money, but the work is way more enjoyable, and I think that reflects in the quality. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the past. I miss vhs tapes too. I’m not looking to open a rental store anytime soon.

    So, to clarify: Radio is inevitably dying. The reasons are many, and you two listed most of them. The post was about the fun I had there, and how I wished the station had gone down fighting. It was going to go down, regardless, but I wish it had ended w/ a little more pride. But it didn’t. It crawled under a porch.

  33. Well my response might seem like it “wandered in from a different post” but it didn’t.

    To your point of clarification – “Radio is inevitably dying” I would say no it’s not. As I noted, NPR is doing fine because it caters to its listener base. Your other point – ” I wished the station had gone down fighting..” – again it’s a negative outlook…why go down fighting? Why not reappraise the situation and start to consider new markets?

    Radio has a future. It just doesn’t look like it does today. Here’s an extract from an article by Bill Keller, the Executive Editor of the New York Times, a newspaper in an industry as imperiled, apparently, as the radio business:

    “There is no question that in times of momentous news, readers rush to find reliable firsthand witness and seasoned judgment. (In the first hour after Mubarak fell, The Times’s Web site had an astounding one million page views, and friends at other major news organizations tell me they enjoyed a similar surge.) I can’t decide whether serious journalism is the kind of thing that lures an audience to a site like The Huffington Post, or if that’s like hiring a top chef to fancy up the menu at Hooters. But if serious journalism is about to enjoy a renaissance, I can only rejoice. Gee, maybe we can even get people to pay for it.”

    Only time will tell for radio and newspapers, but neither should give up the fight as both parties need to see the new market. It’s out there…

  34. If radio has a future, I firmly believe it’s not as “radio.” I don’t see the outlook as negative but as pragmatic. The niche radio filled over-the-air will be filled online. Is being filled online. Will continue to be filled online.

    NPR is doing fine, numbers wise, but what happens when, as has been talked about recently, fed funding is pulled and the concept of public broadcasting goes away completely? It’s not an outlandish idea in the slightest, and in fact, is a future that is becoming more probable daily. At that point, whatever NPR is NOW will have to move sideways to the online area and muddle through the same problems we in the online arena are muddling through now.

  35. I find it odd that you think radio will go away “over the air.” What about the fact that most people listen in their cars? Yes, new technology in cars brings the ability to access online radio, Pandora and such, but there’ll always be a sub-set of folks who want to hear terrestrial radio on the way to and from work.

    As for NPR, they started transitioning to the web years ago and so have a great online presence. They take hardly any Federal funding – 5.8% of their revenue comes from Fed, State and Local govt combined. Businesses provide 21.1% and individuals 32.1% Here’s the link. In other words, as it’s predominantly funded by listeners and businesses there’s no reason it will go away – unless it sees that the transition to the web and mobile is greater than its radio listener base. Back to finding new markets.

  36. That sub-set is small. Growing smaller. The idea that over the air broadcasting will go away isn’t odd in the least, I don’t think. I think this argument is stringing itself out over a basic disagreement in terminology. What you’re calling “finding new markets” feels more to me like metamporphosis. The product changes, the delivery changes, the focus changes. At that point, to me, its no longer what it was. Its something different.

  37. Nicely written, Bobby. I was waxing nostalgic myself as I read it. KUFO was “my” radio station from about age 12 on. It was always my default as a teenager and through my 20′s. I find it funny that as I got older, the music was less and less appealing, and I started paying more attention to the talk. By the time you and Cort got the axe, I was downloading your podcast and had pretty much dismissed the station itself. I am sad to see it go, though. We had some good memories.

  38. Sad I started listening when I was just in grade 7 and now its gone ,remembering prescott, and manny others but stern sucked. yet for some reason something new always got me buy and it was the only station I could always relie on to make my little day pass with some laufter of joy! Gonna really miss you guys and now im stuck with oldies and rap with options of country eeeeeeeeeeew! this sucks hope another companny brings them back.

  39. Some random thoughts…
    Commercials. A necessity in the radio business. About as pleasant to listen to as regurgitated, uninventive old-rock playlists. I’ve been listening to the 17000 songs I have on my computer hard-drive at home through a free service called Audiogalaxy. An app in my Droid connects to Audiogalaxy’s servers (out there, somewhere) where little electronic placeholders of all those 17000 songs reside. Then, whether I want to hear a song, an album, or the whole enchilada, in a random stream — I decide what I want to hear and it happens without the brain-dulling banter and ads. When they do decide to charge for the service, I’ll be first in line to start paying for it. Music on radio waves, what a precious, old-fashioned concept.
    Now all that said, the fact that a bunch of right-wing, racists have filled the slot does not make me happy. And I realize, not everyone is geeky enough to have one of these new-fangled smart-phones. So radio is for “those people,” but I got tired of being sold to and talked down to and sung down to eons ago.
    They don’t make model-Ts any more either.

  40. honoring KUFO with a moment of silence…

    now, back to you KGON.

  41. [...] you know needs to be put to sleep, or else given a way too expensive type of surgery to survive. (Fatboy Roberts eulogy uses the same analogy. Classy and well-put.) The “Broski” approach was mocked [...]

  42. This is so sad. I almost teared up a bit! I really love how eloquently you put it Fatboy! <3 Loved you on KUFO. You rock. Still miss you! :) Listened to your podcasts for a while! Hope things are well! <3

  43. This news made me sad. Now I have nothing to rebel against. Rock radio gave me energy to try to succeed. Now I’ll never be a rock star in the traditional sense. But more than that, I’ll never be irked into trying.

  44. Great post there. Bookmarked and shared! :)


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