Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

40 Years of KINK FM, and media-inspired thoughts

Happy Media Geek time!

I've been a listener to KINK FM (101.9) since the mid-1990s. In fact it was the first Portland radio station I was drawn to. It was Adult Contemporary by the time I started listening to it, but with eccentric touches you're honestly less likely to get with commercial radio nowadays. Turns out that's for a good reason: KINK started on Christmas Day 1968 as "KINK The Underground Link," one of the few stations on Portland's FM band in those days, and in its first few years it did its own thing. It's kept quite a bit of its independent spirit, even though it's now part of a corporate radio family (CBS Radio, same as KUFO where Cort and Fatboy are). KINK shares a fancy building with NBC affiliate KGW television, a vestige of its origin as a sister station to what used to be KGW Radio. CBS Radio's Rick Emerson gently teases the KINK staff, but it's a loving kind of teasing: he's a fan.

KINK's stayed a force in Portland (heck, West Coast) radio for 40 years without a name change or format whiplash, where a station is one thing one day and something completely different the next. It's evolved, instead, surviving a bunch of ownership changes and keeping its personality in the process. Heck, even its logo's been around since the early '70s. KINK seems to be especially well-liked by musicians; dozens visit each year to perform in its Live Performance Lounge, and many of those songs get released on the for-charity KINK Live CDs. (The station's done 11 so far, all sold out. I have all of them. Good stuff.) It's also where Mike Rich worked in radio news before becoming a screenwriter; he often discussed his film career in the lead-up to his first film Finding Forrester coming out in 2000. He's one of several good, interesting media people who've passed through KINK in the past 40 years.

And here's how the station's making me additionally happy: Yesterday the station began its "KINK XL" celebration of its upcoming 40th anniversary by spotlighting one year of its history each day. Friday was nothing but 1968's music; today is nothing but 1969's songs (with a brief detour into a Live Performance Lounge set by David Wilcox, which I cite to be complete). Some of today's songs probably haven't been on the radio since 1969; they're kind of like deep cuts. And when it comes to songs, I'm a deep-cut kind of buff.

The station's website (also home to several music streams: the main station stream, an acoustic station, a blues stream and a "Lights Out" stream of gently-going-to-sleep music) has posted a history of each decade at KINK: the Sixties, the Seventies, the Eighties, the Nineties, and whatever the heck this decade is called (the Oughts?). There are lots of audio clips of the station's staffers reminiscing, plus videos of its frequent (and often eccentric) television campaigns. (An APE??!)

I like radio. I like its potential intimacy, and its potential depth: interesting DJs presenting interesting music and making interesting events happen. Had I been born 20 years earlier, I would've been one of the people tuning into some far-flung AM radio station in the middle of the night when the AM signals could go farther. I'd've been one of the people clamoring for the book I, Libertine before it existed, as part of Jean Shepherd's radio stunt that I read about in Something in the Air. Automated stations, generic playlists, crank calls and other wacky morning zoo-ey antics*: these have been scourges on radio for decades, not just this era, and my favorite radio people have kept doing something closer to handcrafted radio. The Internet helps the intimacy, too: I correspond with DJs via e-mail. DJs like to know we're listening, much like we in the audience like to know the DJs are listening.

KINK's kept giving me something interesting to listen to.
* The greatness of Don Geronimo and Mike O'Meara when they had the morning zoo on Washington, D.C.'s WAVA FM was that they did those sorts of stunts much more knowingly, and put a more personal spin on them -- like their recurring wake-up calls to D.C. media people they were friends with (like Katie Couric, who was pretty game to play along) -- and let their show evolve into something much like a soap opera. They had a storyteller's sense of drama that was behind their antics, so there was more going on than antics, unlike a lot of DJs. Plus they were ultimately nice guys, as opposed to Doug "The Greaseman" Tracht, who just made me feel icky. (Want to feel icky? Go to that link. You've been warned.)
Tags: music, radio

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