When I was a kid, my ambition was to be a radio DJ. People like Wiki Moku, Krash Kealoha, Honolulu Skylark and Kamasami Kong were the people looked forward to listening to. I was a child who loved music and loved to play records, and to be able to share that love of music and records to an island-wide audience? That’s all I ever wanted.
I was in an enrichment class called E’onipa’a (loosely translates as “one step forward”) and my teacher, Ms. Marilyn Kobata, actually brought me and a classmate to a radio instruction class around where Bob’s Big Boy was, near Moanalua Gardens. It seemed like a huge room with turntables, cassette decks, and a reel-to-reel music. I knew then that that is how I wanted to serve the community.
When I lived in Hawai’i, I wanted to be a DJ on KKUA and KIKI, and maybe even KCCN. When I discovered the greatness of FM radio, then I had to be on 93FMQ or the almighty 98Rock. Then I found KTUH. At the time they were the only station that played music I had never heard of, including loads of new wave that MTV were playing but the mainstream stations weren’t. It was “college rock”, and why play Siouxsie & The Banshees when you can have it big with “99 Luftballoons”? KTUH’s transmission could not be heard everywhere, so when my parents drove to Manoa (where the University of Hawai’i is located) or in parts of Kaimuki, if it wasn’t too windy, I could catch glimpses of this station.
Unfortunately I moved from Honolulu in 1984 after my dad passed away, but I was able to fulfill my radio dreams when I became a DJ, and later music director of KTCV 88.1 FM in the Tri-Cities in Washington State. This was part of the Radio/Television Production class in Kennewick, Washington, and I became a DJ for a station that only played hard rock and heavy metal. However, I was one of the few to have a specialty show called The Classic Cafe, where I played classic and trippy rock from the late 60’s and early 70’s. I also hosted a show called Digital Destruction, where I played full CD’s uninterrupted.
But when I came back to Hawai’i to fill up on the reserves (a/k/a vacation), I would always go to my favorite stations and eventually turn on KTUH. Sometimes it would be some cool world music, other times it might have been a gay pride megamix or a few Hawaiian obscurities but you could guarantee on not hearing “the same old”. Over the years the station would become “Hawai’i’s only alternative”, especially as radio stations became increasingly generic. For a brief moment in the 1990’s, there was an incredible station called Radio Free Hawai’i, and it played anything and everything, at any time. No need for a specialty show, if you wanted to hear Metallica right next to Jay Larrin mixed with Grateful Dead followed by Charles Mingus, it was there. For me, this is what I always wanted to bring to the radio, a “chop suey” blend of anything and everything. If it sounded good, put it in the mix. It was very much in the spirit of KTUH, but you could hear it outside of Manoa and Kaimuki, so that station was on all the time. The station would go under by the end of the 1990’s, but it was an incredible experience to hear. My own Book’s Music podcast is very much in honor of the “anything goes” concept that Radio Free Hawai’i had.
A former friend of mine was able to make a dream come true for me in October of 2000, when she brought me on as a special guest on her radio show on KTUH. I normally am not nervous when I do radio shows, but this was a “home show”. Even though most (if not all) of the people listening that night had no idea who I was, it was still me saying “I’m home, now I can play some music for you”, and for almost three hours (I had a hard time finding the station), I did. I entered a room that was a part of Hawaiian radio history, and it was an incredible honor to do that, since it was a childhood dream fulfilled. Had I gone to the University of Hawai’i, I would have become a part of the KTUH ohana.
Now, everyone in Hawai’i and around the world will be able to see a documentary that highlights the lows but many high’s in KTUH’s 40 year history with a documentary being put together by Trav15, host of the KTUH show Re-Percussions and the station’s gurrent general manager. No word on when it will be complete or if it will be released in some form, but as soon as I know, I’ll let you know.
Mahalo nui to Lauren @ Asita Recordings for the tip.