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The Players

The deejays, producers, promoters, sound engineers, program and station managers of Freeform Radio.

Here are video interviews with some of the important people in the history of freeform radio, the very people who created and sustained the brief, remarkable era of radical radio on the public airwaves. 



In no particular order, here are a few of the people who made Freeform Radio happen:

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Bill Szymczyk

Producer, Deejay

Ham Agnew

Sound Engineer

Live cast technical memories. The biggest hurdle doing these live-casts was having to adapt to different venues. The Denver Folklore Center was the easiest because I had a chance to build a mini-studio in the basement, and it was a short run for microphone and client monitor speakers feeds.  I was also able to adjust the mix more easily in the privacy of the mini-studio without having the distractions of the audience and crowd noise. Other venues presented their own challenges.   For the Modern Jazz Quartet concert, I took the opportunity to use two microphones on the piano, thus providing the stereo effect.  As I recall, this was the only venue where I did this. During a Big Mama Thornton session in Denver, someone stole one of my microphones, but I made what I had work.  Never did find out who took it.  The band was late, and Big Mama was getting pissed, but I had the opportunity to chat with her.  I remember her telling me that Elvis stole "Hound Dog" from her! Part of the preparation for doing remote sessions was dealing with the Phone Company to set up a "Class A" phone line that had decent equalization.  Standard phone lines don't offer very good high-frequency characteristics.  There wasn't much response above 3-4 Kz with their standard equalization but the Class A line offered much better high-frequency response. This "equalized" line had to be ordered well in advance, then tested. Joe McGoey, the station owner,  wouldn't put up a dime for my time or equipment.  I bought everything.  This included an 8 channel Shure mixer, two line drivers (for the phone lines), microphones and mic cables, microphone stands, power cables, lights to see my mixer, a dual channel equalizer, and a small cabinet to house all of this equipment. The cabinet was only about two cubic feet because often there wasn't much space in the venue to work with. Where I could, I would set up a tape recorder, but tapes were hard to find.  I scrounged through the KFML basement and found other tapes there were unused or useless. I hoped that I hadn't over-recorded something useful. I also had to make the decisions about recording speeds and reel sizes.  Some tapes were at 3.75 ips, but most were at 7 ips.   Then there was always the task of adjusting recording levels at the same time the event was happening. Sound checks were few and far between, particularly with the larger groups.  It was mostly done "on the fly" during the musicians' tune ups. All in all, it was a rewarding process.  I got to hear great music from outstanding performers like Bonnie Raitt, and help preserve their music for the future.  There were, of course, great memories of working with the KFML staff and associates. As I recall more details, I'll send them to you....remember, this was more than 50 years ago!

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Kenny Weissberg
Deejay, Concert Promoter
KSAN staff
Tom Donahue
Deejay, Producer, Promoter
Raechel Donahue
Bob Fass
Thom Trunnell
Program Manager, Deejay
Bill Ashford
Deejay, Songwriter,
Musical Director

Bill Ashford by James Pagliasotti Bill Ashford is standing in front of the big oak consul in the living room, listening to show tunes, waving his arms to the rhythm of the music like a symphony orchestra conductor. When a voice came on at the end of the song, he realized a little man lived inside the radio and he thought it was a great place. Soon enough a time would come when Bill was the man in the radio. He still couldn’t think of a better place to be. He’s six years old but already for him the music is everything. His father is an Army General, so home is all over the place. One thing is consistent. The big oak consul and the music. And Bill conducting. Back to Fayetteville, North Carolina near where he was born. A teenager now, he starts hanging out on the sidewalk where the big glass window at the local radio station WFNC gives passersby a view of the deejay inside playing the tunes. Bill doesn’t pass by. He hangs out day after day and when he’s a little older night after night. Finally gets invited in. Made it. He’s 14 years old and soon has his own show! The die is cast. Bill will spend the rest of his life in radio. And spend it making the music matter. He does freeform radio in North Carolina, in Denver and Boulder, in San Francisco, in Denver again, and in Lake Tahoe. Then Denver again at KLAK, progressive country, and later a series of gigs in the Midwest. When the glory days are past, he does The Rock Garden from his home with his wife, Gail, in Florida, four hours live each evening and another twenty he programs and plays from the can on the internet. Back in the day, he knows the Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man, and he knows all the rest of the promo men, too. But he also knows the musicians, guys like Mick and Keith. They’ve done pop, rock, blues, some psychedelic music, Studio 54 disco. They’re doing country-tinged tunes these days, trying to crack that audience, too. “How can we get to the country and western market,” they ask him. “A good place to start,” he tells Mick, “would be to quit making fun of them.” Good advice for a guy who wrote Far Away Eyes, Sweet Virginia, Torn and Frayed, country flavored with a wry twist. Bill commands respect from everybody in the business because, like him or not, his shows are awesome. Nobody disagrees. Ask who does the best shows in the freeform era and you’ll hear a lot of different names, because all these folks took their music seriously and a lot of them did great work, but anyone who ever heard him on the air will tell you Bill Ashford is right up there with the best. Bill knows his music and he wants you to know it, too. As music director at a lot of important stations in the day, he built libraries that were essential to doing the shows these radio artists wanted to do. “The idea,” as Thom Trunnell said, “was to be in a room playing a tune and whatever song you wanted to play next, it was there where you could grab it and keep the mini-orgasm going.” Bill was the one who made that a reality. He was infamous for visiting folks, looking through their record collections, pulling out one or two albums and saying, “We need this for the library,” and confiscating the records. It was for the greater good, after all, and many of his victims would tell you they felt honored to have music that Bill wanted.

Gail Wilson Ashford
Sandy Phelps
Deejay, Musician
Tony Kilbert
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Jason Sherman
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Jerry Mills
Deejay, Musician

I came to radio in college working at their classical station that also aired special shows from National Educational Radio (now NPR) in those days like The Goon Show with Peter Sellers. That wet my appetite and then working at another college station one summer on the East Coast and doing a folk music program (and hearing WBAI) opened a 50 year door that hasn’t shut yet. KFML opened the flood gates to a whole new generation of music to Denver from radio people passionate about music - all kinds from roots music to rock ‘n’ roll. What I remember vividly is that we all turned each other on to that music we were personally close to and that eventually turned all our shows into a big ol’ buffet of cool music. I always leaned towards folk, bluegrass, blues, but listening to my fellow DJ’s, I started putting in R & B, English rock, and much more. We all ended up with more balanced shows and doing it with no playlists. Like a quarterback calling audibles. We did lots of interviews and had live music all the time at the station and I ended up touring and recording with several of those bands I interviewed, including The Nitty Gritty Dirt band, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Mason Williams, and Michael Martin Murphey. Got to play on several of Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jams, which were free form at its best. I followed James Brown one year. How could that happen? All because of KFML and interviewing Charlie and becoming friends. My experiences as a picker do influence my radio shows today. The talent pool is really deep and glad to air folks who have been ignored by tight playlisted stations. Still letting the music flow freely and lead the way just as we did back then. Born in Boston-moved to Colorado in 1967

Michael Muirhead
Chuck E. Weiss
Deejay, Band Leader, Club Owner, Music Historian

Fan notes to deejay Jamie Dell'Apa: Johanny Jackson (SF, CA) That was one of the finest radio broadcasts I've ever heard. Thanks Jamie, never have I heard you -- or anyone, actually -- wax more poetic about the magic of radio. Both in your spoken words and written posts. And then, as you do every week, create a musical radio masterpiece. I've been doing a pretty deep dive into radio history recently. The pioneers of the coolest medium there ever will be, you and we stand on their broad (casting) shoulders. They are all giving you the secret radio hand sign that can't be seen, of course. But it can be heard. And felt. The sign that sez "Good broadcast, kid. Keep it up." I second their emotion... From Dennis Roberts in London who wakes up every Sunday morning to hear the show and compare notes about our respective radio shows: I agree wholeheartedly with Johanny Jackson . . . . I have listened here a few years now and THAT was an exceptional show. I salute you from afar. Sally George sent a message... It’s autumn and dusk here in Sydney Australia listening to your show. Topsy Turvey thank you. Yr show tonight about ‘getting into ‘ radio was great. The people we wanted to be. I got it. I could ‘see’ you … You describe young so good - in all it’s enthusiasm and easily hurt to be then made strong … excellent. Dear Jamie Your shows are wonderful. I listen in my kitchen doing Sunday late afternoon And i dig yr level of ‘in’ my house - totally spot on. A part of my Sunday afternoon Good curated Radio is not overly  intimate but Close comforting and thoughtful. Place Youth Luck Reflection You are really good at your job as a radio DJ. Those old djs you loved would be proud and woulda listened in. Thanks Sally

Buffalo Chip
James Pagliasotti
Deejay, Journalist
Brian Kreizenbeck
Dan Fong
Harry Tuft
Deejay, Promoter, Musician
Ron Middag
Deejay, Producer
Scott Muni
Program Director, Deejay
Ken Kohl
Program Director
Jim Clancy
Deejay, Journalist, Newsman
Bobbin Beam
David Fenimore
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Bob Reitman
Marty Manning
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