KRAB-FM was the first station in what would become known as the “KRAB Nebula” of community stations that sprouted up around the U.S. in the 1960s and 70s. These 14 stations shared a common parentage in Lorenzo Milam, who helped found them, beginning with KRAB.
First hitting the Seattle airwaves on December 12, 1962, KRAB was the first community radio stations outside the Pacifica Network, which had three stations at the time. The station operated as a central resource to its home city’s counterculture for a little more than 22 years until internal conflicts, financial pressures and the increasing market value of its frequency, situated at 107.7 FM in the commercial band, led to its last broadcast on April 15, 1984 with the sale of the license.
However, the station left a strong and lasting legacy on the city of Seattle and broadcasting. That history is being compiled and shared at the KRAB Archive, which is the work of archivist/historian Chuck Reinsch, who worked at the station on and off through most of its time on air. The growing archive contains some 384 hours of audio, including appearances from known personalities like author Tom Robbins, who hosted the late-night “Notes from the Underground” in the late 60s, poetry, radio theater, commentaries and public affairs, as well as music programming from blues to “ethnic music.” On the text side of things, there are scans of 300 printed program guides from 1963 all the way up to the last guide issued in April 1984. There is plenty of other historical documentation, including photos of “KRAB People” and various kinds of ephemera.
It’s a truly remarkable record of community radio that is nearly unparalleled on the internet. Reinsch has also compiled quite a nice online reading list that could serve as the foundation of a independent study syllabus for anyone interested in learning about not just the rich history of community radio, but much of its theory, aspirations, praxis and practice.
I could spend days listening to artifacts like “Jeremy’s Classic Tape: I told you I love you, now get your finger out of my ear” from 1965, or the Robotonour Hours, while imaging myself perhaps as a sleepless 1960s or 1970s teenager scanning the dial long after bed time until the wee hours. It’s the kind of radio that as a teen I’d seen depicted on late night TV movies in the 1980s but never heard for myself until my family moved from the Jersey Shore to northern New Jersey–closer to New York City, and stations like WFMU and WSOU–in 1988.
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