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Thread: Radio Free Hawaii

  1. #1
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    Arrow Radio Free Hawaii

    On June 1, 1991 (13 years ago) Radio Free Hawaii made its debut on Hawaii's airwaves to the delight of many listeners and consternation of others and some industry types. The station as many know derived its weekly playlist from listener votes which as Slick Vic mentioned in another thread, resulted in the station having "no format". These guys played everything from rock, rap and pop to classical, Hawaiian, jazz and country all within the same hour of its 24-7 broadcast day.

    Radio Free Hawaii struggled in the ratings (they never subscribed to Arbitron) and as a result never made money even though they seemed to have the support of many people. No ratings, no money = serious cash flow problems. By late 1994 the station was off the air, replaced by a classic rock format for a few months before returning in April of 1995 and lasting for nearly 2 years before the station owner sold the facility to another company.

    Folks, it's been 7 years since Radio Free Hawaii went off the air. I am sure some of you may have some memories to share about the "Radio Revolution" which never caught on as an industry wide thing.

    This is the place to share that memory.
    I'm still here. Are you?

  2. #2

    Smile Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    I remember that radio station with great fondness. Aaah, my high school & early college years. I went to the Big Mele concert twice at Kualoa Ranch and once at Andrew's Amphitheater. Never been to concerts like that ever since Radio Free went off the air. When Radio Free left, I realized that I was grossly unaware of the mainstream music scene. I wish we had a station like that again.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Where to begin...a sales person who worked with us once said that someone should make a movie about Radio Free Hawaii (concept, persons, et al) because it was one outrageous event after another, even before we launched in June of 1991.

    I remember setting up ballot boxes around Oahu and on Maui a month before we went on the air, before we had any proof that a format was in existance. I got us into a TCBY-chain (probably why Cary H. wanted me to go into sales!).

    From the unpredictable weekly playlist, Unchain the DJ, Dark Horse weeks, Big Mele, live broadcasts from the Garage on Waimalu, flying to Casanova's in Makawao for a 'club night', the truly unafraid (creative) On-air staff...there was alot of living in those brief years!

    Luckily I've been able to keep in contact with a few of the jocks over the years and if you're curious where there are now, I might be able to fill you in.

    Thanks for letting me rant,

    Kathy

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Kathy! Howzit! Awesome to see you've found us. I can only imagine the tales you could tell... and hope you will!

    Luckily I've been able to keep in contact with a few of the jocks over the years and if you're curious where there are now, I might be able to fill you in.
    We're absolutely going to hold you to that offer! The whereabouts of many of RFH's unforgettable radio personalities is a frequent topic of conversation.

    RFH has quite an impact on many people, an impact completely disproportionate to the commercially-slanted ratings reported for it. I just moved, and I found my old "barbed wire" RFH T-shirt... and realized I've never felt the same way about a radio station since. It was something else.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    I still have my 2 RFH T-shirts.. don't know if they fit me now. I also have RFH stickers, a rather large collection of nearly all the Top 36 surveys, tapes I recorded from the station, and er.. one tape of me being guest DJ on the station too... oh boy.

    BTW, Kathy w/a K wins it for me as having the BEST avatar on this board!!! Love the pouncing kitten.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Mad Mohammad is still here in Honolulu. Married with three keiki, he's one of those guys that does EPA-certification (is that right?). He's a really upbeat, positive cat that enjoyed taking the opposite side of whatever the discussion was on his night show.

    Interestingly, he was on the air with Radio Free for less than a year, right. Good guy, that Mohammad

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    I work with Shawn "Speedy" Lopes at the Star-Bulletin.

    I still lament the demise of Radio Free Hawaii. That was a great station that I listened to religiously (in addition to KTUH). Those two stations were the only places to hear music that wasn't in an endless loop nor crassly commercial.

    I agree with cat75 that after the station disappeared there haven't been many great shows here in Hawaii. It's a sad state of affairs.

  8. #8

    Cool Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Interestingly, he was on the air with Radio Free for less than a year, right. Good guy, that Mohammad [/QUOTE]

    Yup, good ol' Mo!

    He during a very brief period in 1991, am I dating myself?, held the distinction of being he only DJ/talk show host to have shows on three different radio stations simultaneously. The the stations were of course were KTUH, Radio Free and K-108. You just couldn't get away from the guy! hehe.

    And there's you Kathy........we would catch each others eyes in clubs like the old Pinks Garage for years before we got to know each other.

    talofa.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by Etoain Shrdlu
    And there's you Kathy........we would catch each others eyes in clubs like the old Pinks Garage for years before we got to know each other.
    ...and each generation has a club scene to reference. How about Eggplant, CD Cafe, Pink Cadillac, the Back Door or even the Kodak building (Skankin' Pickle was amazing there)? Were any of them legal and up-to-code?

  10. #10

    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by Kathy w/a "K"
    ...and each generation has a club scene to reference. How about Eggplant, CD Cafe, Pink Cadillac, the Back Door or even the Kodak building (Skankin' Pickle was amazing there)? Were any of them legal and up-to-code?
    Guy Brandwin's "My Favorite Eggplant" and Laura Wong's CD Cafe. I remember them well. I recall the cops showing up on the final night of the CD Cafe. Kids packed the balcony, flowed down the staircase and out on to the street. I was lucky to even get a Heineken from the bar that night. Ended up screaming "Attica, Attica!" from that balcony as "the man" confronted Laura downstairs about shutting whole thing down immediately.

    Those were the days my friend. Honolulu is he poorer for the lack of people like Guy and Laura and their digs-Has it really been ten years?

    Talofa

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Whoa Nelly, Kodak building? That's a blast from the past. And if memory serves (and I have very little left) I think I saw Angel'In Heavy Syrup (a regular play on my show) at Eggplant (or was it somewhere else? I have recollections of sitting on concrete three feet away from the band, BYOB, and loving every minute - their cover of "I Got You Babe" is historical).

  12. #12

    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by dick
    Whoa Nelly, Kodak building? That's a blast from the past. And if memory serves (and I have very little left) I think I saw Angel'In Heavy Syrup (a regular play on my show) at Eggplant (or was it somewhere else? I have recollections of sitting on concrete three feet away from the band, BYOB, and loving every minute - their cover of "I Got You Babe" is historical).
    That Angels in Heavy Syrup gig was at the Eggplant!

    Talofa

  13. #13

    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by Etoain Shrdlu
    That Angels in Heavy Syrup gig was at the Eggplant!

    Talofa
    and that's a sure sign you shopped at Guy's counter! Funny...I would have started with more mainstream fare like Shonen Knife or even Jesus Lizard (After Dark?)...what was the name of that coffeeshop on Kapahulu? nr Pyramids? or is it now where Pyramids is

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Hmmm.... Kapahulu... coffee... (as he digs for a moment of clarity)... I recall JavaJava. Wasn't the Lizard Loft somehow related?

  15. #15

    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by dick
    Hmmm.... Kapahulu... coffee... (as he digs for a moment of clarity)... I recall JavaJava. Wasn't the Lizard Loft somehow related?
    Sounds right. Revolution Cafe existed briefly where Auntie Pasto's was on Kapahulu.

    The owners of such establishments must be commended along with the bands that went out to perform there. Anna Bannana's, Wave Waikiki, Moose's are the very few...until recently, even Jaron's in Kailua...held interesting gigs/shows that would feature original music and a few decent cover bands.

    Where do the bands and dj's cut their respective teeth now-a-days? Anybody I should cut curfew for ?

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Okay when you talk of Anna Bananas, you gotta go back to the early 80's when The Pagen Babies played there nightly. I remember when the Kodak building was...the Kodak Building where you dropped off your film to be developed.

    What was that night club across Cilly's where that Condo now sits (also the original site of KC Drive-In) It had something to do with tomatoes.

    But Radio Free Hawaii. I remember when it started and the question around the water cooler was simply this: Who's gonna fund this radio station?

    When KHNR first went on the air I worked there on Richard Street and it was Tom Gentry that financed it's daily operations at a loss, then he had that accident with his power boat and everything changed slowly thereafter.

    Unless the listeners donate, get government or private funding or there's advertising I can't imagine how a radio station could last very long.

    How did Radio Free Hawaii stay on for as long as it did?

  17. #17

    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by craigwatanabe
    What was that night club across Cilly's where that Condo now sits (also the original site of KC Drive-In) It had something to do with tomatoes...

    ...How did Radio Free Hawaii stay on for as long as it did?
    Re: Club across Cilly's...I recall Masquerades (dance/top 40) in the front lot and Phaze (alternative dance/electronica) in the back, separated by an open courtyard. A fake i.d. got me some dance time in there

    Re: RFHawaii staying on the air...the first stretch I really thought it was due to the advertisers and the shows we were connected with. Of course, I'm still quite naive when it comes to how much things really cost.

    The second coming of RFHawaii was thanks in (large) part to an Adam Levy; I understood him to be the owner/president of Worlock Records based on the East coast. That was for the initial year on though I don't know the true terms of that dealie, I was just surprised, stoked and shocked that the format was going to get a second shot.

    You know that movie/book "Pet Sematary", where things come back and it's just not the same?...it kind of felt like that

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    interesting comparison but you're right sequels never get it quite right. Too bad, good concept but...maybe if the station declared itself an endangered species and get federal grant monies to operate for survival...hmmm there's got to be an angle in there somewhere to broadcast as a 24-hour public service station with music as the PSAs as we all know there's a message in every song out there...except disco, still couldn't find the message, only the action, "push push in the bush".

  19. #19

    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by craigwatanabe
    i...maybe if the station declared itself an endangered species and get federal grant monies to operate for survival...hmmm there's got to be an angle in there somewhere to broadcast as a 24-hour public service station with music as the PSAs...
    Though the station had some blocked-programming (Ska Show, Punkaholic Session, Reggae hosted by Kimo the Baldhead at the Controls, Guest DJ's, etc) and even an Explicit Zone (where disclaimers ran overnight to bookend the FCC-deemed sort of ok time to run 'bleeping bleep filth n flarn and filth' filled music), the charm was that RFH had some kind of music rotation.

    We had music clocks to show us when to play our version of Powers and what have you, spot blocks (!)...we had advertisers! I still reel when I think that people bought ads on our dial! Bless em all!

    ...that's what I thought was unique. College stations have, for the most part, segments of genre-driven shows; Public radio, again 'themed' hours. Good stuff all the way around.

    Hmm, maybe the eclectic mix of ALL music was too much for some; that was the point of the ballot system, to get input of the songs/artists for the station, not just for a couple of hours. The hour(s) devoted to a style of music, again, was put on a ballot then voted on, majority ruled. When that became too much, it'd go up on the ballot to be voted on whether to continue or not.

    There was a measure of logic in the chaos that was broadcast, for sure...

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    I remember the color wheels, you'd start the top of the hour with a power song with a red dot and work thru the colors; orange, yellow then hit the blues at the bottom of the hour and work your way back up with a good mix up to the top of the next hour.

    Each cart would be color-coded and the general rule was that when you finished playing a song, that cart would go back on the rack upside down so you'd know that you played that song already for that hour. At the end of that hour, the gopher would flip the carts over for the next hour.

    Yeah, "slamming carts" I remember that phrase all too well when the cart machines wouldn't accept a cart so you'd slam it in the slot thinking that would solve the problem.

    Alas, now it's "F9" or that red button in the middle of the console to start that next spot block right Kathy? Now days you cannot use that cliche, "up on deck" cuz their ain't no deck to lay your upcoming music carts on.

  21. #21

    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Folks, it's been 7 years since Radio Free Hawaii went off the air. I am sure some of you may have some memories to share about the "Radio Revolution" which never caught on as an industry wide thing. This is the place to share that memory.
    My memory is of my Program Director stealing almost all of the ballots from the stores and 5 of us sat around writing down songs that absolutely sucked, knowing that the pinheads would play it. Sure enough they did play it and thought that they were revolutionizing radio by playing what the underground masses wanted to hear. When really the first month or so of RAdio Free Hawaii was programmed by other stations jocks (a fact unknown to this day) every song that we wrote down was played..."Flying Purple people eaters" etc.

    We stopped the station in it's tracks, it was one of the best guerilla tactic moves I have been involved in. We stole almost 90% of all ballots, it was a group effort, then we would sit around the radio with a pizza and beers and laugh our asses off.

  22. #22

    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    My memory is of my Program Director stealing almost all of the ballots from the stores and 5 of us sat around writing down songs that absolutely sucked, knowing that the pinheads would play it. Sure enough they did play it and thought that they were revolutionizing radio by playing what the underground masses wanted to hear. When really the first month or so of RAdio Free Hawaii was programmed by other stations jocks (a fact unknown to this day) every song that we wrote down was played..."Flying Purple people eaters" etc.

    We stopped the station in it's tracks, it was one of the best guerilla tactic moves I have been involved in. We stole almost 90% of all ballots, it was a group effort, then we would sit around the radio with a pizza and beers and laugh our asses off.
    Well, I appreciated your contribution(s) to the music rotation! See, proof that Norm (and many other persons) read and counted each ballot collected!

    I spoke to a co-worker about incidents like what you wrote about and it sounded like there really was more fun happening at our station than at yours
    Last edited by Kathy w/a "K"; August 7th, 2004 at 01:43 PM.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    No matter what happens to any radio station, I think for sure it has made an impact on people when they can still talk about it long after its gone from the air. Radio Free Hawaii like several other radio stations that have either come before (1380 KPOI) or after it (99.5 FM The Breeze), have made an impression on people. In the end, I think it is good for us to remember these radio stations.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by craigwatanabe
    Okay when you talk of Anna Bananas, you gotta go back to the early 80's when The Pagen Babies played there nightly. I remember when the Kodak building was...the Kodak Building where you dropped off your film to be developed. What was that night club across Cilly's where that Condo now sits (also the original site of KC Drive-In) It had something to do with tomatoes.
    That club was called The Stuffed Tomato. Don't ask why or how I remember THAT!!!

  25. #25

    Default Re: Radio Free Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by mel
    No matter what happens to any radio station, I think for sure it has made an impact on people when they can still talk about it long after its gone from the air....In the end, I think it is good for us to remember these radio stations.
    So, which radio station(s) is generating 'passion' for themselves? Is there a dial that you tend to listen to because it Moves you

    When I listen to the radio, it's like I'm observing rather than enjoying - once in awhile I hear something that makes me go "A-Ha! that's clever/funny/unique"...and reminds me why I love Radio in general!

    You manage to remain unbiased all the way around and that in itself is Refreshing

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