|The medium of radio has always played a big part in my life. I was always fascinated by the
stories of my grandmother Gwen, who would talk to me about the significance of radio in her
life as a young women living on a farm in Northern Utah in the 1920's. Specifically, I enjoyed
the story she told me of sitting with her college girlfriends on the hood of a car, waiting and
listening for the first coast to coast radio broadcast ever made. Even 60 years after the event
you could read importance of that occasion in her eyes.
I became conscious of the significance of radio when I was a young boy of about 8 or 9 years
old when I would listen to our local AM Rock stations from my bedside clock-radio. Those
were the days of Wolfman Jack, KSRP AM (Salt Lake City), and KCPX AM (Salt Lake City).
More than any other medium radio gave me a sense of the bigger world that existed outside
of what I knew. Few things are more nostalgic to me than the sounds of that era; i.e., Paul
McCartney's "Live and Let Die," David Bowie's "Fame," Chicago's "Make Me Smile," and Elton
John's "Bennie and The Jets."
Throughout the years I've been drawn to radio and the unique world it encompasses. Unlike
television, radio created a world I felt able to enter and make my own. Television is a medium
which merely spoon-feeds it's audience, whereas radio allows one room for creative
interpretation when entering it's realm. I feel blessed to have internalized this concept at an
early age, and to have had it's influence as a part of my life throughout my youth.
As times changed, so did the influence of radio upon me. In the early 1980's there was an
emergence of "New Wave" radio, which exposed ever bigger audiences to the music coming
out of England and the larger urban areas of the U.S.. Additionally, we in Salt Lake City were
lucky enough to claim one of the most progressive and influential public, community radio
stations in the nation (KRCL 90.9 FM). KRCL's emphasis on true punk and reggae formats
was an influence in this town that cannot be underestimated. KRCL remains a station fast
set in the minds of some of the most important alternative bands and artists of the era (i.e.
Steel Pulse, Jimmy Cliff, X, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, et al). These are the radio entities
that had sway over me during the early to mid-1980's. Although these formats may no longer
appear extraordinary or unique, at the time, they gave me a special sense, not only of the
further possibilities of music, but of the opportunities of the wider world that might exist
outside the realm of my own youthful existence.
While radio mainly served the musical interests of my youth, I was also interested and aware
of the world of talk radio. During the 1970's and 1980's there existed a federal law here in
the U.S. referred to as the "Fairness Doctrine," which stifled the small but emerging world of
talk radio by limiting the format to "unbiased, bipartisan" commentary (or at least requiring
equal time be given to opposing viewpoints). We therefore had to put up with the talk radio
equivalent of unsweetened porridge. Anyone remember Larry King and Sally Jesse Rafael
dominating the talk radio of the 1980's? Unfortunately I do. Well, the so called "Fairness"
Doctrine was thankfully done away with in 1988, and initiated a grand new era for radio.
This was the year Rush Limbaugh began his program of proud, clearly stated conservative
commentary. While critics scoffed and dismissed this programming, continuing to claim that
"mainstream" radio was unaffected and without bias, and therefore somehow more
legitimate, Rush Limbaugh began amassing numbers of listeners and affiliate stations
unknown to radio previously.
Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Rush Limbaugh, radio, and it's significance as a media
vehicle, would now be unrecognizable to the listeners of the 1980's. Radio continues to serve
as an important outlet for the voices of those outside the formerly dominant media worlds of
Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Washington beltway. Others have followed Rush in
continuing the evolution of modern radio formats; some successful, some not. This has been
an effort for which I'm immensely grateful. Personalities as diverse as Howard Stern, Tom
Lykas, Jim Rome, Michael Savage, and Michael Medved have now exposed us all to a
bountiful world of communication still only hinting at it's ultimate potential.