30 years of KJHK: Redux by Jim Schwada

I was involved with KJHK from 1978 to 1981. I was approached by the then-music director who heard I had an interest in reggae music, and ended up doing a six-hour reggae and blues program, "The Soul Shakedown Party," as well as several shifts a week on "Good Morning And All That Jazz." For a time I was assistant music director myself, and it was fun to find some old reviews I'd written still affixed to albums in the music library on my last visit to the station.

It was a fertile time musically - punk had broken in America, the "new wave" was cresting. We played The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Blondie, Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, and other lesser-knowns of that ilk. Music you just couldn't hear anywhere else in the Midwest. The KJHK connection also brought much good live music to Lawrence, especially to the old Lawrence Opera House, who presented XTC, The Cramps, The Police, Stevie Ray Vaughn and many others based on our recommendations.

Some of my best memories were the times I interviewed my heroes on the air, most notably author William S. Burroughs and poet Allen Ginsburg, who came to town in 1980 for the first reading they'd done together in years. Though my cassette copy of the interview is long lost, I still recall the pride I felt when the big daddy of beat poets told me he thought I was "well read!"

Although some of my colleagues went on the pursue careers in radio, the majority were music enthusiasts who really wanted their peers to hear sounds they loved. I think of Steve Greenwood, who was as dedicated to KJHK as a taste-maker as anyone before, or I'll wager, since. Years after I left KU I would read in the local press about his opposition to attempts to make the station more of a traditional structured lab for a radio career. At last year's reunion I found it ironic that the station is now a student organization operated by the KU Memorial Unions, and more like it had been during my tenure. Steve is no longer with us, but he'd like that, I think. All in all, my time at KJHK and friends I made there are among my most treasured memories. That and the steak and gravy at The Red Lion, but that's another story.

Jim Schwada lives in Chicago.


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