Don O. Has Been KNON's Blues Champion for 30 Years. Here's to 30 More
He was there when KNON broadcast out of an old house with no air conditioning and he's never been late for a single airshift (despite 20 miles of traffic each way). He's since been informally knighted as the KNON historian, and has maintained a simple and workable website on DFW Blues.
On October 20th he'll be the center of a big celebration for the mark and toast it with live blues, free BBQ, and cake at Poor David's Pub. Hopefully, Don will follow that with another 30 years of keeping Freddie King on the radio. Don tells all this better than anyone can, so the floor is his. Happy 30th from DC9, Don.
30 years at KNON! Paint the picture of that world back on the day of your first show.
Well that was in August of 1983. I had a co-host named Joan back then, and we showed up at the beat-up old house in east Dallas that used to be the KNON studio. It was on the second floor, literally in an old closet. It was hot as hell, and the equipment barely worked. We were following Groovey Joe Poovey who was doing a country show. He had only been on air a few weeks himself but he showed us a few switches and knobs. Then he was out the door and gone.
That was your on-air training??
That was our training. Two minutes of "flip this switch, turn this knob, and push this button." Then it was basically sink or swim. We dogpaddled a bit, but it wasn't too different than a home stereo on steroids. Only my stereo at home worked a lot better than that junk. The trick was jumping from turntable to turntable and getting in the rhythm of doing a show. Remember it was all LPs and 45s back then. Every now and then some thoughtful listener would call in and remind us to turn the microphone off.
Ah, community radio at its finest! We had no clue what we were doing, we just loved blues and felt it needed to be on the radio. I probably still don't have a clue, but I'm still there for the same reason.
Are you the current resident KNON historian? That's the rumor.
Due to my long tenure, the board of directors asked me to put together a short history of the station to help celebrate the station's 30th anniversary of broadcasting in late July. I had all the old newsletters, station schedules, and other debris of 30 years at KNON. I scanned everything and put it up online as the KNON online history museum. Here it is: http://knonhistory.blogspot.com/
I was up there at KNON recently. How old are the vinyl racks in there?
The cabinets and racks we have now were custom built by volunteers when we moved into our new studio back in 2004. The interesting thing is that whoever built the LP racks did not make them tall enough to stand an LP in. So typical of KNON. You just can't make this stuff up. We actually de-commissioned all the blues LPs a year or so later because there was no way to store them vertically. There is still a lot of vinyl laying around in those bins, but most of it is pretty trashed. The LP racks at the old studio were built into the walls and stayed in place when we left. Well, maybe not in place, I think a few of them actually collapsed when we took the records out.
And the turntables at KNON...it would seem to be a BYOS situation nowadays..."Bring Your Own Stylus"?
True. Everytime we install a new cartridge some idiot breaks the needle off. There are really only a handful of hardcore vinyl fans at the station anymore and we have all learned to bring our own cartridge. However most of us also digitize vinyl at home, dump them to wav files, then burn a disc. Nothing beats the sound of vinyl, though, and sometimes you just have to go old school.