By Mary McCaslin
Back in the 1970s, Jim Ringer and I lived in southern California. A friend visiting from the Bay Area mentioned that we were getting played on a radio station called KFAT in Gilroy. We had never heard of KFAT, but were thrilled to be included on the playlist of any radio station. As we discovered, KFAT was a one-of-a-kind radio station that played everything from Bobby Bare doing “Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goal Posts of Life” to the Silly Sisters (Maddie Prior and June Tabor) doing “The Gray Funnel Line.” Of course their play list included Waylon & Willie and the gang. Utah Phillips’ “Moose Turd Pie” was such a staple and so often requested that a Fat DJ finally took a chain saw to the record.
Gilbert Klein, former host of “Chewing the Fat,” has written “Fat Chance,” the long awaited story of the radio station that for a brief time gave us all hope and started the Americana format. As we all know, KPIG is the cultural descendent of the “Fat One,” and still gives us plenty of hope, but Americana is now part of the radio lexicon. As Gilbert points out, this was not always the case. When KFAT’s somewhat rag-tag sales staff (including “Buffalo Bob” Cassidy) attempted to sell ad time to national advertisers they could not define the format. No one had heard of the kind of musical mix that KFAT played and it was not possible to offer a definitive description of this revolutionary concept. So, the station suffered financially from the lack of high-end advertising.
Gilbert tells of the station’s very beginnings – the glimmer of an idea in the mind of Larry Yurdin and the battles that Laura Ellen Hopper and Jeremy Lansman endured to keep everything going. Originally, KFAT was a country station called KSND in the rural town of Gilroy before being purchased by Lorenzo Milam (author of “Sex And Broadcasting,” an odd, but classic tome), Jeremy and Laura. Lorenzo wanted nothing to do with the running of the station and left all the day-to-day decisions up to Jeremy and Laura.
Larry Yurdin was brought in and he had an idea for a unique style of programming that no one had tried. There were already free-form rock stations, but nothing like KFAT, which played artists from Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Flatt & Scruggs and Asleep at the Wheel to George Jones, Buck Owens, Bob Wills and Emmylou Harris. Of course, there was folk and country-blues in the format. Kate Wolf was often heard, as were Dave Van Ronk and David Bromberg. Popular local artists such as Jill Croston (later to become Lacy J. Dalton) and Larry Hosford were also played.
Probably the most unique band to be heard on the “Fat One” was Little Roger & the Goosebumps, who did a parody called “Stairway to Gilligan’s Island,” landing the station in trouble with Led Zeppelin’s lawyers, who appeared one day, demanding all of the copies of the Little Roger single. However, one had fallen behind a wall in the studio and was on the air soon after they left.
This book has so many great and funny stories, including a photo gallery, that it is impossible to chronicle them all here. “Fat Chance” is the perfect gift to start out the New Year for the Fathead in your life. It’s available through Amazon.
E-mail Mary McCaslin at firstname.lastname@example.org.