The KRAB Archive
Notes From The Underground, with Tom Robbins
During the early years, "rock and roll" was not welcome on KRAB. There were so many other stations playing it, why would KRAB want to devote time to it? There were occasional exceptions, but they were infrequent: The first album by Pearls Before Swine, for some reason, was an exception. And, I remember a panel discussion about the substance of Beatle's lyrics, during which there was an extended explication of "Yesterday" with an almost surgical interpretation of "Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be". Harrison Ryker was Music Director then. Eventually there was a Beatles marathon. But Rory Funke still got into trouble when one night he had a wildcat rock show after normal sign off. But by late 1966 the dam had burst.
Tom Robbins is a writer, art and cultural critic, and raconteur extraordinaire. In addition to ten novels, he was published in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Seattle Magazine, Helix, and elsewhere. And, he had a late night show on KRAB.
Notes From the Underground was not the first “underground” rock show in the country. I doubt it was even the first in Seattle (John Chambless and John Cunnick were both down at KOL-FM during this same period), but Tom’s range of interests and infectious excitement about the times we were living made his show special. Here his immunity to commercial censorship let him say just about anything, and he did, whether it was reading from the Berkeley Barb, the LA Free Press, the Voice, answering letters, or giving advice to the young about being responsible with drugs…..and sex.
Looking at the program guides available, the earliest of Tom’s Notes From the Underground (NFTU) was in the Spring of 1967, which makes sense to anyone that experienced that particular Spring. I was graduating from high school and engineering/announcing on Friday nights. Although NFTU was always scheduled in the guide for broadcast on Sundays, Tom frequently recorded it in advance, on Friday, usually after we had ended our normal broadcast for the day. Sometimes we pretended to sign off, only to come back on a few minutes later with a treat for anyone that stayed with us, or that knew he would be recording. I’m not sure Tom ever knew that he was live on Fridays, as I never told him. I did not engineer all the shows, probably no more than 6 or 7.
Our musical tastes, at least for this show, seemed to mesh, but once I might have gone too far when he wanted to feature a new group called The Doors and I kept playing another new group called Cream. (“Tales of Brave Ulysses” had recently been released, so I had earlier that week bought their first album Fresh Cream) On the other hand, I could never accept his rationalizations for playing Moby Grape or the BeeGees.
The photos are probably not from the July 7 recording session. Whenever they were taken, a week or two later I found them in the traffic slot for Friday night programs. There was no note. It is likely that Gary Finholt was the photographer, to whom I am very grateful. That’s Tom in vest and starburst pendant, and me in the black turtleneck.
As best I have been able to determine, there is only one surviving tape of NFTU, recorded Friday July 7, 1967 and broadcast Sunday July 9. Dates on tape labels were misleading, as more often than not, the tapes were recycled week after week. I’m not going to go into details, but the July 7 program was special, and the tape had to be saved-goddamnit!
Recording collection of C Reinsch, with thanks to L Burke for preserving it
John Cunnick seems to have taken over the Sunday slot sometime before February 1968.
The image at the top of this page comes from the Chief Seattle Flower Potlatch edition of the Helix, which, since the front cover contains an announcement that on April 30th "a group of spiritual indians will gather in volunteer park to offer to take America back from those that have mismanaged it so thoroughly......" I believe to have been published in mid-April 1967. I went to that "be-in". There was a lot of bubble blowing.
Here's one more item from Helix - this one Vol 1 Nbr 7 in July 1967:
Tom talks about Notes from the Underground and KRAB - May 18, 2016
Last Wednesday, Tom Robbins appeared at Town Hall Seattle for a fund raising event for KPLU. He spoke a bit about KRAB and then read from "Distractions", chapter 28 of Tibetan Peach Pie, about KRAB and Notes from the Underground. We are hoping to eventually have audio. For now, here are a couple of text excerpts.
"As if I didn't have enough distractions, I agreed in late 1966 to host a weekly show on KRAB-FM, one of the first listener-supported radio stations in the nation. Called, with a nod to Dostoyevsky, Notes From the Underground, the show aired at ten o'clock on Sunday nights, a less than ideal spot for a broadcast; the signal, outside the greater Seattle area, was as weak as baby bird farts; and my voice, as previously stated, was so flat it made that faux "Uncle Sam" sound like Beyoncé. Nevertheless, Notes From the Underground had devoted listeners from the start, primarily because it dealt in a positive, even celebratory manner with the three basic food groups of the era: sex, drugs, and rock and roll."
"Skating on ice just barely thick enough to keep from plunging the worried station into the punitive waters of the FCC, I delivered audacious bits (often culled from underground newspapers) on such timely topics as civil rights, war resistance, ecology, abortion, police brutality, political corruption, consciousness-expanding chemicals, and alternative lifestyles. Mostly, however, I played recorded music, the new music shunned by commercial stations from coast to coast."