I’ve been meaning to talk about this story I read over on Kuro5hin a couple weekends ago, the Birth of a label-sanctioned pirate radio station. I skimmed over the introductory paragraph at first, and then I realized the author was talking about KSHE 95!
I guess you had to grow up in St. Louis to understand the power of KSHE. It was the quintessential rock radio station, regularly playing rock that the other stations in St. Louis wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pool. Aphrodite’s Child, Brownsville Station, Foghat, Ozzy Osbourne, the list goes on and on. KSHE wasn’t afraid of playing the long songs either, like In-a-gadda-da-vida or Careful with that axe, Eugene. Every Sunday night KSHE played the Seventh Day, an entire album uncut and without commercials. It was heaven.
I feel a close connection to KSHE. I grew within spitting distance of KSHE’s studios, a crappy little house in Crestwood butted up next to the Route 66 Drive-In on Watson Road. This was about a mile from my house and I passed it almost everyday. To me the sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati was inspired by the story of KSHE, a small station turning from an easy listening format to progressive rock overnight, with a crazy collection of DJ’s and loonies running the place. That was KSHE.
KSHE’s mascot was a pig wearing shades and dangling a smoke from his lips. Sweet Meat showed up on everything, bumperstickers, frisbees, hats, t-shirts. KSHE still sells Sweet Meat stuff, but somewhere along the line he lost the cigarette.
I don’t listen to KSHE anymore. For a while they streamed audio over the internet, but that stopped several years ago. They moved from Crestwood ages ago too. Now they are located in Union Station in downtown St. Louis, and the Route 66 Drive-In is a Best Buy store with a mammoth parking lot. I’m not sure what they play these days, but I hope to God it’s still Real Rock Radio.
Somewhere in the late 80’s, the brand of rock that KSHE played became “Classic Rock.” Perhaps it was a sign of the times, or maybe just the maturation of the format, I don’t know. At the time it seemed like KSHE was relegated to playing nothing but Doobie Brothers and Creedence. My musical tastes were broadening, and I branched out to KDHX and the wild wooly world of community radio.
We got a rock station out here in Guam, eponymously called The Rock. It’s not bad, but it plays a too much new stuff instead of the rock I grew up listening too (a classic sign I am getting too old). Instead I spend most of my time listening to KPRG, Guam’s only public radio outlet, which plays a steady stream of jazz, folk, classical and alternative indie rock, along with a couple jammin’ shows that remind me of KSHE in its heyday.
Still, I occasionally find myself pining for the radio of my youth, KSHE 95 Real Rock Radio and the memories it evokes. The music was good and even back then I realized how special that radio station was. The only comparable connection I have to the music of my youth is to Streetside Records, which was the epitome of a record store to me and my generation. But that great store over by Webster University, less than a mile from my house and chock full of great music, closed down over a decade ago and moved to a generic strip mall store out in Crestwood. But I’ll save that for another day I guess.