My Introduction to Underground Radio: KAAY – Little Rock, Arkansas

It was fifty years ago, but seems like a blink of an eye. I was home from college for the summer, making my getaway in dad’s car after working second shift as an amateur sand-blaster at Fairbanks-Morse Corporation. Twisting the radio knob as I pulled out of the parking lot, searching for my new favorite station, I heard the unmistakable strains of Sugar Loaf’s ‘Green-Eyed Lady.’ That’s the one! I yanked out the rightmost pushbutton, then shoved it back in, engaging the preset.  KAAY, an AM station broadcasting all the way into southern Wisconsin from Little Rock, Arkansas, came in loud and clear. The program, Beaker Street hosted by Clyde Clifford, was on the air.

Beaker Street began sometime in 1967, the brainchild of disc jockey Clyde Clifford, whose real name, Dale Seidenschwarz, was kept secret per KAAY station policy. When I first discovered the station around that time, I was still in high school. After a steady diet of top forty “hits” and fast-talking DJs, I was mesmerized by the mellow voice of Clifford and the loosely structured format of acid rock, folk rock, blues, jazz, and what later came to be known as progressive rock. The show was heard six nights a week, from 11 p.m. until 2 a.m.

ClydeClifford1970
Clyde Clifford at KAAY

It was on Beaker Street where I discovered artists like Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Albert King, Phil Ochs, East of Eden, Tom Rush, Grateful Dead, and Herbie Mann among many others, including Jaime Brockett singing about ‘The Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic’ and Deep Water Reunion covering the Tom Paxton ballad, ‘Cindy’s Crying.’ And what a pleasure it was to hear full versions of songs by familiar artists — versions not constrained by the three- or four-minute time limit so common on commercial radio then.

clyde
Cylde Clifford at KAAY

Thanks to the Internet Archive digital library, portions of some original Beaker Street programs have been preserved. Here you can listen to the first hour of a program originally broadcast on June 26, 1970:

The playlist for that first hour was:
Sugarloaf – ‘Green Eyed Lady’ (from Sugarloaf)
Sugarloaf – ‘The Train Kept a Rollin’ (Stroll On)’ (from Sugarloaf)
Temptations – ‘Ball of Confusion’ (7″ single)
East of Eden – ‘Xhorkom/Ramadhan/In the Snow For a Blow’ (from Snafu)
Flow – ‘Arlene’ (features Don Felder on guitar; from a now rare album, Flow, on CTI)
East of Eden – ‘Gum Arabic Confucious’ (from Snafu)
Grand Funk Railroad – ‘Hooked On Love’ (from Closer To Home)
MC5 – ‘Ramblin’ Rose’ (from Kick Out the Jams)
MC5 – ‘Kick Out the Jams’ (radio version uses “brothers and sisters” in place of  the opening expletive) (from Kick Out the Jams)
Bob Dylan – ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ (from Self Portrait)
John Hartford – ‘To Say’ (from Iron Mountain Depot)
The Amboy Dukes – ‘Prodigal Man’ (from Migration)
The Corporation – ‘India’ (from a now rare album, The Corporation on Capitol)

Most albums from which the tracks were selected are 1970 releases. Clyde was always on top of the latest music, but never hesitated to juxtapose an older, more popular song with one never before heard.

Clifford left Beaker Street and KAAY in 1974. By that time, FM had taken hold, and I was now listening to “underground” radio on Radio Free Madison, WIBA-FM from Madison, Wisconsin. Still, I missed the unique Beaker Street format. So it was sweet when, in the mid-90s, I learned that Beaker Street with Clyde Clifford had returned to the airwaves.

This time, Clyde was on every Sunday night from 7 p.m. until midnight, bouncing around first on KZLR (KZ-95), later on Magic 105.1 FM (KMJX), and finally ending up on The Point, 94.1 FM where Beaker Street lasted until 2011.  During that time the show was also streamed live, from its Beaker Street web site.

Recently, again thanks to the Internet Archive, I located a number of Beaker Street playlists from the years 1996 to 2000, which were published on the program’s web site at the time. Here’s a playlist for the first two hours of the program which was broadcast and streamed on January 9, 2000:

1-9-2000 BSPL
Beaker Street playlist: January 9, 2000

I was unable to locate recorded shows from the later years of Beaker Street. Instead, I’ve tried to re-create some of those playlists on Spotify, to provide an aural sense of what music Clyde put together for his five-hour programs. By necessity, I had to either substitute one song for another from the same artist, or skip some songs entirely because, in case you didn’t know it, Spotify doesn’t have everything. In fact, the tracks from Abraxas Pool and Gypsy in the example above weren’t available on Spotify. Neither were The Corporation and Flow from the 1970 playlist.

If you’d like to listen to Clyde Clifford’s (nearly) complete playlist from the January 9, 2000 Beaker Street, along with several playlists from his other 1996-2000 broadcasts, you must logon to Spotify.  Once there, simply enter “Beaker Street” in the Spotify search bar and scroll down to “Playlists.” Click on “See All” and you’ll see a couple dozen Beaker Street playlists by “joeybooks.”

kaay

You can listen to my radio show, Life Out of Tunes with Joey Books every Monday afternoon from 2 p.m until 4 p.m. Eastern (1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Central) on 103.3 Asheville FM, and stream it live at: http://www.ashevillefm.org. Happy listening!

 

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