Seattle Now & Then: KRAB – Listener-supported Free-form Radio

(click to enlarge photos)
NOTE PLEASE:  You may wish to check the comments (at the very bottom) for the growing list of names and ruminations connected with this picture.  Some others were sent to me directly, and I have encouraged those correspondents to also return to the blog and post them here.   I hope that is easy to do.

THEN: I have held this subject back for probably twenty years waiting for KRAB radio’s golden anniversary. I confess that I can no longer remember where I got it, but hope that with the wide circulation of the Times the photographer will come forward and be thanked again.
THEN: KRAB had four studios before it close down somewhat “accidentally’ in 1984. With the sale of its valued position at the commercial end of the FM dial (to the right), KRAB hoped to find another spot on the dial’s educational end (to the left.) And it did – but in Everett and with the new call letters KSER. Now you can stream it worldwide, which, of course, includes Seattle - still.

In the spring of 1962 Lorenzo Milam first visited this 32×20 foot hut at the southwest corner of 91st Street and Roosevelt Way. When the real estate agent asked $7,500 for what, he explained, was suitable for a barbershop but formerly a donut shop, Milam, envisioning a broadcasting tower, bought the corner for KRAB. By late December his shed was a FM radio station with a studio, which I remember – perhaps too ideally – was fitted with a single microphone at the center of a round table.
The listener-supported station’s creatively improvised transmitter both heated the place and excited listeners with diverse and “freeform” programing.   Some of those tuned in were quite young, like this feature’s weekly “repeater” Jean Sherrard.  Jean recalls, “I was nine or ten when I first listened to KRAB and it opened to me a world of art and music that I was eager to join.  KRAB was programed with great storytellers, and what was then called ethnic music but now more often world music.  KRAB was a marvel, an education in and of itself.”
Of the mix of twenty-three KRAB engineers, programmers and volunteers draping the station here, I recognize six including two one-time candidates for state offices as Republicans.  While both Tiny Freeman with the bowler hat and waving behind the fence, far right, and Richard Green also behind the fence, far left, and standing on an unseen dumpster, made it on the ballot, both were caricatural candidates running for the laughs. And both were wonderfully funny.
The giant Tiny, with his weekly show of Bluegrass music, also refined the art of “pledge night” so well that many listeners looked forward to those chances to support Tiny and the station.  With Bluegrass musicians crowding the KRAB table Tiny auctioned tunes to be played live for the highest bidders.
From the seed Lorenzo Milam planted with KRAB he ultimately earned the rubric “Johnny Appleseed for freeform radio.”  Milam had a prolific part in starting about forty noncommercial community radio stations across America.
Anything to add, Paul?
A few additions now and many more later – especially in the context of the weekly Helix insertions.  KRAB and HELIX did several benefits together, and Helix also reported on the station  and help promote some of its programs like (then not yet) novelist Tom Robbins popular program “Notes from the Underground.”
Here we will put up four details of the KRAB crew (part of it) posing above.  Then we will pull several  clips from The Seattle Times using the Seattle Public Libraries opening for key word (like KRAB RADIO) searches of that newspaper from 1900 (62 years before Krab got started) to 1985 (about the time KRAB transformed, in part, into an Everett-based listener-supported station with the call letters KSER.
With so many volunteers working its turn-tables and carrying-on in its studios the stories connection with KRAB are many.  We, however, will tell none  or hardly any on this occasion.  We may add them later.  And we hope readers will also share some of their own.    (There is also a facebook page devoted to KRAB.  I’ll get the link on Sunday – after breakfast. PAUSE  I am advised that if one goes to facebook and types KRAB into the the Facebook search it will pop up  – I am told.)
Used courtesy of the Post-Intelligencer Collection at the Museum of History and Industry, this is date 1963, and may have even been used in a story about the then still local novelty of a listener-supported station. We have not yet searched the P-I and there is as yet no key word service for it as there is with The Times.
Another P-I collection offering, this of KRAB founder Lorenzo Milam at the controls in 1963, the first full year of KRAB broadcasting.
When helping name the KRAB volunteers below you might refer to the “Identification” number.  There are only four of them.
Near the front door. Jon Gallant, U.W. genetics prof., is on the far right. (Jon was interviewed for this blog recently primarily on the subject of his writing Swiftian satire for HELIX.) Greg Palmer,  to the right of the post or above the mail box. After managing KRAB Greg went on to an admired career as the culture reporter of KING TV (in its “golden years”) and later still as a documentary producer for PBS.) Left of the post is Michael Wiater. This poet, painter, arts activist, and scientist now teaches at W.S.U.. Michael is partly responsible for my (PD) becoming attached to regional history first in 1971. 
Identification Detail No. 1
Far let and standing on something behind the KRAB fence, Richard Green then still future Republican candidate for the position of State Land Commissioner – in part because his name was Green, and the filing fee not so taxing.
Identification Detail No. 2
  Now right of the door through the fence and here also to the right of Jon Gallant are . . . Please help with this – won’t someone. Far right with the bowler if Tiny Freeman, another Republican candidate, and delightful Bluegrass disc jockey at KRAB. 
Identification Detail No. 3
 As yet none of these angels on high and on the roof have been identified.
Identification Detail No. 4
Follows now a few clippings pulled from The Seattle Times (for the most part) through the Seattle Public Library’s Key Word search of The Times twixt 1900 and 1985.  We will put in a few from the first year of operation.  Through the station’s 20-plus years there were, of course, the daily insertions of the local radio schedules, and much more. Ordinarily “KRAB” and “RADIO” are highlighted or marked in yellow.
April 14, 1962.
June 20, 1962
June 22, 1962
July 11, 1962
July 28, 1962
Dec. 22, 1962
Dec. 28, 1962
Jan. 2, 1963
Jan. 5, 1963
Feb. 6, 1963
March 28, 1963
April 21, 1963
May 12, 1963
Speeding several years forward to June 12, 1973, and please note the coincidental Ivar award.
Returning now to Lorenzo Milam at the controls in a P-I photo from 1963 followed by Lorenzo and several others on hand for the last day of KRAB – a story we will hold back on until we ask a few more questions and/or search the Times.
Lorenzo Milam in the KRAB control room from a Post-Intelligencer photo from 1963. (Courtesy the Museum of History and Industry)
Lorenzo Milam about 21 years later (we'll find the day date soon) in the KRAB studio (on Jackson Street near 23rd Ave.) for the last program of the last night for KRAB.
Lorenzo with, left to right, Marguerite Margason, Jon Gallant, Bob West and Phil Bannon on the last show.
Last program of last night now with Lorenzo right forground, Tiny Freeman over his shoulder, Libby Sinclair with her feet on the studio table, myself, and Marguerite Margason.
After the last show on the last night and pausing at the door, left-to-right, Gary Margason, Tiny Freeman, Lorenzo Milam, and Marguerite Margason.
Lorenzo Milam's last departure from the last program of the last day for KRAB (We will get the date later - and more.)
* Ron Edge, frequent contributor to this site, sends this link to several radio commentaries recorded off of or at KRAB.  Ron introduces his contribution with  a suggested that “They could have used a Yeti to good advantage at KRAB.”  But then probably we all could.  Here’s Ron’s link . . .

25 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: KRAB – Listener-supported Free-form Radio”

  1. Hi Paul, thanks for all the history you’ve put before us these past several decades.

    In ID#1 the guy directly behind the non-baby holding woman may be Greg Whitcomb (sp?).

    In ID#3 I, Phil Bannon am closest to the newly planted tree. The Asian guy may be Lim, Chu Pa.

    Also in ID#3 behind fence center (head between K & R) is ‘Captain Baltic’ whose actual name may be Nick Johnson(?) or Nick xxxxx?

    The No Parking sign was uprooted and turned 90 degrees by an un-named very large man 😉 just before the photo. You can see, by the paint line, it is still ~14″ out of the ground. The neighbors, some of whom thought all of us were ‘commies’, called the cops.

    I remember the photo, but not the date nor the reason so many of us were there that day.

    I recognize many of the people by sight, but my name recall circuits are faulty. If we all had part numbers I could be of much more help. I’ll pass this page to others who have better recall.


    1. Phil, I am not in this photo. But thanks for thinking
      of me. I did start at KRAB in 1973, though. I lived on
      NE 86th street, at 527.
      Gregg Whitcomb

  2. On photo #4, a detail of the larger photo which shows (approximately) 23 persons (including baby), this detail photo of persons on the roof of the old KRAB station, the tallest profile there is a picture of, I believe, the illustrious Gary (M?) Plumb(?), with his lovely lady, I believe, Pamela Plumb. Seems like Gary had a different last name. Anyway, they stayed in a house across the street from the radio station (secretly). {Now the secret is out!} Anyway, anyone from around there about 1968 ought to remember them. Hello Gallants!

  3. The leftmost angel on the roof looks almost certainly to be Tom Berghan, who later became Music Director and, even later, went on to many, many other things, all interesting and characteristic. A Renaissance man, all thanks to …. KRAB FM, without a doubt.

  4. Just got the word from Tiny Freeman’s daughter that he passed away today. I did the “Tiny Freeman School Of Broadcasting” at KRAB with him & Shirley Oberg in ’83 & sat in for him a few Saturday overnights. I may have to go have a glass of Vino Keeno or its equivalent at the J&M, where Tiny supplanted me as doorman in ’74….at least frigging Stan Paul won’t be there.

  5. I didn’t know there were other graduates of the Tiny Freeman school of Broadcasting. I had busted up my knee bad and was in a cast and I went to KRAB at the end and said I would clean toilets if I could just be around people and learn radio. Tiny Freeman obliged me and I stayed friends with him to the very end. My last contact was in early June 2013. I visited him at the VA and talked to him a lot at the Old Soldiers Home. I will miss him a lot. He and KRAB gave me a break and I got to work in radio in Alaska, Eastern Washington and Indiana. It was a good run and Tiny and his “school” helped make it happen. The year I volunteered was 1981.

  6. Hi,
    My father, William Hanson, was on the board of KRAB as the lawyer. He also did a weekly commentary. My sisters and I would go with him and listen while he talked. The egg carton sound proofing didn’t cut out all the street noise. Bill went on the be on the board of the Jack Straw Foundation and kept working with the studio space they set up. My father passed away in October 2012.

  7. KRAB was the greatest radio station to ever grace the airwaves, and to this day I lament its demise. Where else could one spend a few hours listening to the likes of Greg “Encyclopaedia” Whitcombe’s “Vintage Rock,” whence we taped from his mind boggling collection all the obscure classics we had no hope of finding anywhere else, followed by Dr. Robotnor’s cutting edge treatises on miniature footballs and tapeworm traps. Later on we could relax with the laid back insights of Nearly Normal Neil.
    To this day I play my precious tapes of Tom Stratman’s “Dolce Sonare” programs, learning something new with each repeat. “Krabgrass” so inspired me that in the years since that tragic final broadcast I have assembled a formidable collection of early bluegrass records. Before Krab, I knew absolutely nothing about this awe-inspiring music.
    There was always something for everyone on KRAB, from the Lesbian Astrologers’ Collective to gregorian chant. How tedious is the pre-packaged groupthink pap of today’s media by comparison!

  8. I was a devoted KRAB listener for the entire broadcast life of the station. I initially lived near the Roosevelt shack and later lived a few blocks south of the Jackson Street site when KRAB was there. I now live within the broadcast area of KSER. Sorry to hear about Tiny’s death.

  9. Hi Paul. Happy Holidays.
    Robert Horsley here. I did occasional programs on Krab, especially when I was involved at the Helix. Later did engineering shifts, ending in 1974-75 when I had Sunday evenings for a while.
    Anyway, I am picked to do a history entry on KRAB for the History Link website, a long overdue piece. I would love to be able to talk to you about this. Hope you can help me. I have been talking to Chuck Reinsch and have feelers out to many of the people who were part of the station.
    I can be reached at this email address – Also, My phone is 206-617-2017.

    Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.
    Robert Thomas Horsley

  10. I don’t see myself in this photo, although I did work at all three locations: here at the donut shop, at the fire station and also the place on Jackson.

    Gregg Whitcomb

    1. Mark Wheaton. Weren’t you in the band Chinas chinas Comidas? A CD I purchased very recently suggests so. This CD may have only recently been released.

    2. a big ‘air-gulp’ took place when I read your message Mark … hay there, it’s Patch … retired from everything and living in the desert just north of Tucson now … some of my fondest radio and road memories involve both bands, KRAB, and that completely wild time on tour in Los Angeles … hope you are well and happy … and, if you can, say hello to Brock for me …

  11. Yes I was in Chinas Comidas after I stopped working with Uncle Cookie. I moved to LA in 1980 with chinas and then began to work with another Seattle artist, Johanna Went.

    1. In case there are people following this post, who are not up to date on recent events, I am adding this: Radio Station KRAB was the dream of Lorenzo Milam. On July 19, 2020, Lorenzo at the age of 86 died at his home in Southern Mexico. Most Seattle media chose not to mention his passing, but he New York Times and Jesse Walker (author of “Rebels on the Air”) in Reason Magazine both featured good obituaries. There was an online wake/memorial/roast on Aug 15, attended by about 150 people, and many stories were shared. There will be more about this event on The KRAB Archive website.

  12. Gary Finholt took me up to KRAB in the 70’s. There I met Marguerite and Gary, Nancy Keith and others. Gary died April 6, 2020.

  13. Penelope, Finholt died last April? I’ve been looking for him since 2012, but had no luck with any of the leads I could find . . . . and now he’s gone?. I would really appreciate it if you could write to me at Gary always had a camera with him when I saw him at the station or at a KRAB event. I believe he is the one that took the photos of Tom Robbins and me in the KRAB control room and studio doing one of his Notes From the Underground. He anonymously left the photos in the mailbox for the Friday night engineer.

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