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The Radio Radical

Any night but Thursday, Bob Fass likes to wait until after twelve o'clock, after his wife, Lynnie, has gone to sleep, and then drive his banged-up old Chrysler from his house, in Staten Island, to Manhattan, where he bombs up and down the avenues, imagining the radio show he might be doing. For nearly five decades, the hours before dawn have been Fass's prime time. He's an all-night radio man, a shy hulking fellow, round-shouldered and fleshy, with a few remaining strands of hair pulled back in a thin ponytail.

So begins my piece in this week's New Yorker magazine, a story about a revolutionary figure in the history of radio and a pioneer of the American counterculture in the 1960s. Bob Fass's story appears in greater detail in a book I've written, which will be published in a few weeks.

To hear a podcast in which I talk about Fass and introduce clips from his show, "Radio Unnameable," visit the New Yorker's web site here. There are two audio programs available, a short version with a basic introduction to Fass, and for those who'd like to hear him in all his 1960s glory, including a lengthy and quite fascinating session he had with a very young Bob Dylan, there's a 90-minute version on the same page.

The Fass piece is based on a chapter in my book, "Something in the Air," which will be published by Random House. The book tells the story of how radio reacted when TV came along and swept away the programming that had made radio the nation's first great mass medium. It's a story about how old media adapt when new technologies burst onto the scene, but it's also the story of some of the extraordinary characters who filled the vacuum by daring to play to a particular generation--that is, by breaking taboos and barriers and playing rock and "race" records for young people.

There are lots of Washington characters in the book, from XM Satellite Radio's programming guru, Lee Abrams, to Hal Jackson, the pioneering black deejay and sportscaster who played a key role in very early civil rights actions in the District, as well as WJFK's Don Geronimo, National Public Radio's Robert Siegel and former Orioles play by play man Jon Miller. In a few weeks, I'll be online here on the big site to discuss the book and what I've learned about radio's role in the evolution of American popular culture.

By Marc Fisher |  November 30, 2006; 7:42 AM ET
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I recently became obsessed with the 2-3 years that Murray the K spent in exile in Bethesda, MD in-between leaving his influential "Fifth Beatle" slot and returning to New York triumphantly as the poster boy of 1972 50s Nostalgia (as Grease ruled Broadway and American Graffitti was in pre-production). Any material on Mr. TheK or particularly the years he spent in Bethesda?

Posted by: Don | November 30, 2006 9:41 AM

Well, it has now been three weeks since the Washington Post has been delivered to my house. The delivery subcontractor still does not acknowledge or return phone calls, and apparently the Washington Post doesn't really care.

Do not bother subscribing to the Washington Post if you live in Lexington Park, MD.

Don't waste your money paying for a product not delivered.

Posted by: Don't Bother | November 30, 2006 9:48 AM

Murray the K in Bethesda!! That must have been just before my time (I came to DC in 1964). It sounds as if you have written a great book Marc. Rock and Roll (if the FCC only knew what the phrase meant in Afro-American slang at time!) saved radio.

To Don't Bother
Marc does'nt care and neither do I. Call Post Circulation. They are very efficient and will take care of your problem.

Posted by: A Hardwick | November 30, 2006 9:58 AM

Really looking forward to this. Too bad it won't be available before Christmas, but my birthday is early in the year so I can still suggest it as a gift.

Posted by: Cosmo | November 30, 2006 10:46 AM

Marc: The book sounds great--will glady devour the New Yorker piece when my issue arrives. Hope you were able to talk about Felix Grant in the book. It's hard to believe that one could spend the late night hours in the early 1980s listening to Grant's impeccably smooth voice while he played a wideranging variety of jazz--on WMAL of all places.

Maybe we will see you again at Radio From Downtown in Easton.

Posted by: Jack | November 30, 2006 11:56 AM

I spent my formative years listening to Larry Josephson, Bob Fass, and Steve Post on WBAI. I know what Larry the J and Steve Post are doing now, but hadn't heard from Bob Fass. I look forward to your book. I love radio that truly communicates with listeners, rather than just playing homogenized music.

Posted by: Ed | November 30, 2006 11:57 AM

Congratulations. Great article. I was wondering if that was you. It made me wish that I'd known what FM radio was when I was in high school in NJ in the 70s, unaware of WBAI or Bob Fass (I did, however, listen religiously to Jean Shepherd on WOR AM, and was pleased to learn that Fass did too).

Posted by: Wheaton | November 30, 2006 4:01 PM

Response to Marc Fisher ad in Metro Thursday December 7, 2006 "Deporting a Model Non-citizen" (that has had a deportation warrant outstanding for ten years now): I REGRET that Marina Alvarez is finally, after 10 years of entering the US illegally, having to face the consequences of her actions/inactions. Her children should NEVER have been put in this position and as her Mother Marina Alvarez KNEW that she was NOT a US Citizen and she should of taken EVERY precaution (every minute of every day) to ensure that she obtained citizenship ASAP.
My heart, and prayers, go out to her children and perhaps someone will make an EXCEPTION in her case (key word is exception).
On another note I am so SICK AND TIRED of the Washington Post "cherry picking" illegal immigration stories that highlight those who "play by the rules" after they illegally enter this country AND obtain TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars in benefits (directly and indirectly) every year. Here is a QUESTION for Marc Fisher and the Washington Post "what SOCIAL SECURITY number did Marina Alvarez use when she applied/obtained her Mortgage"? Here is another "fundamental question" for you "can you name ANYONE ELSE who (apparently) is a single parent of two children and works at the Chesapeake Bay Seafood House and is monetarily able to buy a house in the Washington DC area (one of the most expensive areas to live at in the US)?
When she went to work for Chesapeake Bay Seafood House she would have been REQUIRED BY FEDERAL LAW to provide her employer with LEGAL DOCUMENTS I "wonder" what documents she provided to them.
Why is that that Marc Fisher and/or the Washington Post has not spent ANY time researching CREDIT FRAUD by ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS to find out WHY our laws are NOT being enforced (concerning ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS who commit credit fraud, employment fraud, obtaining monies under false pretenses, etc.) when countless American Citizens are going to jail everyday for lesser offenses.
Do you not REALIZE that these ILLEGAL ACTS are costing American Taxpayers MILLIONS of dollars every year and the "press" (including the Washington Post" IGNORES these ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES?
For every ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT that "plays by your rules" (using your article as a "baseline") there are TENS OF THOUSANDS (if not MILLIONS) of ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT that do not "play by anyone's rules.
Where are the stories, by Marc Fisher and/or the Washington Post, about these illegal immigrants that do not play by the rules?
Why is it that Marc Fisher, and the Washington Post, chooses not to use the word(s) ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT and instead uses the word (like in this specific story) "immigrant"?
Over the weekend, in the Washington Post, there were HUNDREDS of "insulting words" (directly and/or indirectly) directed to/about our current President.
Why is it that the Washington Post is "brave enough" to cast dispersions on our President but (apparently) is worried/scared to use the CORRECT TERMINOLOGY of ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT?
Since Marc Fisher and/or the Washington Post is (apparently) now aware here is the "ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT playbook".
Step 1 - Enter the country illegally and if anyone "questions" you then call them a RACIST.
Step 2 - Immediately have as many children in the US as you can.
Step 3 - Initally get any job you can using FALSIFIED DOCUMENTS (which is a FELONY by the way) and don't pay taxes (unless you are forced to)and as soon as possible get a BETTER paying job.
Step 4 - If you need medical care go to the emergency room and do not give them your name/address and tell them you don't speak english.
Step 5 - Commit FRAUD by using someone elses SS number (which is a FELONY by the way) in order to obtain credit (yes it is a FELONY even if it is a "lowly" credit card).
Pertaining to your story (and per step# 5) I would GUESS that Marina Alvarez has obtained credit in the past and that is why she was able to obtain a mortgage. Being an EXPERT in the credit/finance/mortgage business I would WELCOME the opportunity to review any/all ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS credit documents (i.e. credit cards, mortgage, car loans, etc..
It is "reasonable" to believe that upon review of the paperwork that she completed (for the mortgage and/or any other piece of credit she obtained) that that there was some type of SS#/credit FRAUD involved).
Step 6 - Bring as many family members as you can over to the US.
Step 7 - Do not take the LEGAL STEPS to ENSURE that you obtain US Citizenship.
Step 8 - When dealing with the US Goverment (i.e. cops, judges, medical care providers, etc.)ALWAYS give a FALSE ADDRESS so that later you can say "I never got the paperwork".
Step 9 - Go to rallys and waive your "country of origin" flag instead of the American Flag.
Step 10 - Do everything within your power to pressure the American Goverment to grant you and every other ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT CITIZENSHIP...ASAP.
Step 11 - If you are caught then immediately contact every liberal newspaper, the ACLU, and every "potential litigious organization" and threathen to file suit against the United States for having the "gall" to enforce it's laws.
Right now Marc Fisher does not have to worry about an ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT, or ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT(s), entering this great country to take Marc Fisher's job. However, with MILLIONS of illegals here in the US and another 10-20 MILLION illegals who may be granted citizenship (once their relatives are citizens)it won't be long before the Washington Post and Marc Fisher wake up and SEE/TRULY FEEL the REALITY of the TOLL that illegal immigrants have put on this country (and has done for years and years now).
Marc Fisher and the Washington Post OWE their readers HONESTY and BALANCE in their reporting and this article is FAR from accurate/balanced/honest.
Here is another "idea" why don't Marc Fisher and the Washington Post go to ANY construction site (any day of the week) in the DC area and check for CITIZENSHIP PAPERS. I will GUARANTEE you that OVER 50% of the "workers" are ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS and (a) the jobs they are STEALING are NOT jobs that "americans don't want OR won't do" and (b) they are being paid THOUSANDS of DOLLARS per free.
It is about time that Marc Fisher and the Washington Post get off the "bash Bush/republicans" beat and start doing some REAL reporting instead of "cheerleading" every Democratic/liberal cause.
Once Marc Fisher and/or the Washington Post does some REAL reporting on ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS commiting FELONIES (as outlined herein) then I "wonder" if Marc Fisher would still make comments (like he did in this story) such as "she did everything that Americans want immigrants to do...except enter this country legally" and "she did everything she was supposed to do" and "Politicans choose the path of least resistance (about immigration)" and "she will find a way to get back and in a way thats the glory of America. The real strivers will find their way here".
You have done a DISSERVICE to every American who lives by the RULE OF LAW and/or who wants "fairness".
You have purposely ommitted the fact (i.e. if you wanted to "question" how she obtained a mortgage, what documents she used to get a job, etc.)that LAWS (possibly) were broken and not just the "10 year old WARRANT issued for deportation for Marina Alvarez.
Since Marina Alvarez (apparently) entered the US ILLEGALLY (approximately) ten years ago I "wonder" how soon after she ILLEGALLY ENTERED the US that her oldest child was born (per your article her oldest child is 11)?
In closing, how about printing this response in the paper so that your readers may actually "question" why it is that Marc Fisher and/or the Washington Post did not "question" these basic/relevant points that I took the time to point out in this response. Thank you.

Posted by: J. Scott | December 12, 2006 2:32 AM

Where are Don & Mike?

Posted by: Doug Mawbey | December 20, 2006 10:51 AM

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