Feb. 26, 2004
by BOB DORAN
IT BEGINS WITH A BIT OF CALL AND RESPONSE between James Brown and the Famous Flames: "Doin' it?" asks Brown. "Yeah," they reply. "Can I get into it?" "Yeah!" "Are you ready to get into it?" "Yeah" "I'm'na count it off; one, two, three, four."
[Photo: TJIF hosts: Fred "In the Hills" Radloff, "Owl" Ceraulo and Paul "PB" bassis. Photo by Simon Frech]
As Brown stays "on the scene like a sex machine," the hosts of "Thank Jah, It's Friday" slip into their seats at the KMUD studios in Redway, as they have just about every Friday morning at 9 a.m. for 12 years. By the time J.B. asks if he can "take it to the bridge," they're ready to get into it.
Despite the "Jah" in the name, the hour-long program is not a reggae music show, it's Southern Humboldt's version of talk radio, a free-flowing discussion of politics, sports, movies and weather (invariably it's "another beautiful day in paradise") although, as you might guess, it's a far cry from Rush and his ilk.
"There's no question that Thank Jah is an antidote to Rush Limbaugh and right wing media, as is KMUD," says TJIF host Paul "P.B." Bassis, adding, "This show is lefty talk radio."
As KMUD operations manager Dave Myers puts it, "The show offers a rough and tumble, no-holds-barred, non-politically correct way of talking about things that is decidedly progressive."
Last Friday P.B. and co-host Fred "In the Hills" Radloff were center stage, with engineer Kathleen Creager dropping in occasional comments and patching in callers from all over Humboldt County. (P.B.'s original co-host Al "Owl" Ceraulo was off; no one seemed to know where.)
For the most part the topic du jour was politics, specifically the Gallegos recall. Fred brought in an anti-Gallegos flyer he had received in the mail; "an amazing piece of junk" is how he described it. "I was going to call it a despicable piece of trash," P.B. interjected. After a brief riff on the pro-recall group Safety Yes! (Kathleen points out that they stole Earth First!'s exclamation point), they deconstruct the flyer's attack on the DA's handing of treesitters.
"From my perspective, treesitters are courageous individuals who have a spiritual understanding of the importance of the eco-system," says Fred, leaving little doubt which side of the issue he stands on. As a mater of fact, treesitters armed with cell phones have been among the TJIF regulars: Julia Butterfly Hill called frequently from her perch in Luna then later co-hosted the show on occasion (eventually Bassis became her media liaison). The subject of the treesitter flyer, Remedy, called when she was in her tree and is still calling (in fact she called last Friday).
Kathleen jumps into the conversation, shifting the focus to Safety First!'s Rob Flanigan's familial ties to Maxxam, then it's on to the day's headlines, which just happen to be about Palco's funding of the anti-Gallegos campaign. There will be no talk about sports this day, nor will they get around to asking Fred if he has seen any good movies lately.
In the beginning, during the 1992 election season, the talk was of presidential politics. P.B. and Owl, both originally New Yorkers, traded cracks about whether Clinton inhaled or not. At that time, Fred, a West Coast native, was a call-out on the call-in show.
"They called me on the very first show," he explains when we talk just after the show. "They'd call me at my home in the hills every Friday and I'd do movie reviews, political commentary, that sort of thing."
Fred would come down from the hills to guest host if Owl or P.B. were absent, for example when P.B. was off running Reggae on the River. (Bassis is a key player in the event's coordinating company, People Productions.) When Owl left for long stretches to study at the American Film Institute, Fred became a full-time co-host.
Kathleen came aboard as engineer four or five years ago. Of late her infrequent interjections have become more frequent. "People seem to like the woman's voice," she says, "but I don't know why, since these guys really are feminists."
"That means we take ourselves too seriously," adds P.B. Fred laughs in response, then, at least momentarily, turns serious. "We have over the years evolved into a rather zany, irreverent, insightful collection of minds responding to the concerns of the community," he says. "Fred, speak for yourself," cracks P.B., adding, "What we do on Friday morning is a community forum."
In fact, after an initial bit of banter among the hosts, Kathleen is always directed to "go to the phones" and a seemingly endless stream of listeners call in, using the show as a soap box, sometimes responding to the topics of the day, sometimes way off topic. The hosts interact with the callers, often cutting them off mid-sentence with spontaneous riffs off what they're saying. The input from outside makes each show unique.
"Having done this for 12 years, I have to say, it's still fun," says P.B. "What makes it fun is that it's live, it's spontaneous and improvisational. And it's comfortable in the same way it's comfortable to sit around with friends shooting the breeze, talking about whatever it is you're passionate about."
While it's always unique, this coming Friday, Feb. 27, the show will be completely different. For one thing it will be on at 7 p.m. instead of in the morning. Thank Jah, It's Friday - Night will broadcast live from the Arcata Community Center with the KMUD broadcast augmented by a TV version produced by the fine folks from Channel 12 (formerly known as ACAT, now called Humboldt County TV). That means you finally get to see what these people look like in action, and they get to meet some of their listeners in person.
The event begins with a light dinner and jazz by Auntie Em at 6 p.m. The talk show portion runs from 7 to 9 p.m. with phone-in callers, plus KMUD newshound Estelle Fennell fielding commentary from the studio audience. The program will be rebroadcast Monday, March 1, at 8:30 p.m. on cable Channel 10. Tickets are sliding scale $10 to $20 with proceeds benefiting Redwood Community Radio, KMUD. For further details call 923-2513 or go to www.kmud.org.
© Copyright 2003, North Coast Journal, Inc.