National Radio Week: Standing on the KDGE with Josh Venable

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As part of KEXP’s National Radio Week coverage, on the KEXP Blog we will be spotlighting some of the stories and personal testimonials given by a variety of radio luminaries in interviews done with KEXP DJs John Richards, Kevin Cole, and Morning Show producer Owen Murphy. These interviews articulately explain the enduring legacy of early independent radio stations, as well as the importance of radio to shape and create a community through shared love of music.  In the words of WFNX DJ Kurt St. Thomas, “if you pay enough attention, radio will probably change your life.”

yes, that’s my handwriting


Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, I was lucky to have KDGE 94.5 FM on the dial. I had the bumper sticker on my school binder, had a station t-shirt (that, weirdly, my Mom ended up wearing for years, okay, hipster Mom), and attended many an EdgeFest. Much like former DJ and Music Director Josh Venable (interviewed below), I was an early fan of The Edge. And, like Venable, I was particularly fond of The Adventure Club with original host Alex Luke. (Venable took over the show in 1994 and went on to carry the torch for 18 more years.)

Every Sunday night, Alex would take it beyond The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, and the sort-of alt-rock standards you’d expect to hear every day. Thanks to him, I was exposed to bands like the obscure Madchester group Paris Angels, or Revenge, Peter Hook’s side project from New Order. (Creepily enough, I can still remember Alex going ga-ga over the album cover on the air.) I have old cassettes under my bed with j-cards cut from fashion magazines and handwritten track listings (as seen above) encasing songs recorded off the radio during his show: The Jazz Butcher, Moose, Delicious Monster, Shelleyan Orphan. I could go on and on. So, I have to paraphrase what Josh says in his interview below: “listening to that radio station [helped make] me what I am today.” — Janice Headley, KEXP Digital Content Manager

KDGE popped on the dial in 1989, and at the time, was the only station to play local and national “alternative.” We asked Venable to explain what made the station special:

The Edge in Dallas was extremely special to a great number of people in the middle of the country because it was one of the first Alternative stations in the nation. There had already been WLIR in Long Island, 91X and KROQ in California, but for the middle of the country, there was not really an outlet. If you wanted to hear Primal Scream or Social Distortion, there was only really one place where you could get it, which was The Edge. From 1989 until about 1994-1995, long before every mid-level town in America had an Alternative station, we were one of the biggest, one of the best in my opinion. I think the station was different in a lot of regards because we had complete freedom to do whatever we wanted. Later on, when the corporations took over, and the music we were playing was getting played on five other stations in town, it does tend to become less special. So back in the old days, when we were the only game in town, it was extremely special and important. Listening to that radio station made me what I am today.

edge2  edge1

On breaking bands:

I was about 20 when the Britpop explosion overseas happened, and I was knee deep in it. I was very into Pulp, Blur, Oasis, Gene, whoever. I truly think that this one band, a band I have become friends with over the years and I love to this day, named Ash, were one of my favorites. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that they were about my age, fresh out of their teens, and playing them on the radio and trying to help them get somewhat of stateside fan base was something that I am still proud of. I still go and see them every time I can, I still get really excited when they dedicate songs to me. Ash would be one, Oasis would be one. The Adventure Club, my radio show, was the first place in America that Oasis were played on the radio. Noel Gallagher will tell you that. As a radio person, when you champion a band, you do feel somewhat proud whenever they become really big.

On the station’s annual music festival, EdgeFest:

The term “EdgeFest” now, where you hear it all over the country… I mean, you can drive from one coast to the other and hear other radio stations putting on these huge festivals. I remember our early festivals, I remember walking into the amphitheater where we had the first couple EdgeFests, and thinking, “I can’t believe that there are this many people in this town that are exactly like me. They look like me, they’re into the same music as me. Why weren’t these people my friends in high school?” There was a contest we would do, the band we would have in… it was just bizarre. It was things I never heard on another radio station. I never heard of another radio station going backstage and getting all of Robert Smith from The Cure’s makeup while they were playing on stage and stealing all of the makeup out of the dressing room so we could give it away later that night. That’s insane, you know? They didn’t have that on the Top 40 station I grew up listening to hair metal on when I was a child. There were all of these things where you didn’t really know what was going to happen. I remember DJs getting in really bad verbal arguments on the radio. After I started working there in high school, I asked all these questions, like “that had to be fake, right?” Then you realized that it wasn’t, that these two people really don’t get along. Instead of doing it off the air, they did it all on the air because they knew it would be entertaining for listeners. That’s one of the things that I always thought made The Edge what it was, that it was all about the listener. It wasn’t about, “we’re playing this because we wanted to be cool, and we wanted to sound awesome because we were doing this.” It was all about what can we do for the listener. That’s something that I have taken with me for my entire career.

"to benefit Earth, promise."

“to benefit Earth, promise.”

The station’s downfall:

I think what led to the demise of KDGE was many-fold. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop” was a huge one. That wretched song is one of the first examples that I can remember, along with Fun’s “We are Young” and Mumford & Sons’s “I Will Wait” — of these songs that were getting played on multiple formats. When you dilute the product, you are begging for people to go look other places. I think that Clear Channel had a lot to do with it because they put people in really high positions that do not care about music, and are in it because it is a business. I do not know one person, or at least one person that I respect, in this business that got into it for anything other than music. When people ask me why I got into radio, it was because I didn’t want to pay for records. I didn’t want to pay for concert tickets. Because I love music, and I know what hearing that one song on the radio can do for somebody. It can uplift, or depress, or get you out of a depressing mood. It can be that perfect soundtrack to that time you are about to kiss the girl in the car. Radio has all of these elements, and I think that too many people in the business right now have forgotten those elements. I don’t think that they care about music.

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KEXP is celebrating National Radio Day all week long both online and on the air; click here to see all our coverage on the KEXP Blog.

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One Comment

  1. Nancy Staltman
    Posted August 16, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Thank you thank you for sending me way back! This was so extra special to me. The adventure club and the early edge station was so incredibly influential in my formative years. Will there be a chance to listen to this segment again in archives?

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