by Dan Bowen
KPFT is Houston's one-of-a-kind radio
Broadcasting at a frequency of 90.1 FM,
KPFT is the sole non-commercial, listener-
sponsored station in the city. It is one of
five national affiliates of the non-profit
Pacifica Foundation, based in Berkeley,
California and last month KPFT celebrated
its ninth year on the air.
Nestled in the heart of Montrose, the
station has not always enjoyed the complacency it does now. KPFT has overcome
major obstacles to fulfill its primary objective, to be a radio station of the people,
zeroing in on all aspects and facets of the
community. Over the years, KPFT has survived such incidents as the infamous
bombings of the transmitter in May and
October of 1970, and a three-week employee strike in the fall of 1971.
People are the spark of KPFT's fire.
The staff with the priceless aid of a hundred volunteers or so combine their efforts
to assure the station's existence, acceptance and accessibility. Listeners give
monthly donations to make the station
tick 24 hours a day.
Many of KPFT's on-air personalities,
clerical help, engineers, telephone operators, production assistants, and the rest of
the KPFT gamut were all listeners of the
station at one time.
Interim general manager, Margaret
(Margie) Glaser, is one of two women in
the Houston market to be general manager of a radio station. Glaser initially came
to KPFT around the time of the bombings.
She was a "housewife," volunteered and
started out answering the telephone. The
only requirement for becoming active at
KPFT, she says, is proving a desire to work
in radio. Apart from her managerial role,
Glaser hosts the Jazz Progressions and
News Producer Jenai Rasmussen has
been with KPFT for nine months of her
two-year training grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She has been
active in community radio for over five
years and worked with 55 community sta-
While at the National Public Radio Network (NPR) in Washington, D.C, she
worked on Folk Festival U.S.A. and Jazz
Alive! KPFT currently carries both programs from NPR.
On KPFT Rasmussen is host of Morning Magic with Jenai. But, that is just a
fraction of her participation at the station.
She produces the midday and evening
news and presently is submerged in an orientation project for new KPFT volunteers.
Rasmussen related she once thought she
would never return to community radio
after a period of absence.
"But I realized I hadn't gone the full
cycle," she said. Her return to community
radio was to "give back" what she had
learned. "I was in a learning phase, now I'm
in a knowing phase," she commented.
The orientation program is one of her
ways of doing just that. A system to explain the radio station to newcomers, a
guide book for the volunteers, and a slide
show are all in the works. "I'm basically
here to promote radio. That's what my
grant is for," she said.
Two months ago, when asked to host a radio
show, Ed Falk, KPFT's "token conservative"
said, "Are you kidding me, that liberal station?"
Now, he feels, "Stations like KPFT prevent
tions across the country, while she served
on the Steering Committee of the National Federation of Community Broadcasting (NFCB). NFCB lobbies nationally for
community radio stations.
"Community radio serves broad-based
needs in the community to get voices
heard on a variety of topics," Rasmussen
Rasmussen feels KPFT is "fairly well
along" in comparison to other community
radio stations. "There's a good staff of
In her opinion, the station needs to
direct some concentration in the areas of
station structure and ascertainment of
community needs. "We need more women
on the air," she stated.
The uniqueness of KPFT-the diverse
programming of on-the-air matter and the
atmosphere of the place itself—is perhaps
the secret of the station's community support. Listeners support the station, not
"KPFT has the laid-back format," says
Jerome Herbage, a listener for five years,
programming is something you can't find
anywhere else. KPFT relates to me as a
person, not a commodity."
"It's different! What I hear, I don't hear
anywhere else," echoes Scottie Stapleton,
also a listener for five years.
As interim program director, Scott
Cluthe is responsible, in part, for the programs listeners hear. Cluthe himself listened before he volunteered five years
Cluthe took a job as a waiter to support
himself while he worked at KPFT He decided, "Commercial radio was too open-
ended," but calls KPFT "a real life college
"You find your own space at KPFT.. .
a timeless feeling," said Cluthe, the host
of Vibrations (Wednesday evening, 10 p.m.)
which features "interviews with those involved in the pursuit of higher consciousness."
Cluthe's programming schedule of music, talk, and specials is as varied as the individuals connected with it.
On the music side there's jazz, bluegrass,
reggae, blues, classical, Latin, country and
western, rock 'n roll, folk and Broadway
The only Houston radio show featuring
Gypsy music is hosted by musician Greg
Harbar on KPFT (Sundays, noon-1 p.m.).
Harbar's Gypsy Caravan highlights Gypsy
music, live bands and guests. Records
played on the show come from Harbar's
personal library of over 3500 albums.
Harbar is also creator of a group called,
appropriately enough, Gypsies. They recently have returned from an engagement
aboard a Caribbean cruise ship and play