Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kokaine Karma

The Kokaine Karma radio program began it's long sojourn on WFMU. It was a radio program that would move from station to station and city to city. It's unusual but I should also note that Dennis Frawley and Bob Rudnick wrote a column for the East Village Other, often abbreviated as just "EVO". It was a 1960s bi-weekly freak beat magazine. (It was published from 1965 to 1971 and is worth exploring.)  Kokaine Karma comes up a lot in the context of the MC5 because it was Frawley and Rudnick who wrote so glowingly of them in the EVO.  More here.  They then booked the MC5 for an infamous New York concert of the psychedelic era: the Peoples Concert. More here. It was through the column that Rudnick and Frawley came to have a show offered to them on WFMU. So we begin there.

Today WFMU is considered a monster of independent music and general freakishness. But in 1967, FMU was only 10 years old. Free-form FM was in it's ascendancy, and WFMU was a property of Upsala College. Things were different and budgets were smaller. By his own accounting it cost $50 a week Rudnick $50 a week in gas to do the show.

They left New York around 1968 and got involved in the White Panther Party and moved onto a commune called "Trans-Love Energies Unlimited." Though John Sinclair (manager of the MC5) Rudnick met John Detz the station manager of WABX.  Kokaine Karma was re-launched as an overnight program 2:00 AM to 7:00 AM Sunday nights. But when Sinclair got busted for weed. Rudnick and Frawley took to the airwaves to defend him. Accounts generally indicate that this led to the departure of Kokaine Karma from WABX in the summer of 1969. The station offered to rehire them Frawley stayed and Rudnick left. Dave marsh briefly described the program in a 1970 issue of Creem:
"The Kokaine Karma show was one of the better utilizations of air space in radio history; besides the music, which ranged from Fats Domino/Little Richard segues to whole sides of Archie Shepp, the show also had Bob's acid tongue and Dennis' laconic wit to comment on some of the more controversial aspects of the alternative culture's contemporary affairs."

When Cy Fruchter bought WGLD in Chicago Rudnick tried again. He tried to name the program Kokaine Karmel but this was not permitted. But it was his politics that got him in trouble again. He was severely reprimanded for saying on air the Chicago Police murdered Black Panther Fred Hampton. (It is ironic that this was later proved to be true at trial.) Rudnick walked out. He briefly tried again on WEAW exploiting an equal time requirement but that didn't last either.

Rudnick moved out west and tried on 98.5 KOME in San Jose. Ron Cutler and Mel Gollub bought the station as KRPM and flipped the format to free-form rock. But as good a fit as that sounds, the station wasn't all that free and infighting broke up the gig. Rudnick walked out again and went down the street to WMET for another try. It lasted all of 6 months.

So in 1972 he tried 88.7 CJOM in Canada. He described it himself as "pirate radio." It was another free-form rocker. his program ran 6-10 PM at first but then it ran all night. Cy Fruchter set that up as well and I wish I knew more about that guy.  Nonetheless is was a series of obscenity complaints and the content-concerned CRTC that brought pressure to bear on the station. Rudnick fled to 102.9 WNRZ back in the states. He did afternoons 10:00 Am to 3:00 PM this time. But in 1973 the station flipped format to country and all the staff were let go... at least all the long-haired hippies. the country format only lasted until they flipped to quadrophic rock in 1975 but Bob wasn't there to see it. It was the end of Rudnick's radio career and soon the end of free-form rock radio. His personal downfall was long, slow and painful to watch. More here.  Rudnick died in 1995.