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Jim Thomas

Well, let's see - where to begin. I guess at home.

I grew up in a house, like a good many in the fifties, where it was generally accepted that Bing Crosby was the world's best singer. Got into rock & roll early, bought 78s until my parents bought me a record player that played 45s, and saw Elvis live before he went in the army.

When the "folk revival" of the early sixties started I got hooked early on. Talking to someone at what I recall as some sort of church youth group thing I said I liked some song by Josh White. The guy said if you like that you've got to hear it by Leadbelly. So I went to the library, checked out a Leadbelly record, took it home and that was pretty much it. I was hooked. I started buying records by Leadbelly, Brownie and Sonny, Lightning Hopkins - whatever I could get my hands on.

In the next year or so a couple of things happened. One I got an FM radio and the other, I started driving. At that time AM radio was commercial, top twenty radio and FM was classical, jazz stations, college radio - fairly non-commercial stuff. I started listening to jazz stations and buying jazz records.

Driving also gave me access to the folk and jazz clubs in the Hollywood area. I started hanging out at Shelley Mann's jazz club "The Mann Hole" and the Ash Grove, the area's premier folk club. The atmosphere was at the Ash Grove was relatively informal and the performers accessible, so between sets there was often an opportunity to meet the artists.

This was the period of the re-discovery of many of the great bluesmen from the thirties and sooner or later almost all of them ended up at the Ash Grove. I met a lot of the and even became friendly with a few. Mance Lipscomb, Furry Lewis, Brownie and Sonny, Jesse Fuller, Gary Davis, and most of all Mississippi John Hurt. Heady stuff for an 18 year old kid.

But I was by no means a purist. I was into the Beatles and the Stones just like everybody else. Especially the Stones because of their blues/R&B base. And, of course, I was a stone Bob Dylan freak. This was like 1964-65.

After I got out of the service this new animal called "underground radio" was starting to poke its head up. KSAN in San Francisco and KPPC in Pasadena were starting to change the way radio was programmed. It was cool enough that you could play a 15-minute Allman Brothers cut, but then to come in behind it with B.B. King and then Miles Davis was really exciting. I always had my ear to the radio since I was a kid listening to KFWB and KRLA and radio was a big part of my life. Now it was the background music of it. When we got up in the morning we'd turn on the radio. It pretty much just stayed on all day. Also, around this time, my friend, underground cartoonist Robert Armstrong, got me interested in music from the 20s and 30s, an interest that I keep to this day.

After moving to the Bay Area to go through the B.A. and M.F.A. programs in the Art Department at San Jose State, I started listening to KSAN, KTAO in Los Gatos, and KFAT, got involved with the local arts scene, helped found the community art gallery Works, and even did a stint in a punk band with some other art department types.

Gratia and I met at San Jose State and by the time we got together in the mid-eighties we'd been friends for years. We have a lot of interests in common including music, food (both cooking and eating), art, antiques, and Scottish Terriers. One summer KSCU, the University radio station at Santa Clara where Gratia works, was looking for summer replacements to do shows. She went to talk to them and soon we were doing an 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. jazz program on Saturday nights. After a year or so we were given our walking papers by a conservative Program Director who was more interested in new releases and playlists than in interesting programming. Wanting to continue doing radio we sent a tape to KKUP and got a call from Joe Sodja, who was Program Director at the time. We proposed doing a blues show, which was my first love, and after six months or so of subbing for other programmers, got a slot. Twelve years plus now and we're still at it.

For a look at the proverbial "what records would you take on a desert island" click here.