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JFK-era memories come alive in special

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated during a motorcade in Dallas, one of those seminal events where everyone remembers where they were when it happened.

KVMR 89.5FM will commemorate the tragic occasion this week, except with a creative twist.

The Nevada City station has obtained broadcast rights to a Public Radio Exchange special, “We Knew JFK,” featuring never-before-heard memories of Kennedy by his friends and associates recorded as a memorial to the slain president in the aftermath of the assassination.



It will air on the community radio station at noon Friday (89.5FM, kvmr.org streaming) on the actual anniversary of the shooting.

Independent radio producer Steve Atlas, quite by chance, stumbled onto this series of one-on-one interviews about Kennedy, nestled in a rarely heard portion of the Kennedy archives. Atlas and program host Robert MacNeil wrote and compiled the radio special based on the find.




MacNeil, of course, was the longtime host of PBS’ “The MacNeil-Lehrer Report,” and he was also a NBC reporter in the Kennedy motorcade when the President was murdered.

The radio documentary includes memories and commentary by political figures ranging from former Vice President Hubert Humphrey (Kennedy’s key 1960 presidential primary opponent) to conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater and former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.

Others contributing points of view include former New York Philharmonic conductor Leonard Bernstein and Princess Grace of Monaco, both major pop culture arts figures of the era, as well as a variety of journalists and Kennedy advisers.

“This program traces the early Kennedy to the one we lost in Dallas,” said KVMR Program Director Steve Baker. “And it’s almost entirely told in voices we’ve lost over the years, voices crucial to a cogent history of the Kennedy era.”

The radio special includes segments on the fabled Kennedy-Nixon election debate in 1960, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile crisis and the burgeoning Civil Rights movement of the era.

Meanwhile, the characters who tell the JFK story are a diverse and vivid lot. From the blue-collar Boston Irish and Italians who helped a young unknown first get elected to Congress, to the venerable figures of the Thousand Days, they are strange bedfellows in all but one crucial respect — somewhere along the way, they crossed paths with Jack Kennedy and came away with indelible memories of what was, in nearly every instance, the most important experience of their lives.

Recorded in most cases within a few years or even months of the president’s death, the interviews evoke the Kennedy era with uncanny immediacy. Further, they are unexpectedly, sometimes startlingly, candid — to discourage self-censoring, interviewees were offered the option of sealing their conversations from public view for stipulated periods of time, in some instances for their lifetimes or longer.

As many participants accepted the offer, much of the material remained classified for decades. Today, with a few exceptions, the embargoes have expired — many of them only recently — making this trove of long buried material available to the public for the first time.

In addition, KVMR’s Evening News (6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 89.5FM, kvmr.org streaming) is including companion pieces to the Friday special each night this week with a look at Kennedy’s Inner Circle and his web of personal friendships Thursday and how a bus driver from JFK’s first congressional campaign in 1946 became a lifelong friend on Friday’s newscast.

CBGB party at KVMR

KVMR broadcaster Jimmi Accardi’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Party” will celebrate next Monday a music club that became, heaven forbid, a New York City institution before it closed its doors in 2006.

CBGB started out as a country, bluegrass and blues club in 1973 but morphed into the best known punk and new wave music club, including being a home to Accardi’s own band, the Laughing Dogs.

“Before it opened, there was no place for bands to do original music,” said Accardi. “Clubs just wanted cover bands for background and dancing, while CBGB was the first place to let you do what you want.”

Bands such as the Police, Velvet Underground, the Ramones, Television and Blondie emerged out of the club’s colorful scene, and The Laughing Dogs scored a national recording deal, as well.

Earlier this fall, a feature film called “CBGB” was released, with club owner Hilly Kristal (portrayed by Alan Rickman) as the movie’s main character. Kristal passed away a year after the club closed.

His daughter, Lisa, will be among the telephone guests on Accardi’s Monday show (2 p.m. to 4 p.m., KVMR 89.5FM, kvmr.org streaming) that will feature the film soundtrack, which includes the Accardi-penned, Laughing Dogs song “Get Out of My Way” which is heard during the movie credits.

Accardi has invited a number of musical friends to join him on the tribute show, including Fred Smith from Television, Artie Lamonica from the Shreds and John Disalvo from the Tuff Dogs.

The club’s omnipresent light man, aptly named Cosmo Ohms, may also join the festivities.

Utah’s Place opens

There will be smiles a plenty on the “Friday Morning Show” when Hospitality House co-founder Joanna Robinson makes her weekly appearance about 8:45 a.m.

Later that day, the homeless advocacy and service organization will celebrate its new home with an open house at Utah’s Place, named after the late folksinger/storyteller/activist U. Utah Phillips, also Robinson’s husband.

All three of Phillips’ children will be on hand for the historic occasion at Utah’s Place, 1262 Sutton Way, Grass Valley.

Back to business for Joanna, though. She says there’s a major need for donations of new twin bed-sized blankets for use by clients when the new home opens its doors to the homeless next week. Information on donations is available via phone at 271-7144.

A weekly wrap-up of news and oddities about community radio station KVMR (89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming), a noncommercial station offering diverse musical programming, independent news and provocative public affairs from about 150 volunteer “citizen-broadcasters.” A video about the station’s new building is at vimeo.com/63303996 Complete program listings are available at kvmr.org.


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