Bob Fass, Free-Form Radio Pioneer, Dies At 87 


Bob Fass, long time radio host for WBAI, passed awaySaturday His program, Radio Unnameable, aired for more than 50 years.

Jon Kalish


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Jon Kalish

Bob Fass, long time radio host for WBAI, passed awaySaturday His program, Radio Unnameable, aired for more than 50 years.

Jon Kalish

Bob Fass, who hosted the prominent New York City radio program Radio Unnameable for more than 50 years, passed away on Saturday in North Carolina at age 87. His death was validated by his better halfLynn

His late night reveal presented lots of significant folk artists and acted as a loudspeaker for the emerging 1960s counterculture.

At the height of its appeal, Radio Unnameable ran 5 hours and aired 5 nights a week. Fass left New York in 2019 and continued to do the program from his house in North Carolina, though it was on simply one night a week for 3 hours. But Fass continued to start each broadcast with his signature welcoming, “Good morning, cabal!”

The cabal, as he called it, was consisted of his countercultural “conspirators” who opposed the Vietnam War and marched for civil liberties. And his program on WBAI-FM, the listener-supported Pacifica Radio station in New York, acted as their broadcast meetinghouse.

“Bob Fass more or less invented what we call live radio,” stated Larry Josephson, among the other WBAI live radio characters who followed in Fass’ steps. “No structure, no script, all improvised. And there was nothing like Bob’s program on the radio at the time.”

Fass’ genius was blending records, tapes, live artists and phone callers. He originated the art of putting numerous callers on the air at the exact same time.

Often his programs spilled into in-person occasions.

In 1967, he directed his late-night listeners to go to New York’s Kennedy Airport for a “fly-in,” an airport celebration that drew 3,000 individuals.

“I didn’t quite grasp the fact that a community was forming at the fly-in,” Fass informed filmmakers Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson for their 2012 documentaryRadio Unnameable “It was then that the light bulb appeared over my head.”

Fass and the cabal likewise assisted arrange a Central Park variation of the 1967 “Human Be-In” hippie event inSan Francisco He likewise got his listeners to do a “sweep-in,” tidying up blocks on the Lower East Side throughout a city sanitation strike.

Among the terrific folk and blues artists to play reside on Fass’ radio program were Joni Mitchell, Odetta, Carly Simon, Taj Mahal, The Incredible String Band, Moondog, The Holy Modal Rounders, Phil Ochs, and Bob Dylan, who joked around and took listener contact one program in 1966.

One caller applauded Dylan’s composing and guitar playing however prompted him to “sing a little better.”

“I appreciate that,” Dylan reacted. “Good, solid, rock-bottom, foundational criticism.”

Later that year on Radio Unnameable, Arlo Guthrie appeared live on the broadcast and sang what would end up being a traditional tune of draft resistance, “Alice’s Restaurant.” Strumming along were David Bromberg, Jerry Jeff Walker and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.

“By the time we got invited up to Bob Fass’ radio station, it had never been recorded certainly, it had never been heard on the radio certainly, because what radio is going to let you sing a half-hour song on the air?” Guthrie informed me in a 1987 interview.

The “Alice’s Restaurant” recording is amongst the countless hours in Bob Fass’ archive, which Columbia University gotten in 2016. The archive, naturally, consists of calls from Columbia trainees in 1968 who took control of university workplaces to oppose a proposed university fitness center structure in a city park along with the Vietnam War.

WBAI host Josephson states the 1960s and early ’70s were a “golden age” for Fass and the station, “which has not been repeated since. Anything went. And there was some brilliant stuff, brilliant stuff.”

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