• K.C. Fennessy

This weekend, while doing some housecleaning, I came across an item I had completely forgotten about: a KCMU mug. Because I drink coffee out of the same Touch & Go model every morning—I prefer black to white—I never pay attention to the other ones in my cabinet, but I was reaching for something at the back of the shelf, and discovered an object I haven't thought about for over 15 years.

It reminded me of the other promo items I amassed during my KCMU days (1988-1992), where I served as DJ, promotions director, music director, and specialty show host ("Straight No Chaser"). I left before the University of Washington station established an alliance with the Experience Music Project and became KEXP, but returned to volunteer between 2008-2009 (despite their current South Lake Union address, the UW still holds KEXP's license).

The Urban Dictionary informs me that "schwag" also refers to "low-grade marijuana." There was some of that floating around, too. More pics below.

  • K.C. Fennessy

I don't recall any other U. Bookstore-KCMU co-productions, which makes me wonder if the store covered the manufacturing costs. We were always short of cash back then, and since it also advertises their wares, I would imagine so.

Unless memory fails, our membership drives tended to garner between $30,000-$35,000 per pledge week. Now, John Richards ("John in the Morning") and co-host Cheryl Waters make considerably more than that during one four-hour shift. Of course, the station reaches a greater number of listeners through streaming and other technological advances, but the difference is striking.

  • K.C. Fennessy
  • Art by Otto Minuk

Rejected t-shirt design that caught my fancy, so the artist gave me a test copy, which I dyed purple. I can see why the powers that be didn't go for something so "diabolical," but it was a refreshing change of pace from the new wave-style shirts of the time (and I think I've got two of those stashed away in my storage room).

  • K.C. Fennessy
  • Art by Pablo Griggs

Long before The KEXP Blog—or blogs in general—KCMU produced a publication called The Wire, to which I contributed (promotions director Scott Griggs' brother, Pablo, provided the illustration above). Though The Wire featured the station's imprimatur, there was no real agenda, and the editors let us write about anything that had to do with radio, pop culture, and the like. In other words, it wasn't just a bunch of blather about the greatness of KCMU (we knew there was room for improvement). Instead, I interviewed '90s artists, like Dinosaur Jr. and Pussy Galore's Jon Spencer, and wrote about '70s acts, like Big Star, Cheap Trick, and Funkadelic. For awhile, the editors were even able to slide a few dollars our way from time to time. I'm still in touch with a few fellow contributors, most of whom did not pursue careers in radio or journalism, but still enjoy music as much as ever.

  • K.C. Fennessy

While volunteering at KCMU, I worked at Cellophane Square (R.I.P.) on 42nd. When the station gave us a new sticker to display in the window, I took the old one. It's interesting to look at other college and public station logos from the 1980s, because they're all pretty similar. I met a lot of other MDs back then, mostly through radio conferences, and these angular designs were in full effect.

Postscript: I also mentioned KCMU in this post and featured the sticker above in this one.