Hello, darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again . . .
"The Sound of Silence" has the distinction of being named on lists of both the best and the worst songs of all time. I was a child when the single was released, but it was a jukebox favorite of mine. Ten years later, when I began my radio career at KMVI-AM, it had become a corny old joke. Not the song itself, mind you, just the title.
In the 1970s heyday of high-energy, rapid-fire Top 40 radio, anything more than a split-second of silence was considered a cardinal sin. When an announcer mistimed a bathroom break, thus allowing a song to fade into the dreaded dead air, he would cover his gaffe by saying something like "That was a new version of Simon & Garfunkel's 'The Sound of Silence.' "
Paul Simon's classic composition has been echoing through my head ever since last Sunday, when I announced to Mana'o Radio staff that the station will be taking a short break from broadcasting. Many of the 50-plus volunteers were surprised and saddened, as I'm sure our listeners will be, by the prospect of going dark, even temporarily. But in order to stay on the air, we must go off the air, at least for a couple of months, while we reorganize our efforts to share Mana'o at a higher level, literally. It's only the latest irony in a story full of plot twists and surprises.
My husband, Barry Shannon, and I both began our broadcasting careers as teenagers. We met in 1984, each hired by Valley Isle Broadcasting for its KHEI and KVIB stations in Kahului. KHEI eventually became KAOI-AM, and KVIB went through so many name and ownership changes, I've lost track.
Put together as a morning show team, we quickly discovered that we had very little in common; it was the proverbial "opposites attract" dynamic, and it made for great chemistry on the air. Two things we did share were a passion for radio and the desire to do it our way, with banter and wit, and a selective, eclectic mix of music.
Our courtship consisted of late-night writing and recording sessions in which we produced dozens of mock commercials and radio theater bits. We took our audition tapes to Honolulu and the Mainland but found no takers. Back at home, we at least got to do tandem shows at the old KHLI 101.1 FM (the call letters are now assigned to 92.5) and at KNUI, both before and after it was acquired by Pacific Radio (now Media) Group.
Side note: PMG ended up owning both of Maui's first two stations, KMVI and KNUI, and somewhere along the way, they switched the call signs. It still confuses some old-timers, who remember when KMVI (at 550 AM) and KNUI (1310, before it got the more desirable 900 frequency) were friendly rivals, competing in charity bed races and other crazy DJ battles.
It took us nearly 20 years, but Barry and I finally began to realize our dream of doing radio our way. With the help of a few close friends, we founded Mana'o Radio, a noncommercial, listener-supported, low-power FM station, in the year 2000. Nearly two years later, on March 11, 2002, we put our baby on the air, broadcasting from our spare bedroom. Captain Kirk Hamilton did the first show after I signed us on at 6 a.m., Bill Best followed him in the midday slot, and Barry and I split the afternoon and early evening.
At Mana'o Radio's fifth Birthday Bash, we marveled at how our little mom-and-pop endeavor had grown into a vibrant community radio station, staffed by dozens of volunteers. Maybe someday, Barry ventured, we might even graduate to full FM status, with an FCC license to operate on more than 100 watts of broadcast power. Less than a month later, he was dead, a victim of heart disease and multiple blood clots.
Last summer, thanks to the contributions and commitment of our volunteers and supporters, we achieved Barry's final dream. Mana'o Radio, formerly KEAO-LP, became KMNO-FM, broadcasting at 91.7, just up the dial from our original 91.5. Unfortunately, as our listeners are well aware, we haven't yet achieved optimum signal quality. Operating on a rubbah-slippah budget, we've struggled with engineering and equipment challenges.
So, at 11 p.m. this Sunday, the day before Barry's 7th ReBirthday, we will sign off the air for a brief hiatus, during which we'll be working fervently to address the transmission issues that have plagued us since the power increase. We hope you'll keep 91.7 as one of your radio pre-sets, and welcome us back when we emerge from the dead air with a stronger, clearer signal.
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence . . .
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.