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Published: Friday, 3/11/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Mourning the loss of a radio friend

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sunday night I lost a friend, Clyde Clifford.

Don't look for his name in The Blade's obits. You won't find it. Nor will you find Clifford mentioned in the obits section of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the hometown paper of Little Rock, Ark., where he lives. Fact is, Clifford isn't dead.

But as an once-faithful listener to his Sunday night underground radio show, Beaker Street, he is dead -- or, at least, no more. The show was canceled apparently more than a month ago from KKPT-FM, 94.1 (The Point), a Little Rock, Ark., classic rock station that had been home to Beaker Street for nearly three years. The radio show, with its album-rock format before there was such a thing, was an institution in the area, spinning radio castoffs along with the staples. A sample hour from his final playlist featured:

Beatles I've Got A Feeling
Steppenwolf Monster
Barara Raney & Deep Water Reunion Cindy's Crying
Quicksilver Messenger Service Fresh Air
Jamie Brockett The Legend Of The USS Titanic
Janis Joplin & Big Brother & The Holding Company A Piece Of My Heart
Emerson Lake & Palmer Black moon
It's A Beautiful Day White Bird

 

Beaker Street was born on the AM dial in 1966 on KAAY in Little Rock with Clifford as the host. The radio show later found a home on FM, first on KAAY and eventually other classic-rock stations with new hosts after Clifford left Beaker Street in 1974. Clifford returned to the show he founded in early 1985 for what was thought to be the final Beaker Street, only to resurrect it a few years later. And once the show was streamed on the Internet in the late '90s it picked up new fans. My introduction to Clifford and Beaker Street, though, was earlier than that, when a best friend who lived in the Little Rock area for a college semester sent me Beaker Street shows he recorded on cassette tapes in the late '80s. 

We used to laugh at Clifford's long-pause delivery and his obscure song list. When's the last time you heard "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" on the radio -- or anything else from Floyd's acid rock staple "Ummagumma" -- on the radio?

And then there was Beaker Street's spacey, hazy background effects when Clifford talked. It's a song, according to the Beaker Street Wikipedia entry, called "Cannabis Sativa" by Head. That sums up Beaker Street, one big musical head trip.

I tried to tune in as often as I could to the Beaker Street live streams on Sunday nights. Then life -- namely parenthood -- got in the way and I became an increasingly less-frequent listener. Beaker Street popped into my head more two weeks ago and I wondered if there was an app for it so I could stream the show on my iPhone. When I discovered there wasn't one, I went online to his site and read the sad news: Beaker Street is gone. At least, for now. He signed off the show -- yet again -- with Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game" on Feb. 6.

Perhaps another Little Rock station will take up the cause and bring back Beaker Street. Or, maybe Clifford will find a new home on satellite radio. If Oprah can have her own radio show, why can't Clifford? Until then I'll mourn the loss of someone I never met ... but hope to hear again soon.

Oh, and if you'd like to show your support, go to the Facebook page. The page also includes a link to the Beaker Street wiki entry where you can read more about the show. Meanwhile. Clifford's official Beaker Street Web site says the show is on hiatus. To download or stream some previous Beaker Streets, click here.

The Blade's blog Culture Shock is a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear most Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.

Agree or disagree with a posting? Let him know. Have a topic or suggestion? Let him know that, too. Send an e-mail to kbaird@theblade.com, call 419-724-6734, or follow him on Twitter @bladepopculture.



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