Sunday, February 15, 2015

KNAC Pure Rock 105.5: Forever Black, Never Fading

“A movement, not just a station!” (Michelle Parisi, KNAC Rocks!)


For some of you out there who are regular readers of my all-too-infrequent blog entries, I have shared with you some of my fond memories as a young metalhead. I have also shared personal stories involving music and its impact on my life. So it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that this piece is another trip down memory lane. But hopefully as you read on, you will see that it is so much more than that.


“If it's too loud, you're too old!”
(KNAC station slogan)

Over the last several years, as metal has begun to make somewhat of a comeback on the American music scene (although technically, it never went anywhere), there have been several documentaries or television shows chronicling metal music and lifestyle: its different subgenres, and the various ways that metalheads express themselves by way of their respective region or culture. Whenever any of these programs would attempt to go back and discuss the history of the metal scene, especially in the Los Angeles area, there was always one glaring omission: there was never any mention of the hard rock radio station KNAC, which to any headbanger who lived in Southern California from the years 1986 to 1995, this was not just a radio station, but it was a way of life. KNAC not only celebrated the heavy metal lifestyle, but epitomized it.

Perhaps to the average person reading this blog, to not mention a mere radio station doesn't seem like an injustice; after all, there are hundreds of radio stations in existence, and hundreds more that once existed. What's the big deal about not mentioning a radio station that played heavy metal during a time when the genre had some level of mainstream popularity? This is what I hope to answer with this article. Because you see, KNAC was much more than a radio station. They had more of an impact on the metal scene than people outside of Southern California truly realize.


KNAC radio crew, circa 1987 
(Photo courtesy of Todd Stout)


Just to give an example, how many of you out there reading this has a regular feature on your local rock radio station called “Mandatory Metallica”? Guess what? Mandatory Metallica originated from KNAC. The segment was hosted by a DJ named Poundin' Pat, who would play rare Metallica tracks as well as album cuts. Every weeknight at 9 o'clock, 105.5 was the place to be to get your daily Metallica fix.

In fact, up until the band found massive popularity in the early ’90s with the Black Album, KNAC was virtually the only radio station on earth who played their music on a regular basis. If KNAC was not so important to the history of one of the most iconic metal bands, then why, at the height of their popularity, did James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich spend the entire final day of KNAC on the air, answering phones and talking to fans as the station bid their loyal listeners farewell with the Metallica song “Fade to Black”? Metallica recognized how pivotal KNAC had been to their career up to that point. They had walked into the KNAC studios nearly a decade before as unknowns, and were leaving as mega-stars. KNAC played a huge part in that trajectory to success.

It might even be surmised that it was after the end of KNAC that the band's music changed drastically from hard-rockin' heavy metal to experimenting with different sounds (say what you want about the Black Album, but it could still stylistically be considered metal!). Some fans could even put up a strong argument that it was because Metallica no longer had that unconditional support that KNAC had given, that they were forced to reassess their musical direction and shift to a style that would guarantee them continued airplay on other rock radio stations. Considering that the Load album was released a little more than a year after the station went off the air, I am one of those who tend to agree with this theory. Up until that point, Metallica was never played on stations like KROQ, which was L.A.'s alternative/new wave radio station; known more for playing bands like Duran Duran or The Cure than Metallica. Yet after Load, Metallica became a regular staple on KROQ. To many die-hard KNAC hard-rockers, this was the final nail in the coffin and felt almost like a betrayal, since the rivalry between KNAC fans and KROQ fans was almost legendary during that time.


KNAC DJs Long Paul and Nasty Neil with Metallica's Lars Ulrich on the station's final day; February 15th, 1995
(Photo courtesy of “Eveready” Ed Kelley)


At any rate, I can almost bet you money that Metallica does not go to every radio station that plays their music and spends the day with them as they go off the air and switch to another musical platform. But they did for KNAC. Why? I suppose the easiest answer would be, “if you weren't there, you wouldn't understand”; but the point of this article is to shed some light on the subject and hopefully to make people understand why this radio station was so special and why, 20 years after it signed off the air, it still resonates with people.

I have talked to numerous Pure Rockers from the Southland who were there during the KNAC years; both online and in person, but I suppose if I'm going to explain the importance of this little radio station from Long Beach, I should begin with my own personal experiences. Perhaps as I go on to share memories from others, and one can see how many shared recollections we all have, it will become clearer as to why KNAC was more than just a radio station, and why it seems very unfair that KNAC never gets a proper mention in all of these metal-related features.

While putting this tribute together, I also attempted to get in touch with some of the station's DJs for research purposes, and perhaps to contribute to this piece if they felt so inclined. Although I only heard back from one of them, his take on the matter was that the story of KNAC is best told by the fans, through their eyes. To paraphrase his reasons for this, the stories from the on-air personalities have been told and re-told numerous times, but the fans each have a viewpoint that is uniquely their own, and deserves the chance to be told. The percentage of listeners is considerably greater than that of the DJs, so there is an abundance of KNAC-related tales just waiting to be heard. Considering that this is written by a fan as a way to pay homage to the station that played the soundtrack of my life, this can only be the most fitting perspective when taking on such an assignment. Obviously, out of respect to the DJ who contacted me, I will not mention him by name, and respect his wish that this tribute remains by the fans, for the fans.


Some of KNAC's finest: Dangerous Darren, Eveready Ed, Tawn Mastrey “The Leather Nun”, and “Animal” Anna Lee
(Photo courtesy of “Eveready” Ed Kelley)


To most anyone who lived through the Hollywood metal scene in the '80s or experienced it firsthand, it is almost impossible not to mention KNAC among those memories. For many, the scene and the station go hand in hand, and one could not have properly existed without the other. This is my attempt to document somewhere that KNAC was an integral part of the metal scene in Southern California during the heyday of the Sunset Strip years. Someone needs to put it down for posterity, and since no one else appears to be doing it, I guess that someone must be me!


“KNAC may have played [grunge/alternative/punk] but it wasn't all about metal. It was all about what they called ‘Pure Rock’, which is like metal, hard rock, etc.” 
(Chris Heathcote, KNAC Rocks!)

During my formative years as a metalhead, if metal was my religion, then KNAC was my church. In the pre-internet days, getting the latest news about your favorite bands or hearing about new talent was limited to magazines like Rip, Circus, or Metal Edge; or watching music programs such as Headbanger's Ball on MTV (another entity that was essential in shaping my metal world). FM radio was also another outlet for such information, but normally radio was pretty limited in what bands you could hear the latest about. Few radio stations were purely dedicated just to metal music, so the rock stations normally focused on the bands who were more popular or who had something new to offer right then and there. Information was not readily available in an instant like it is today; where you can go online and keep up-to-date on any band from any corner of the world, regardless of popularity. Back when radio and MTV were the primary sources of music-related news, if you were a fan of some obscure band from overseas, good luck finding out what they were up to unless you joined their fan club (which was also another option before the days of the internet; but it was costly, and usually you could only afford to join one fan club at best)! Even the metal magazines did not always keep tabs on the different scenes within the scene; so certainly radio stations were not geared to cater to such particular tastes. News about your favorite artists could take weeks or months to find out; which seems almost insane in this day and age of instant information, where a fan can literally watch a band's album-making process unfold from beginning to end.

As far as the rock stations in Los Angeles went; your choices were either classic rock, alternative rock, lite-rock, or KNAC's more “G-rated” rival station, Pirate Radio. Although it called itself a metal station, the notable difference between Pirate Radio and KNAC was that Pirate Radio was more like its corporate counterparts in style. Sure, they played metal music, but most of it was whatever was currently mainstream, or the most “inoffensive” of the metal bands on the scene at the time (i.e., most of the watered-down hair-metal bands that became popular during the late '80s and early '90s right before grunge completely took over; when it was clear that the glam rock phenomenon had overstayed its welcome and therefore garnering its fair share of cookie-cutter copycats). You weren't going to hear the heavier genres (like death metal, for example), except maybe late at night on Saturdays, if at all; because even for a metal station, some genres were just too dangerous for Pirate Radio! Nor were you going to hear too much about what was going on in the local music scene; Pirate Radio wasn't going to showcase up-and-coming local bands that were making waves and could possibly become the next MTV superstars. Those bands could get airplay over at Pirate Radio after they already sold a million records!


KNAC band calendar, circa 1987; featuring local bands
(Photo courtesy of Child Saint)


But KNAC was an exception; they were all about waving the metal flag no matter where its stake was planted, and focused on the lesser-known bands as much as they did on the big names, regardless of genre. If a band played metal, KNAC played their music or talked about them on the air no matter what time of the day it was. KNAC walked the walk and talked the talk; they embodied the true metal spirit in that they operated much more like an underground radio station in spite of being right there on the FM dial. The fact that they suffered from a weak signal only strengthened their notoriety as an underground sensation. In short, if you could imagine the perfect metal radio station, KNAC was it. I would even go so far to say that in many respects it surpassed what a perfect metal radio station might be in most of our dreams! Yet it was not a thing of fantasy; it was very real, and it was part of the lives of many headbangers for nearly a decade. This on-air utopia may better explain why the station was so beloved by listeners and why metalheads from the area still speak of it with reverence to this day.

No metal subgenre was exempt from being played on the station: from thrash metal to glam metal to progressive metal to stoner metal to metal genres that didn't even have a proper name yet: if it rocked, KNAC played it. I cannot tell you how many different bands I first learned about through KNAC. Perhaps it was through KNAC that I first became aware that there were different subgenres within metal and that not all metal bands rocked the same way. It was probably also because of KNAC that I was able to appreciate all different kinds of metal and did not subscribe to the elitist attitude that only certain types of metal constituted as “true metal”. The station's motto was “Pure Rock”, so whether it was hard rock, classic rock, heavy metal, or even punk rock; as long as it had loud guitars and pounding drums, it had a home at KNAC. Even though it prided itself on being a metal station, all rock was welcome. To hear bands like Exodus, Rush, Soundgarden, and Bad Religion all in the same hour-long block of music was not uncommon at KNAC. Among a community that is often ostracized by the mainstream, 105.5 was the place where everyone was welcome. There was no snobbery about what could or couldn't be played on the aiwaves. Upstart local bands had just as much airtime as the biggest names of the day.


“KNAC was more than just another radio station. It felt more like a family. You actually listened morning 'til night. You really got to know the on-air personalities, the van drivers handing out bumper stickers and whatnot. The day they went off the air, was almost like losing a family member. The music, the concerts, the entire scene changed in an instant. Good times!”
(Kris Vaughan, KNAC Rocks!) 

The KNAC listener base was just as multi-faceted as the musical styles the station played. From the big-haired, spandex-wearing rockers that frequented the Sunset Strip during the hair-metal heyday, to denim-and-leather NWOBHM headbangers and teenagers dressed all in black; your typical KNAC listener did not fall into a stereotypical category. For as many people who outwardly looked like rockers that listened to the station, there were just as many “pillars of the community” (i.e., doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc.) that had their car radios tuned in to 105.5 at the end of the work day. Considering that the station existed during the majority of my school years, I remember always being a little surprised whenever a teacher would tune in to KNAC during those days when we were allowed to listen to music in the classroom; or if a respectable adult was seen wearing a “Pure Rock” t-shirt. Early on, I learned what it meant to be part of the secret metalhead alliance, and to recognize the signs whenever we met one of our own.

Even the radio station staff exemplified this unique diversity: whether it was the on-air personalities like the late Tawn Mastrey, Long Paul, or morning show host Thrasher (just to name a few); phone operators with metal-based nicknames; or listeners that were just as recognizable as the DJs (such as frequent caller Iguana Bob); the people that supported the music were a huge component of what made KNAC so much more than just another radio station. These were people you felt like you knew, because they shared the same love of metal that you did. They were people who loved the same bands with the same enthusiasm; they went to the same concerts, they bought the same albums, they rocked out to the same songs. When you called in to the station to talk to any of these people, you felt like you were talking to a friend. KNAC was like a home for headbangers, and every person down from the van drivers all the way up to the DJs all felt like your long-lost metal family.


KNAC's legendary Tawn Mastrey, “The Leather Nun”: 1954-2007
(Photo courtesy of “Eveready” Ed Kelley)


Even so, I could only take part in so much of the KNAC experience, since the station existed during the years in my life when I was too young to go to concerts, or to the clubs where KNAC-related gatherings took place. The station went off the air when I was still in high school, so I never got to go to a KNAC Night at the Red Onion or at Gecko's. I never had the experience of looking for the KNAC van at a metal gig so I could get a sticker or a t-shirt. I never got to see some of my favorite local bands at Live Bait or Club 369. But KNAC was my companion through all those lonely, boring Saturday nights in my teenage years when all the older metalheads were off having fun doing the things that I couldn't do yet. Somehow I did not feel left out because of it, because there was a DJ on the air who wasn't going to be there either, because someone had to spin the Pure Rock tunes so the rest of us still had something to headbang to! So no matter what else was going on in that big, wide world of metal that I couldn't be a part of, I still wasn't alone.

So what was it like for the adult Pure Rockers out there, who could take advantage of all the perks that the night life had to offer? Denise Dardarian mentions the great contests and prizes that listeners could win: “There were a few times I won tickets and passes for concerts from them, and it was a blast. The Pure Rock Patrol would be out at the clubs where they would have KNAC Nights, passing out the KNAC swag.”

Jenny Brooks shares her memory of a familiar sight at all metal concerts: “Always looked for the KNAC van at every concert—big black van with white letters—to get our stickers.”

My friend and fellow Queensrÿche fan Jennifer Ott talks about one of her KNAC-related memories at one of the Rÿche shows she attended, which also paints an image of how the Pure Rock headbangers made an impact wherever they went, in whatever setting: “I remember going to [the] Queensrÿche Operation: Livecrime/Empire [tour] concert in Long Beach [...] across the way, The Nutcracker ballet show was also going on and seeing the KNAC van amidst the many thousands of cars with the stickers and the contrast to all the Mercedes and limos headed to the ballet.”


The KNAC van was a welcome sight for all metalheads, even Iron Maiden's mascot Eddie!
(Photo courtesy of Lucas Riot)


Marlena Beltrame from the KNAC Rocks! Facebook group probably offered the most colorful description of a typical Saturday night in the life of a metalhead back then: “I was young when I started listening to the station; 16 [years old]. And one night I won tickets to see a local band out in Hollywood. So off my dad, my brother and myself went on the city bus from Long Beach; took 2 hours [to get there]. After that, I was hooked on both the station and the Strip. Every weekend I was on that bus, off to see another band, hoping to make it to the last, but not worrying if I didn't. There were random stairwells and laundry rooms to sleep in ’til morning!”

The fans' devotion to KNAC was unwavering; in spite of the weak signal and that you could only tune in to the station in certain areas, it didn't stop fans from spreading the word about the station wherever they went, or doing whatever it took to reach the signal from Long Beach to their location. Pure Rocker Denise Dardarian lived in the San Fernando Valley and remembers the frustration of not being able to tune in to 105.5 in some areas: “I lived in Northridge, and KNAC reception in the Valley could be spotty, but I managed to get my radio working right to get decent reception.” As Damian Young recalls, he found unique ways to get around that problem: “Living in the San Bernardino Mountains, reception was very hit or miss. Some areas the signal came in clear. Other areas, I would need to construct a very elaborate antenna to pull it in. I loved that station, and it was a great comfort to me in some chaotic times. Of course I would venture to the lowlands for some gigs and concerts. I would go back to this period of time in a heartbeat!”


Metalhead Eric Kuder wears KNAC black at the White House, circa 1994
(Photo courtesy of Eric Kuder)


Still others were not content to just share their love of KNAC on a local level; fans could be seen wearing their KNAC swag whenever they ventured out of Southern California, such as Eric Kuder, who took the opportunity to bring KNAC to a most unexpected place: “Back in '94, I visited the White House rocking my KNAC black tank top. Parents were not amused!”

KNAC was such an important part of the lives of headbangers across the Southland that they could not imagine being without it, even when they ventured outside of the station's signal reach. People went to great lengths to keep 105.5 with them in the days before online music apps and satellite radio, like when Stephani Gramman relocated to another state: “I was moving to Oregon, so I taped 6 days straight of KNAC radio to take with me.”

Pure Rock 105.5 was a familiar sense of home, no matter how far away you were. Brian Racer found comfort in the power of music when he was halfway across the world, serving his country: “When I was [stationed] in Desert Storm, my sister recorded three 90-minute tapes and sent it to me...it made things a lot better ...”


KNAC fan Eric Kuder's shrine to “the only real ass-kickin' station!”
(Photo courtesy of Eric Kuder)


Because KNAC was on the air for almost a decade, the station not only became a part of people's lives, but represented a chapter or two in their life story. For many, 105.5 marked important transitional periods in their lives that saw them through on their way to adulthood. One such example is from Gerald Logue, who will always associate Pure Rock to an important milestone: “My fondest memory of KNAC was waiting in line at the DMV, waiting to take my behind the wheel test, I had the radio in my mom's Plymouth Horizon turned to KNAC, and the one song I remember hearing was “Strutter” by KISS...Of course, when I actually took my test, I had to turn the radio off, but I did pass my test and was issued my first driver's license; and from then on, I've always associated hearing a KISS song on KNAC with one of every teenager's major rites of passage...”

Another example of the way people documented the changes and growth in their lives with KNAC is from Denise Dardarian, who got a chance to live every Pure Rock listener's dream: “I had been listening to KNAC pretty much since it started its heavy metal format in January of 1986. I was 15 at the time, and for the next 9 years, it was a part of my life on a daily basis...For years I would go into KNAC and see if they were hiring and would fill out applications, but [got] no reply until the early ’90s. Then I got a call one day and found I was hired, so that started a fun and awesome journey with KNAC. It was an absolute honor to be a part of something so monumental, I will always cherish it. I had some rip-roarin' wild rockin' times working at the station and riding around in the KNAC vans. I was there at the station the day it went off the air, and it was one of the worst days of my life.”

Needless to say, it was because of this die-hard allegiance to the 1500-watt metal station from Long Beach that KNAC's fame spread far beyond the borders of Southern California, and ultimately became a global phenomenon...


“No matter where we went...we saw KNAC stickers [...] South America, all kinds of places...they associated that with metal; that was the thing. They had them on cars; they were showing that, hey, this is America...we're in the middle of nowhere, and they had something like that to show us. It was very cool.”
(James Hetfield of Metallica, during the final day of KNAC: February 15th, 1995)

For all this discussion about the KNAC listeners and the metal fans who made this station what it was; obviously it had to have more of an impact beyond the realm of the station's on-air frequency in order for it to stand out and to be remembered even all these years later. KNAC wasn't just a local tour de force; it reached all the way to the bands who made this music too. They recognized what a special thing KNAC was, and understood that it was a gathering place where they could interact with their audience. Metal musicians listened to KNAC as much as the fans did. Before long, KNAC shirts and stickers were spotted in music videos not just among the fans in the crowd, but rockers were sporting KNAC gear onstage too. The fact that Ozzy Osbourne admitted that “KNAC were the only radio call letters he remembered” to metalhead Jordan West when he had a chance to meet The Prince of Darkness, this alone speaks volumes about the importance of KNAC to the metal community. Rock stars are constantly doing press and promotion for countless radio stations around the world, so for someone of Ozzy's status to remember those particular call letters above any other only further emphasizes just how unique the station was, and how much it meant to listeners and musicians alike.


Dokken drummer Mick “Wild” Brown sports a KNAC shirt during the band's “Walk Away” video
(Screenshot taken from YouTube)

The legendary Sam Kinison is upstaged by KNAC during Bon Jovi's “Bad Medicine” video
(Screenshot provided by Paige Calvin)

Slash of Guns 'n' Roses rocks his KNAC shirt onstage
(Photo courtesy of “Eveready” Ed Kelley)

Members of Pantera and Annihilator on tour, circa 1991. Note the KNAC shirt to the far left!
(Photo courtesy of Lucas Riot)


It really was like an exclusive club for metalheads, and everyone around the world was welcome to join. You didn't have to be from Southern California to be a part of the KNAC family. Returning to the previous analogy, KNAC was like a congregation of headbangers, all gathering together to spread the metal gospel. It was where I learned how tightly-knit the metal community is; and how, more than any other genre of music, we metal fans truly see one another as part of an extended family. The fact that the bands we listened to were also part of this communal vibe only made the bond that much stronger, and that much more meaningful.

KNAC was responsible for launching not only the career of Metallica, but for many other L.A.-based bands in the late '80s and early '90s. The guys from Guns 'n' Roses offer this memory of KNAC from the early days of their career: “On the way home, we heard something from Live Like a Suicide—I think it was “Move to the City”—in the van on the way back, and it was a great feeling, because it was the first time we had ever heard ourselves on the radio.” Countless bands experienced that same feeling whenever they tuned into 105.5 and heard their music on the radio for the first time; because, as pointed out earlier in this article, KNAC had no boundaries as to what kind of music they played. Their attitude was that today's newcomers could very well be tomorrow's superstars, so metal bands across the board were showcased.


Pantera's Dimebag Darrell (1966-2004) and Vinnie Paul pay a visit to the KNAC studios
(Photo credit: Rik Hendrix; shared by Paige Calvin)


Whether it was small local gigs at Gazzari's, or huge metal events like Monsters of Rock, if it was a metal gig in Southern California, KNAC was at the forefront. In fact, when Monsters of Rock in 1988 turned into an all-out riot, KNAC chronicled the entire thing on the air, describing it as “an absolute solid mass of people covering the entire Coliseum floor to about the 50-yard line from the stage...” KNAC listener Robert Watts remembers that day clearly too: “The best part of the whole day was when Metallica came on. The place went fucking ballistic! There were eight-foot high chain link fences between the floor and the risers. Those fences came down in seconds as Metallicats rushed the floor. Security had no fucking clue what they were up against. I remember my six-foot friend literally throwing his four-foot-six girlfriend over the fence before it came down.”

L.A. was definitely the place to be during the ’80s, and for most of those glory days of the Sunset Strip, KNAC was part of it. To be a fan back when bands like Megadeth, Armored Saint, and Testament were first starting out, and to watch those bands go from playing small clubs to huge arenas almost overnight...it must have been quite an awesome thing.




Flyers for the many gigs sponsored by KNAC 
(Scans courtesy of Lucas Riot)


In fact, it was because of metal's growing popularity that KNAC's Pure Rock format came to be in the first place. As all things have an ending, they also have a beginning, and Pure Rock's roots can be traced back to 4 consecutive sold-out Iron Maiden shows at the Long Beach Arena. It was clear to the mainstream world that metal was more than just an underground fad; that something big was happening far beyond their control. Nothing could stop the juggernaut that metal had become.

Before that, KNAC existed on the radio dial as far back as the early ’70s, as a free-form radio station, and then in the early ’80s as the new-wave/alternative station Rock & Rhythm. But then in early January of 1986, the changing of the guard was heralded by the bagpipes of AC/DC's “It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll)”, and the era of Pure Rock officially began its 9-year tenure.


Mike Stark hosts the Sunday morning Talk Back program on KNAC
(Photo courtesy of Michael Stark)


From the beginning, KNAC defied the odds: even when metal music was experiencing mainstream popularity, there's no denying that metal has never been greatly respected by the majority. Outsiders deemed metalheads as slow-witted slackers who shook out their brains from all the headbanging they did. KNAC was proving otherwise with their talk-show program Talk Back, which aired on Sunday mornings and delved into the controversial topics of the day, from politics to the Gulf War to censorship; especially in the wake of the Judas Priest trial and accusations of Ozzy Osbourne corrupting the youth. Bands and fans alike would articulate their viewpoints on these subjects and open up discussion about many different hot-button issues of the day; showing that for all their wild onstage personas, most of these metal musicians were quite intelligent and aware of what went on in the world, and that their audience was not only just as savvy about these matters, but had their own strong opinions about them.

After all, metal has never been about following the leader or going along with the current; and as public opinion began to take an unfavorable opinion towards metal music, KNAC and its fans flashed their metal horns with even greater flair, and wore their metal badges with pride. It really is a testament to KNAC's bond with its fans that it wasn't pulled off the air during those times of scare tactics against the music they loved. Metal fans really can be likened to an army when they are roused, and KNAC's troops were at the front lines, ready to go to battle against anyone who would compromise their freedom to rock.

And fans rocked anywhere: from the golden shores of the Southern California coast, to the stifling heat of the Valley, KNAC became part of the local consciousness. As Bradley Hindman put it more succinctly: “I never turned the receiver off in my apartment. It was always set to KNAC.” For the next 9 years, it was a never-ending ride of decadent good times; as Eric Kuder put it: “It was the best nine years of metal, sex and parties!”


From left to right: KNAC on-air personalities Bryan Schock and Remy “The Max” Maxwell
(Photo courtesy of Lucas Riot)


Even when grunge swept metal away from the rest of the world, KNAC remained stalwart. Yes, even they brought the grunge bands onto the playlist, but because they had always been known for embracing all styles of rock music, it was not too much of a stretch. Even so, many headbangers who deemed Nirvana as the enemy only saw this as the beginning of the end. Yet, even after grunge saw its better days come and go after Kurt Cobain's death, KNAC still remained. It seemed as though nothing could bring KNAC down, but it was only a matter of time before their days were numbered; because there are some things that even the strongest love cannot conquer. If love of this station had been enough to keep it afloat, then KNAC would never have gone off the air. Unfortunately, it is money that makes the world go round, and when metal music stopped being profitable, the powers-that-be decided that it was time for a change...and for Pure Rockers, it was not for the better.


It was unbelievable...to see KNAC in Tokyo, Rome, Madrid, Paris, London, Scotland...everywhere! It's the only radio station that's had that ability to cross the world...it's a great legacy you guys leave behind, and I don't think people will ever forget you for what you've done...it's just something that lives on forever, like a great piece of music.
(Rob Halford of Judas Priest; on the final day of KNAC: February 15th, 1995) 

Everyone has their “remember where you were” moments in life, and I remember clearly where I was when I found out that my beloved KNAC would soon be no more. I remember reading about it in Bam (a local music magazine), and then the next day my best friend approaching me at school. “Did you hear about KNAC?” We couldn't believe it. KNAC had hinted that there would be an announcement later on in the day, but thanks to the Bam article, the secret was out, and they said as much: the rumors were true, and in the next few months, KNAC would be gone. I felt like my heart had been ripped out.

For those of you who read my blog entry on the 20 years' retrospective of the Promised Land album, perhaps you can understand a little why this hit me so hard. When KNAC announced it was reaching its end, it was still 1994, the worst year of my life. I'd already lost so much in my life by that point, that this was just one more thing to add to the growing pile. It was on KNAC that I first heard those snippets of the album that ultimately saved my life and brought me through the darkest of times. During most of that hellish year, KNAC was the one of the few things that brought me solace, one of the few things that made me laugh or smile during a year when it seemed I could do nothing but cry. KNAC was a place where I could forget my troubles for a while, and just escape into music. It was where I first learned the news of the brand-new Queensrÿche album that comforted me through grief and pain like I had never known in my short life. It was where I became a metalhead. It was a place I had called home.

With the announcement of KNAC's approaching end, headbangers all throughout the Southland felt that same sense of loss that I did. To this day, many fans consider it one of the saddest days in their lives. I can almost hear the cynical voices of those who were not there and do not understand, mocking those who seem to have it so easy that the loss of a radio station was the worst thing that ever happened to them, but if I have not made you see or understand that KNAC went far beyond that, then I either did not do my job or you are truly a cynical asshole; the former of which I tried my best, and the latter of which I can do nothing about. It was more than the loss of a radio station. It was the loss of a community, of a family, of a friendship.



Do you know the way to KNAC?
(Photo courtesy of Lucas Riot)


Proof that I was not the only one who shared this sentiment can be found in the countless messages I got from KNAC listeners when they heard I was writing this blog and offered their feedback. I could make a blog entry alone of all the ways people reacted to this news, but they all go something like this...

Lucas Riot of the KNAC Rocks! Facebook group shared his feelings: “Man, for nine years, KNAC was my life. I'll never forget that day: February 15th, 1995, I spent time at home listening to KNAC's last few moments where James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich of Metallica appeared on the air as well as its past and then-present DJ's, and when it finally ended with Metallica's “Fade to Black” and their general manger's farewell message, I cried so much that I wasn't sure if I should ever listen to the radio again. It's really sad on so many levels that, ever since we lost KNAC, L.A. hasn't had another radio station that airs heavy metal music...”

Yvette Soto-Desmond, Josh Taylor, and Samantha Magistrale were teenage Pure Rockers just like me; saying goodbye to the station that had been a part of our lives for most of our short time on earth. Yvette's memory involves one of the many “respectable citizens” that I spoke of earlier in this entry: “I remember my health teacher had the radio playing in class when it went off [the] air.” Josh recalls: “I remember listening to KNAC the morning it went off the air, I held on as long as I could before I had to go to school. I think I was in 10th grade at the time. Some people somehow managed to have walkmans with them and listen to it to the very end while in class.” Samantha remembers doing the same thing: “[I was] in my 12th grade Government class, listening in with my walkman. KNAC was literally the soundtrack to my youth from elementary to high school.”

Michele Evans' sentiment is short, sweet, and to the point: “It was, by far, the best radio station ever created...Sad day when it went off the air. Never understood why it went off the air.”

Denise Dardarian was working at the station on the day it signed off. A longtime fan who had scored her dream gig, she witnessed firsthand the end of an era: “Throughout all the good and bad times in my life, KNAC was there, like a friend and a family member you could always count on...Losing KNAC was like losing my best friend, like a death in the family. I don't think I will ever get over it completely.”

Dustin Leonsky's reaction, however, probably closely resembles that of the typical outspoken metalhead, and perfectly sums up the overall sentiment every Pure Rocker felt both then and now: “How stupid to take the most kick-ass radio station off the air! Whoever thought of this needs some major metal up their ass!!!”


Sammy Hagar shares his memories of KNAC onstage at his annual birthday bash: Cabo San Lucas, October 1995
(Screenshot taken from DVD recording)


Even rock stars had an opinion about the end of Pure Rock 105.5, as Sammy Hagar waxed poetic on his memories of the station later that year at his annual birthday bash when my boyfriend threw a KNAC sticker to him onstage in Cabo San Lucas: “...But this shit ain't no good no more, no KNAC...man, what happened? It went...Hispanic...they went, like, Español on us, right?...So, do any of you people remember KNAC, from Long Beach? This was...this was a rock 'n' roll station from Heaven. It was a fuckin' major station. And all of a sudden, I'm driving down the street...I have it on, and like, right in the middle of a song...they go into some Mexican shit! Because they sold it to some Mexican people, and now it's like The Hispanic Channel...it's funnier than shit...105.5!”

As for me, I was too heartbroken over the loss of KNAC to go to school, so I ditched school altogether and stayed home to bid farewell to the station that helped to shape me into the metalhead I am today. I woke up as early as I could and listened all day long until the fateful hour of 2 p.m., when KNAC would sign off forever and be replaced by Spanish-language music.

Somewhere, packed away in boxes full of sentimental old treasures are tapes I made of those final hours of KNAC, much of which I have not listened to since that day. Thankfully, a kind soul uploaded the final few hours onto YouTube, where headbangers around the world can get just a small glimpse at what the KNAC culture had been and what it had come to mean for so many of us. Even now, as I write this 20 years later, the tears spring from my eyes almost unbidden when I listen to these uploads and am instantly transported back to that day.

So many things I remember clearly: for example, the final Queensrÿche song ever played on KNAC was “Take Hold of the Flame”; which I obviously would take notice of, since they were my favorite band at that time and were a regular staple on KNAC. They played messages from Michael Wilton and Geoff Tate, bidding goodbye to the station and sharing their favorite memories of playing Irvine Meadows whenever they would visit the Southland.


From left to right: Metallica's James Hetfield and KNAC's Mike Stark on the station's final day: February 15th, 1995
(Photo credit: Mike Stark)


One thing I remember most of all was calling in to the station one last time, to say goodbye to people I had never met in person, but considered my friends. Some of the phone operators you get to know over the years, but so many come and go that it is impossible to know all of them; so when someone answered the phone that day whose voice I didn't instantly recognize, I thought nothing of it, because there was a huge gathering at the studio full of former DJs and phone operators.

The person asked me my name and where I was from. When I gave the name of my hometown of Downey, California, he answered back, “Downey's a nice place.” Being a teenager, I gave an answer along the lines of, “You must have never been here, because it's so boring!” He answered back, “Actually, I grew up there. Had great times there.”

It was right then that I realized: Holy shit, I am talking to James Hetfield. He grew up in my hometown. He went to the same high school as I did; where I am ditching school from. I am talking to the frontman of Metallica, the biggest fucking metal band on earth right now.

I had never spoken to a celebrity before, so I probably did not play it very cool when I asked outright, “You're James Hetfield, aren't you?” When he answered back, “No, I'm Lars.”, I knew that it was indeed him that I was talking to. He chatted with me for a couple more minutes (about what, I can't really remember), and then that was it. Even on the final day, KNAC had given me a memory to keep with me for the rest of my life. Thank you, KNAC, for giving me an opportunity that every other teenager at that time could have only dreamed about: to have a few minutes to just shoot the breeze with James Hetfield or anyone from Metallica, and just to talk to them like a regular person. I got to do that, and it was because of KNAC. Even in their last hours of life, they were still giving back to their fans and still giving them happy memories to hold on to.

If I'd never had hometown pride before, I felt it not only after talking to James, but when those final moments of KNAC were approaching, and a montage was played over the Queensrÿche song “Empire”, naming every single city in the area that KNAC had reached. When they named my hometown, I felt like I had been part of something. It was their way of telling all of us that we belonged, and that for all the love we had for them, KNAC had loved us back.


From left to right: Metallica's Lars Ulrich and KNAC's Mike Stark on the station's final day: February 15th, 1995
(Photo credit: Mike Stark)


And then...the final moment had come, and the opening notes of Metallica's “Fade to Black” mournfully began. To this day, I cannot listen to that song without associating it with the end of KNAC. I cannot listen to it without immediately being brought back to this moment in time. Suffice it to say, I know for a fact that it is the same for many other Pure Rockers who were there, and who remember that day. You can always tell a metalhead from the KNAC years by how they react to the song “Fade to Black”. For many of us, it still hurts too much to listen to. For all of us, it represents the end of an era. For me, it was definitely the end of my childhood; as so many things around me in my life were fading away and forcing me to grow up faster than I might have intended, the end of KNAC was definitely a placeholder in marking that transition from innocence to maturity. I had learned the hard way over the last year that growing up was tough, and that more often than not, we lose things along the way. The things we love are only with us a short time, and to appreciate them every moment we have them. Granted, I learned that in a much more difficult way already, but the end of KNAC marked the end of my final vestiges of youth, and going forward into jaded adulthood. It was a symbolic way of reminding me that life would never be this carefree again. The lyrical content of “Fade to Black” only hammered this point home. It was no doubt something that all of us headbangers felt just then.

After the final notes of “Fade to Black” drifted away, the station's general manager, Gary Price, took the mic to deliver the final message: “This is KNAC: Long Beach, Los Angeles. KNAC's Pure Rock is now signing off. Thanks for your support. You have been the greatest.” Then a brief silent pause, and the opening notes of mariachi music began to play. Never again would we hear metal music when we turned to 105.5 on the FM dial.

KNAC was dead. Long live KNAC.

The final moments of KNAC: Pure Rock 105.5 fades to black
(Audio courtesy of GrimReaper323)


I sobbed uncontrollably. All these years later, I still do whenever I hear those final moments of Pure Rock and the beginning of what would be known as ¡Que Buena!, which is still on the air in Los Angeles to this day. Writing about the final moments of KNAC has been the most difficult part, because I have to stop every few seconds to wipe the tears from my eyes. Even after 20 years, it cuts as deep as it did back then. For every metalhead throughout the Southland, time stood still. Nothing would ever be the same, and we knew it.

If you have read my previous blog entries discussing my teenage years, then you know that no story during that time is complete without a mention of my cousin, who was and still is one of the few people that best understands me. He found me in that inconsolable state about 10 or 15 minutes after KNAC had gone off the air, and he handed me a bottle of some alcoholic beverage. “I had a feeling you'd be needing this.” he said, and we proceeded to drink our asses off for the rest of the afternoon, listening to our Black Sabbath records until my aunt and uncle came home from work. (Disclaimer: This blog does not condone or encourage underage drinking.) I shed a lot of tears, we had a lot of laughs, and we kept the metal alive. Because that's what KNAC would have wanted.


“I always felt I'd be rockin’ ‘til I die, and I'm not dead yet...so, somewhere in L.A., sometime in the near future, there's gonna be a hard-rockin’ station again; and I hope that I'm a part of it, if not in charge of it, so...we'll be back!”
(KNAC DJ Tawn Mastrey “The Leather Nun” [1954-2007], on the final day of KNAC)


In regards to KNAC, the loss of the station could best be summed up by the saying that was also the title of a song that undoubtedly received airplay more than once during its 9-year run: “you don't know what you've got ’til it's gone”. The public outpouring of love and gratitude for what KNAC meant to the local community was felt and appreciated throughout Southern California during those first few days afterwards while the grief was still fresh; yet, at the same time, if all of those media outlets had been as outspoken or supportive just 6 months or a year before, maybe it might have been enough to keep the station alive. I don't suppose we'll ever know.

Newspapers featured brilliantly-written memorials honoring the station, and Metallica released a statement through their record label, where Lars Ulrich did not mince words when it came to giving KNAC the credit it deserved for its hand in Metallica's rise to fame: “There is so much bullshit in this industry that when you really want to thank the people that helped you, it sounds insincere. But KNAC have always been our friends. The amount of love and respect we have for what they were about, and for what they meant to our fans cannot be measured. It won't be the same without them.” It seemed that for a moment, everyone stopped and respectfully bowed their heads to the little radio station that beat insurmountable odds to become a local legend.


Newspaper article chronicling the end of KNAC, along with Metallica's press statement
(Scan courtesy of Eric Kuder)


As one might expect, something as impactful as KNAC had been did not immediately die just because the radio station was no more. Remnants of Pure Rock still lived on for a while in the L.A. area, when several of the DJs migrated to KLOS, L.A.'s flagship classic rock station. Within a few short months of KNAC's demise, the Pure Rock Sunday Night show was formed at KLOS, and for two hours every Sunday night, metalheads once again had a place to crank up their favorite heavy tunes. Pure Rock Sunday Night lasted for nearly 2 years before it, too, had run its course; because even the biggest classic rock station in L.A. had to heed the call of the changing musical trends and start incorporating modern rock into the playlist. People calling in to KLOS were not requesting Anthrax or Pantera. They weren't even requesting Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith. When callers began to ask for bands like Blues Traveler or Counting Crows, it was clear that the biggest players in rock radio had to acclimate to the changing musical environment or meet a similar fate to KNAC.

While the Pure Rock format was ending its FM radio run, the world outside was experiencing a change in the landscape not only in music, but in technology as well. In 1995, the year KNAC went off the air, the internet was still considered a very new thing; something that most (including myself) had maybe only heard about in passing; known mostly as something that only rich people had, because at that time, computers cost several thousand dollars and not everyone could afford one like they can now. Within just a few short years, this would change, and the internet would become a part of our everyday lives. With that, the promise that KNAC would return did come true, but not in the way anyone could have predicted.

In 1998, KNAC found a new home: not on FM radio, but online at KNAC.com. This was back when people still had dial-up modems, so to launch an internet radio station of its caliber was a huge deal. KNAC.com still exists today and has become an online mainstay for all things metal; staying true to its format on FM radio, only now reaching much farther than 1500 watts, and giving fans around the world who had only heard of KNAC in legend the chance to hear the “metal station from heaven” for themselves.

The internet is fantastic when it comes to reviving things that once were, or expanding upon things that would have had a much shorter reach in the pre-internet days. KNAC is a prime example of this, and I am glad to know that the station I love has survived, still makes people happy, and is still rockin'.


Metalhead Scott Hammond meets with Queensrÿche's ex-frontman Geoff Tate and guitarist Michael Wilton during a visit to KNAC.com
(Photo courtesy of Scott Hammond)


That being said, at least for me, it is not the same. KNAC Pure Rock 105.5 and KNAC.com are still two different entities, for all that they have sprouted from the same seed. I would liken it to a favorite place in your childhood that was torn down and rebuilt again many years later. On the outside, it still looks the same and still maintains its proper function, but it no longer shelters your memories. Obviously I am not the only one who feels this way; as fellow Pure Rocker Perry Brunette so clearly states: “It was the greatest station ever...I wish it would rise from the ashes and go back on the air. All other radio stations suck and don't even come close to the quality of music or content! [KNAC has] been missed by millions since its demise. There is always online, but it's not the same!”

For all that it looks and feels the same, it is not the same place because there are new memories being made there by new people. And that is a wonderful thing. But if it were still exactly the same as it had been back in the Pure Rock days, I would not need to write this blog entry now. For all that KNAC.com is exactly like its terrestrial radio predecessor, there are still thousands of people who visit the site every day who have no clue of KNAC's origins, or who will never know what it had once been. While I do not begrudge anyone for this, it makes me a little sad that the rich history of KNAC's FM radio roots have become lost in cyberspace.

But this is my own personal opinion, and obviously spoken from a sentimental viewpoint. I grew up with the radio version of KNAC, so it only stands to reason that it is where my heart is and will always be. That is not to say I don't have love for KNAC.com, because I do. I love that something that started so small from my neck of the woods has blossomed into a worldwide stronghold for metal, and that the sense of community and friendship has expanded from all corners of Southern California to all corners of the globe. I think it's a beautiful thing that metal fans from Long Beach to Luxembourg have found a home among headbangers at KNAC.com the way I did at 105.5.


The Pure Rock crew shows their KNAC pride
(Photo provided courtesy of Lucas Riot)


So here we are now, 20 years after the little station from Long Beach closed its doors. The station still continues to impact people all these years later. For those of us who were lucky enough to have been around during the 9 years that KNAC Pure Rock ruled the airwaves across the Southland, we will never forget it. KNAC was a part of our lives, a part of our memories, and a part of our hearts. It was where we heard new bands that are now, all these years later, considered legends. More than this, we as fans can look back on it now and give ourselves a pat on the back for being part of that legacy. We are part of what made KNAC great, because they couldn't have survived without the fans. As much as they gave to us, we gave them something back by bringing them into our homes and cars, and into our lives. Not many radio stations can make that kind of claim. Many can boast greater popularity or higher ratings; some can even also share in the world-famous status that KNAC has enjoyed; but very few of them, if any, can honestly say that they were part of a movement. Very few radio stations that once existed carry the honor of being remembered with tears and sadness even 2 decades after they have gone. Most of all, none of them had the kind of impact KNAC had and still continues to have 20 years later.

It is often said that the smallest stone dropped into a pool can cause the greatest ripple effect; and if that is the case, then KNAC's tiny 1500-watt pebble cast back in 1986 has rippled into a mighty tidal wave that continues to flood the world nearly 30 years later.

So it was stated, almost prophetically, on that final day at 105.5: “All things in life are born and transformed...changed and molded. KNAC, a piece of coal that turned into a diamond. A stone that became a crystal. A tiny 1500-watt FM radio signal competing in the concrete jungle of L.A.: 3,324 days...79,776 hours...4,786,560 minutes...”

Fifteen-hundred watts of power. Nine years of music. A lifetime of memories. Thanks for everything, KNAC. You were the greatest.


The final words ever spoken at KNAC Pure Rock 105.5, from program director Gary Price
(Image courtesy of Lucas Riot)

_________________________________________________________________________________


Dedicated to the memory of Tawn Mastrey, “The Leather Nun”: 1954-2007.


This tribute to KNAC Pure Rock 105.5 is for all the Pure Rockers from Southern California, who lived those amazing 9 years, and still remember.


Most of all, this is for the metalheads across the globe who never knew the original KNAC. Those who never lived in the Los Angeles area or who did not live there during the time period; and for those who were too young to have experienced the greatest heavy metal radio station on the planet. You don't know what you missed. This is for you, so that whenever you bemoan the state of American music or the lack of respect that the mainstream has for metal; be comforted in knowing that for a moment in time, there was a place where our music was respected and revered, and that some form of it still survives. Metal's detractors have always failed in trying to bring it down, because they do not understand what we always have known: metal is more than music, and it is more than a lifestyle. Metal is a family, it is a community, it is a belonging, and we are always strongest when standing together against the world.

Special thanks to the following: Jason Rhodes, Christina & Frank Luna, Lisette & Luis Camarena, Gabe Ariza, Sudra Kaye, Greg Rowe, Brian Walker, Lucas Riot & Rick Knutzen at the KNAC Rocks! and KNAC Past, Present, & Future: Rock On! Facebook groups, Yvette Soto-Desmond, Jennifer Ott, Dustin Leonsky, Denise T. Dardarian, Eric Kuder, Samantha Magistrale, Scott Hammond, Todd Stout, Child Saint, Bradley Hindman, Marlena Beltrame, Jill Armstrong, Michelle Parisi, Gerald Logue, Kris Vaughan, Chris Heathcote, Damian Young, Josh Taylor, Michele Evans, Robert Watts, Stephani Gramann, Brian Racer, Jenny Brooks, Perry Brunette, Jordan West, all of the KNAC DJs and metal bands past and present, and last but certainly not least: to all the countless metalheads all over the world who were part of the KNAC revolution!

Extra-special thanks to Michael Stark, whose online rebroadcast of KNAC's final days helped to fill in the finer details of the research for this tribute piece.

This article was brought to you by Super Shops: “...Because everyone deserves performance!”

25 comments:

  1. Thanks... great memories from those Pure Rock days...

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    1. Thanks so much for reading! I am glad to know so many Pure Rockers are reading and enjoying.

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    2. hey this THE poundin pat ,how do i reach the owner of this blog ?????? I have some behind the scenes stories about KNAC that i want to share

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    3. Hey, Poundin' Pat!!! Glad you read my blog. Just now noticed your message. There should be a "contact me" button somewhere around here, but if not, get in touch with Long Paul. We're friends on Facebook so you can find me there.

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  2. Great story. KNAC was THE station back in the day! Lots of great memories from those days.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for reading.

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    2. Thanks for sharing such wonderful memories of KNAC. I first discovered KNAC in 1989 when I moved from Santa Cruz to L.A. to attend college at UCLA, where I was a student for four years and graduated in 1993. One day, I just arrived at the apartment I was living in close to the college and while I was unpacking my stuff, one of my roommates had the radio on and they were playing some Iron Maiden, Mötley Crüe, Armored Saint and Skid Row songs, and I was like "Holy shit! This radio station kicks ass!". Of course, the roommate told me that radio station was KNAC. He and I were both into metal, and thanks to him, I constantly listened to KNAC during my four years of college. R.I.P. KNAC, you were an awesome radio station.

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    3. Thanks for sharing your story, Lisa! I cannot tell you how many similar stories I got from the Pure Rockers who wanted to share their memories of KNAC with me.

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  3. well had a nice long comment,, it didn't go through,, so now i say thanks for sharing,, This took me back to a fun time of my life. I could share many of my memories and KNAC was there for many of them. David

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    1. Thanks for reading! No matter how many KNAC stories I have received, people have written me with even more! It's amazing how many people still hold Pure Rock in their hearts.

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  4. Great article. I guess you can say I was a late bloomer in listening to KNAC. I had been aware of the station since around 1989, but had ignored it since I couldn't get decent reception with the cheap stereo I had at the time. So i listened to Pirate Radio instead. When Pirate Radio ended in the spring of 1993, I started listening to KNAC (this time on a better stereo system). I was able to construct a homemade antenna which enabled me to pick up the station much clearer. My fondest memories of KNAC during those final two years was hearing "Mandatory Metallica" and the Top 10 Countdown that would air on Thursday nights (I think it was Thursday nights). Hearing Prong's "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" for the first time on KNAC was a highlight. It would hold on to the Number 1 spot for many weeks in the summer of 1994. Terrestrial radio hasn't been the same in 20 years.

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    1. Awesome! That's actually one of the many songs I associate with KNAC whenever I hear it. Was also cool to hear another story of a Pure Rocker who suffered through the difficulty of tuning in to the station due to its lack of signal strength. But they sure do make up for it now on KNAC.com, which can be reached anywhere around the world!

      I also have the “Mandatory Metallica” intro uploaded to my personal YouTube page; just look up “KNAC Mandatory Metallica” in the search engine and you should be able to find it.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your KNAC memories!

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  5. You did an excellent job on this story. KNAC was my favorite radio station of all time until it ended way too soon. I remember the first time I had heard of KNAC was 1990 when my wife and I moved from Mexico to Anaheim, very shortly after our marriage. Once we arrived in O.C., we had our car stereo tuned into KNAC when we were looking for a radio station to listen to there. I remember one of the songs they were playing was Metal Church's "Fake Healer" and I was like "Wow. I need to put this radio station on the preset." and the rest was history. My wife and I both loved metal (we still do now) and KNAC was our radio station until it "faded to black". We felt like we were a family to KNAC because we'd go to in-store appearances and concerts that KNAC had sponsored, got to meet their DJs and at times I was even on the air requesting a song. Sadly, 20 years later, we still don't have another radio station like KNAC, just classic rock stations like KLOS and mainstream rock stations like KROQ and similar radio stations that play bands like R.E.M., Green Day, The Offspring or No Doubt. I will miss KNAC forever but will always remember it. Metal never dies. Rock on! \m/

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Enrique! Your story is just further confirmation of the spirit of family and community that was KNAC and its fans. One thing that has really been cool about writing this blog has been connecting with all the Pure Rockers, and how even though most of us have never met before, we are all instantly bonded by our love of KNAC and our memories of the station. I can only compare it to being like a big family reunion. The Spirit Lives!!!

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  6. I miss KNAC a lot. I remember skipping school on that last day so I could have the opportunity to hear the final moments of the radio station and taped and taped as much as I could. When I listened to that last day on YouTube in its entirety for the first time in many years, I couldn't help but ask myself "What if this didn't happen?". Hearing that mariachi song after they played "Fade to Black" was like a nightmare that I never had before. I really wish KNAC was back where it belongs which is the FM dial.

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    1. Ha-ha, I also ditched school to stay home and listen to the last hours of KNAC! Glad to know I was not the only one!!! ;)

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    2. I listened and taped the last day of KNAC too. Of course I was no longer in school by that point, but me and one of my roomates took a day off from our jobs at the time so we could hear the final day of KNAC, which was and still is absolutely the worst day of my life. Well, all good things had to come to an end, and I understand why KNAC had to go (just a decision-making thing), but I still feel very sad and hurt when I listen to the final hours of KNAC.

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    3. That was the darkest day in metal for so many people, it did make them want to take the day off work or school because it really was like grieving a loss for so many of us.

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    4. Yeah I agree. Losing KNAC to a Spanish-language format was like I had lost a friend or even someone who is related to me.

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  7. Once again, I am very impressed with your blog covering the last day of KNAC and am completely honored to have my name mentioned. As Everready Ed told Bryan Schock on the early morning hours of KNAC's last day, "We were blessed for nine years", and I was blessed for those nine years of course. All I can say is that KNAC meant so much to me, they're one of the primary reasons for my love of metal. Not to mention there are so many bands I wouldn't have known if it weren't for KNAC, like Testament, Pantera, Sepultura, Danzig, Alice in Chains, White Zombie, just to name a few.

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    1. Thank you, Lucas; your input and overall love of the station and for this music was a huge factor in what made this article what it was. The passion that fans and listeners had and still have for this station is incredible. The letters “KNAC” have almost become like a secret metalhead password over time, and anyone who knows those call letters instantly recognize their significance even all these years later. I wrote this so that people would never forget KNAC's FM radio origins. It has been wonderful to see just how many people still remember.

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    2. KNAC never dies! It will always live on!

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