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Friday, November 02, 2018

KIRO-TV's Telephonic Happening

On Saturday nights at 11:15pm in early 1971, after the 11PM evening newscast was over and the older folks were likely going to bed or watching the last late movies on other channels. KIRO TV & Radio in Seattle, Washington got psychedelic with their briefly run locally produced live music TV show series Telephonic Happening.

With then contemporary rock hits such as "Black Magic Woman/Gyspy Queen" Santana, "My Sweet Lord" George Harrison and "Honey Tonk Women" Rolling Stones and Matthews Southern Comfort's rendition of "Woodstock" (not heard on this clip) and guest appearances on this surviving episode by local acts Adam Wind and Cold Trane, Telephonic Happening was presented in experimental 4 channel Quadraphonic sound with color psychedelic visuals, filters, imagery and garden gnomes courtesy of local psychedelic light show producers, Retina Circus on the TV screen for freaky visuals.

It was a bold and overlooked first in broadcasting because unlike the pioneering Quad radio broadcasts, which began at Classical stations WGBH and WCRB in Boston in 1969, used the Stereo signals of the two FM radio stations, thus requiring two costly FM stereo receivers to hear the full program in Quad sound.

The experimental KIRO Quad system in Seattle for this program used all three of their AM/FM and TV signals. And it was awkward and uneven sounding. But it was simple, had a visual component and used equipment you already had; Your TV tuned to KIRO-TV 7 in front of you for a mono front-center channel and visual stage. An FM Stereo radio with separating speakers (tuned to KIRO-FM's then-frequency of 100.7 MHz) with the speakers placed directly at your left and right sides. And for the rear speaker, your AM tabletop or portable radio set to KIRO-AM (710 kHz) for Quad sound in an unusual diamond shaped pattern that probably would have impressed Pink Floyd if they saw it.

And at the very birth of the home theater experience, you took whatever you could get.

But psychedelia, rock music and experimental visual and audio voodoo in diamond patterns were not things KIRO was particularly known for back then. Owned then by Bonneville, the media division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, neither KIRO-AM or FM even played rock music either in 1971. Which makes this all the more interesting an artifact.

Unfortunately, the audio on this clip is in mono.

The elegant sounding announcer you hear on this clip is the late Hal Willard. For decades, he was "Mr. Announcer Man" at KIRO-TV who read the weather reports during the J.P. Patches morning show.

Listen at the end of the Telephonic Happening program where he recommends you send a postcard to the station telling them your requests and suggestions for future Telephonic Happening programs, but "suggest gently"....