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The Man behind the Big Red Switch - KNKX 88.5

For some, the heartbeat of the city is syncopated. With every pedestrian, traffic light and car horn somehow in step with the smooth, sweet sounds of jazz.

That city soundtrack plays everyday on 88.5 FM KNKX, the Puget Sound’s longtime source for jazz new and old.

Dick Stein is the host of “Midday Jazz” on 88.5 and says out of all the DJ jobs he's had over his twenty-five year career, playing jazz on KNKX is his best gig yet.

“I’ve been a jazz fan since I was a kid, When my uncle Paul sent me a collection of records, and I just knew right from the start, the first record I played was Billie Holiday, “”you go to my head”” Stein says.

Stein took his place behind the mic and the "Big Red Switch" in 1992.

“The original big red switch was just a little switch on the console in the old studio, with a clear plastic cover on it and a label that said “NO.”"

Stein didn't say what "The Big Red Switch" does or if he ever needs to use it but did say last year’s possible buyout of 88.5 FM by KUOW was a trying time for the staff of KNKX (Then KPLU). He says raising enough money to save the station was a daunting task, but now after about 18,000 listeners opened their wallets and pooled together the 7 million dollars needed the keep the station afloat and independent, he and his fellow staff members are more dedicated than ever to providing the best possible radio for the fans of 88.5FM.

Stein says, ““It’s wonderful to know people like what we do so well, and of course we’re a duel format station. We do news as well. “Jazz blues and NPR news” and local coverage too, and I think that was big driver between people’s desire to save the station… We want to bring the very best possible radio to our listeners and supporters, we want to make sure the confidence they placed in us was not misplaced, we want to prove to them they made the right decision.””

88.5FM is now owned by its listeners in the form of a non-profit “Friends of 88.5.” And if you’re wondering what the new call letters mean, K-N-K-X, sound it out. “Con-nects.” As in “88.5 KNKX connects you to jazz blues and NPR news”

It sounds so much better when Dick Stein says it…


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