Lorenzo Milam, KRAB Founder, Dies at 86

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Reason.com reports: “A broadcast pioneer just died in southern Mexico, a few weeks shy of his 87th birthday. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, Lorenzo Milam helped launch about a dozen offbeat FM stations—eclectic, adventurous outlets that tried to avoid the straightjacket formulas of both commercial and public radio. Lorenzo Milam worked for a few conventional stations in the 1950s. And then, when he started studying at Berkeley, he discovered KPFA, a noncommercial outlet run by the Pacifica Foundation. KRAB-FM went on the air in 1962, and Lorenzo ran it from then until 1968.
(Photos from the KRAB archive http://www.krabarchive.com)

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Author: Jason Remington

Creator, Admin, & Editor of PugetSound.Media, former broadcaster at KAMT/Tacoma, KRPM FM/Tacoma, KJUN/Puyallup, KASY/Auburn, KTAC AM/Tacoma, KBRD FM/Tacoma, KMTT FM/Tacoma, and KOOL FM/Phoenix. View other articles by Jason Remington

19 thoughts on “Lorenzo Milam, KRAB Founder, Dies at 86

  1. I got an Am/FM radio on Christmas 68 and discovered KRAB. That station helped me to get eclectic. Lorenzo was a very interesting person. He was no Bill Drake, that,s for sure.

  2. I grew up two blocks from a Spudnut Shop at 91st & Roosevelt Way. KRAB was born in that same little building two years after we moved away. That building was so small that when you walked in, nothing was between you and the sole employee but the Spudnuts frying in a vat of boiling oil.

    In the seventies, Tiny Freeman had a bluegrass show on KRAB from midnight Saturday until he and his pals ran out of pot and whiskey sometime Sunday morning.

    A block north on Roosevelt was another tiny building that was the birthplace of KISW.

  3. I remember going by the KISW building in summer of 69 and I met Tiny Freeman in about 85 at The Fabulous Rainbow.

  4. Sometime in the Fall of 1963 I placed a little ad for KRAB (unsolicited by them) in the Everett Community College Clipper newspaper. I then sent a copy of the ad to Lorenzo and staff, along with a $2 cash donation. Earlier in 1963, I sent KRAB an audio recording of some guy’s lecture given at Cascade High School in Everett. It was provided to KRAB with a release by the lecturer, and did air.

  5. Like Dick Ellingson, I also grew up in the Maple Leaf area of north Seattle, where KRAB was initially located. (I lived at 1528 NE 94th St., and would be curious to know what schools Dick attended — with me, it was Sacajawea Elementary, Jane Addams Junior High and Nathan Hale High — but I digress).

    At any rate, the Portland Radio Guide website (pdxradio.com) this morning also noted Lorenzo Milam’s passing, and someone commented there on how strange KRAB’s programming was. This prompted me to respond with the following:

    “Not only was the programming VERY strange, the home of KRAB itself was also. I grew up in the Maple Leaf area in north Seattle, and KRAB at that time was housed in what the station itself described as a ‘dingy studio’ that I understand had at one time been a donut shop. It was a very small, ugly-looking box-shaped structure at the peak of the hill on North Roosevelt Way. Surrounding it was a wooden fence on which the letters K-R-A-B had been painted in a weird manner.

    “And the station didn’t have a conventional transmission antenna like KISW (then a classical music station), which was located two blocks up the street. Instead, KRAB’s antenna was a funky looking thing attached to a telephone pole.

    Suffice to say, the whole vibe of the place was just counterculture weird, and I considered it a plus for the neighborhood when KRAB later packed up and moved to Capitol Hill and the ‘dingy studio’ was torn down.”

    1. HA! I take it your not a KRAB fan. A lot of people were not. Sometimes they were real weird then at other times, very informative. They would often make fun of themself,s. I remember The Roachdale Radio Players. I sometimes wished that I lived in that neighborhood. Seattle was very lucky to have a station like KRAB.

      1. I think KRAB did have a sense of humor about themselves, and yet it was an all-volunteer station of dedicated people endeavored to get their messages out. I wonder how KRAB would survive in today’s environment.

        1. Probably not very well. Pacifica has had a lot of problems lately. I think the internet stations have a lot to do with it. Too many choices.

      2. Ha! You interpret my attitude about KRAB correctly, Mr. Bennett. But I will give credit to its founder, Lorenzo Milam, for being a creative and bright person who really stood out with his ventures.

    2. John, I also digress for a moment. I grew up at 1039 East 90th St. I went to Olympic View, John Marshall Junior High and Roosevelt High. Your schools weren’t built yet and the city limits was 92nd St. until about 1952. High school kids from the city limits out to the Snohomish County line rode a school bus to either Roosevelt, Lincoln or Ballard High School. Olympic View was outside the city at 95th & 5th, but was part of Seattle Schools.

      I was there when KISW came into being and I mentioned somewhere here that I helped build the tower. Not bad, considering the station hit the air four days before my eleventh birthday. It was like a big erector set. I think I got paid a quarter a day, enough for five Spudnuts from the little shop at the next corner whose little building eventually housed KRAB.

      That KISW building was so small that when you looked in, nothing was between you and the sole employee but the turntables.

      1. Thanks, Dick. If I had lived just three or four blocks over toward where you grew up, I also would have gone to Marshall and Roosevelt after Sacajawea. But yes, I am younger than you. I was born in 1955 and graduated from Nathan Hale in 1973. Speaking of the Maple Leaf area, I always have wondered why the hill on which we lived, which is actually the second tallest in Seattle, never has had a formal name, like Queen Anne or Capitol. It is definitely a significant hill; the 94th Street on which I grew is one of the steepest streets in Seattle. Oh, and yes, I too remember how small the KISW building was, but it least it looked FAR better than the “KRAB shack.”

        1. John, how about Maple Leaf Hill? I never thought about it. Does the high spot on 35th S. W. have a name? I called it the hill in West Seattle. Anyway, we got snow or at least slush on some rainy winter days. And 90th from 15th to 20th was a great sledding hill!

          Our house was halfway between Roosevelt and 12th where the road dipped (and flooded) so my buddies and I would park the car up on Roosevelt (10 feet higher?) and listen at night to radio from all over – KOA, KOB, KEWB, WWL, XEPRS, XETRA, KXEL, CFCN, CBK, KGON etc. etc.

          1. Dick, Maple Leaf Hill sounds like the logical name for it. I wonder if there is a city board that governs geographic names that one would check with. I think I saw once a map from years ago that referred to it as “Roosevelt Hill,” but I tend to think of the Roosevelt District as being in the “lowlands” of 65th Street or so.

            And if you think 90th from 15th to 20th was great for sledding or innertubing, you should have tried our VERY steep street (94th) between 15th and 17th! It’s a wonder I didn’t break my neck from some of the speeds achieved. One time at the bottom of the hill the tube bounced and I landed in the lower branches of a tree. Ahhh, childhood memories…

            (My thanks to everyone else for patiently allowing Dick and me to indulge in this discussion here, which has certainly veered off from the original topic of KRAB radio 🙂

            1. Right, John. I’ve always considered 65th & Roosevelt to be the heart of the Roosevelt District. Up in our neighborhood, we usually referred to Roosevelt Way as Tenth.

    1. Corrected, Ed. I had checked the list and double-checked, just like Santa Claus does. But, oops!
      (We all believe in Santa, right? I’m not the only one.)

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