The musical term ‘steel guitar’ usually conjures up notions of twangy country tunes rife with lyrics about heartache and romantic betrayal. Steel Harmony host, Paul Hanson, uses his two-hour Thursday night show to quash that stereotype. Each week he showcases a multi-faceted instrument that has a surprising history and has gone through an amazing evolution over the years.
Like most all of the Two Harbors Community Radio on-air personalities, Paul is a passionate student of the genre that he presents to the public. The student becomes the teacher when he speaks about the history of the instrument and the exact definition of ‘steel guitar’ as a style of music. “It was a result of Captain Cook bringing the Spanish guitar to Hawaii. In 1889, Joseph Kekuku applied a steel bolt to the strings on the neck of an old Spanish Guitar creating the first slide guitar style of playing. He would go on to become internationally famous, touring Europe for years.”
Paul also gave a much more inclusive definition of the steel guitar when he said, “It is really a style of playing as much as it is a particular instrument. There is the slide technique of playing using a steel bar or glass bottleneck like the Dobro used by Delta bluesmen. Then there’s the lap, or Weissenborn, also called the Hawaiian, steel that has a squared off neck and no resonating cavity. And finally, there is the pedal steel that most people have come to associate with country and Texas swing music. The pedal steel, in the hands of a true master like Buddy Emmons, has found homes in such genres as classical, bebop, rock, Dixieland, jazz and even Nigerian Jùjú music. It is more versatile than what most people think.”
As part of the core group of former 80’s KUMD DJs and engineers, Paul was involved in the early efforts to make community radio a reality in Two Harbors. As a result, Steel Harmony was one of the station’s inaugural shows. He credits his neighbor, Dave Slatterly, for mentoring him in the rich history of the steel guitar, without which the show would have followed a different path.
Steel Harmony airs Thursdays at 7 p.m. and re-airs Saturdays at 4 p.m. KTWH-LP, 99.5 FM, is a volunteer run non-profit serving the town of Two Harbors and surrounding area with a broadcast range of 10 miles. It streams online at ktwh.org.
Dave Anderson was always a musical child. In the same manner, most kids were scolded by their parents for sitting too close to the TV, Dave was prone to hugging the family radio, with his head and ear pressed firmly against the speaker until reprimanded by his mother. It is this love for music that leads inevitably to his learning guitar and the formation of his first band Dave & the Wharf Rats in 1960. The next four years saw him playing in several bands including one that went by the name The Pink Panthers. He took a long break from the road, got a respectable job, and soon left the Two Harbors area upon getting married in 64’. He returned to the area after retiring from the Teamster’s Union in 1998. He then set about becoming involved in 4 separate bands as a dobro player.
One of the early volunteers and content producers for Two Harbors Community Radio, Mr. Anderson was involved doing on the spot recordings for the station at various events prior to the launch of the Big Dave’s Beat Farm. He describes the 2-hour weekly broadcast as “an upbeat mix of Tex-Mex, Blues, Boogie, Swing, etc. Each show features a live music segment with area bands and musicians of varying skills, styles and instruments.” The live performance spot is open to anyone from the area regardless of professional experience.
Getting the best performance from someone who has never played ‘live’ requires a bit of wizardry. The magic begins with Dave’s hospitality towards his guests. His demeanor is genial and unrushed. As a musician himself, he can anticipate concerns and questions a first timer might have. Watching him interact with last week’s guest, Larry South, before the show, the outside observer comes away with the sense that Dave is truly interested in the person before him and the story behind their music. The show is not an altar to his ego, and this segment is purely a vehicle designed to showcase community artists of all skill levels.
A few minutes before going on-air the radio station office suddenly transforms into the lobby of a local civic center as friends and fans of both the performer and the show casually file in to lend support and add to the overall energy. Stories and names are traded between audience members until the signal is given for the one-minute to air countdown. The small rows of folding chairs now take on a church-like quality as everyone sits quietly waiting for the show to begin.
One could easily draw parallels between the Beat Farm’s live broadcast and the in-the-field recordings made by the late great archivist, folklorist, and musicologist John Lomax. The musicians, their stories, and their songs that Mr. Anderson makes available to the world are, for the most part, those rarely heard outside of living rooms, multi-family BBQs, or the occasional coffee house.
The wrap party between host, performer and their supporters is brief as there is still another hour of programming to be filled. After each show, at his own expense, Dave snail mails each artist a digitized copy of their performance. For some first timers, this makes all the pre-show jitters well worth it.
Big Dave’s Beat Farm airs Friday nights at 7 PM and repeats again Sundays at 3 PM. KTWH-LP, 99.5 FM, is a volunteer run non-profit serving the town of Two Harbors and surrounding area with a broadcast range of 10 miles. It streams online at ktwh.org.
KTWH radio personality Kristina Rafn takes the audience to school with a two-part documentary presentation detailing the evolution of punk rock from its 60’s art scene roots, its exportation to the UK where it went supernova, and its influence on mainstream culture.
Each one-hour segment is a separately produced program and will follow Ms. Rafn’s regular Sunday 8-9 PM Digital Vinyl timeslot over a two-week period starting June 12th.
The first installment, The Pioneers of Punk, explores how Andy Warhol’s NYC art scene was embraced and transformed by that city’s economically disaffected youth during the 70’s.
In Part two, The Punk Invasion, the nascent genre getting no American airplay in the era of Disco, finds a home in the UK and evolves into a worldwide phenomenon.
Ms. Rafn, an avid music fan of alternative music since her late 80’s childhood, sees punk as being more than the soundtrack for protest, “When people think about punk, they think angry British people with Mohawks, but to me, punk is fun happy music.” Kristina also finds it empowering. “One of my favorite things about punk music is the place women hold in it. All-female bands like Mudwimin, Frightwig, Tragic Mulatto do not fit into the stereotypical sex goddess role. Punk audiences aren’t looking for glam, they want someone with an opinion that can rock.”
Digital Vinyl is a Two Harbors Community Radio produced weekly presentation of Kristina’s favorite upbeat alternative and punk rock classics.
On May 5, 2015, Big Dave Anderson of Brimson recorded his program demo (The Beat Farm) with guest musician and friend Kelly Lusk at KTWH’s studio – becoming the first person to actually record anything in the new studio – a landmark day for Two Harbors Community Radio!
Arna being coached by our engineer Bruce Holmen.
Get an idea of what to expect from KTWH from Arna’s program demo recorded May 8, 2015:
The THUGs (Two Harbors Ukulele Group) have become an integral part of the Two Harbors music scene, often gracing our community events with their songs and tunes. Here you can listen to their performance of White Sport Coat at the Heritage Days 2014 stage.