Who knew one could move forward into the past.
But that’s exactly what’s happening in this age of do-it-from-anywhere technology.
Recently, Firesign Theater member Peter Bergman had the bright idea of bringing his popular ’60s radio show, “Radio Free Oz,” back to the future.
The show hit the stream via podcast from Whidbey Island’s own KWPA radio Website on Sunday, March 21 with Bergman hosting as the indubitable “Wizard.” The show is being recorded from Blue Ewe Studios in Freeland.
“Welcome to the future. We’re glad you made it,” says a tagline on the Web site, which just about sums up why “Radio Free Oz” is able to broadcast from here there and everywhere. The future has arrived.
“It’s kind of like what FM was for us in the ’60s,” fellow Firesign Theater member David Ossman said during a recent chat about Bergman and his new project.
“FM was still new, the LP was at its height and ‘Radio Free Oz’ was this media-changing event. But it disappeared for a long time,” Ossman said.
The irony is not lost on him.
Now, in this do-anything-you-want-on-a-global-scale age of technology you can take a little island radio station — one that was saved from certain death by the tireless perseverance of islanders Judith Ossman, William Bell and Michael Nutt — and end up inspiring one of the iconic figures of comedy from more than 40 years ago with the idea to bring it all back, even if the station is only a low power FM. It’s all in the magic of the Web.
Even the original producer of the show, Bill McIntyre, came on board to help.
“I felt there was probably interest here on Whidbey considering the community’s awareness of the Ossmans and the recent performance by the Firesign Theater,” McIntyre said.
All anybody has to do now is to go online at www.kwparadio.org to hear the radio redux.
Some of the planned guests on the show include other Firesign Theater mates Ossman, Phil Austin and Phil Proctor, as well as film actor and funnyman John Goodman among a bevy of other interesting types both local and national.
“Radio Free Oz” first aired in 1966 on KPFK, Los Angeles and was hosted by Bergman, the original mastermind.
It broke all kinds of barriers in the world of underground radio and performance, playing a new style of music called “rock” that the big AM pop radio stations were trying their best to ignore.
It was also where the members of the Firesign Theater first came together.
“Peter was doing this program and was the on-air producer of the show,” Ossman recalled. “I had been working at the station and met him at the marathon fundraiser. I would drop in on the show, and his former Yale classmate Phil (Proctor) came back around at that time.”
Indeed, McIntyre said that Austin and Proctor were weekly guests on Radio Oz and created shows of free- form improvisations on the air.
Finally, the four performers sat down at their mics together for the first time around 1967 and created an ensemble improvisation, a hilarious sendup of the film festival.
“And, as it is sometimes said (all too often)` the rest is history,” McIntyre said.
“It was a loose environment, great stuff,” Ossman said. “We could do what we wanted. Firesign Theater came out of that, and Peter relinquished his star role to be a part of an ensemble.”
Now Bergman, who recently moved to Whidbey, finds himself in a technological environment and connecting to both the island and the world through “Radio Free Oz” again, Ossman said.
“It’s quite an interesting thing to do.”
“Radio Free Oz” will stream worldwide on the Web through KWPA’s site and various syndicated U.S. and foreign FM and AM stations.
The show will air on Sunday nights from 9 to 11 p.m.