Been to the URL http://www.thestationthatstarteditall.com? It takes you to the site for KOKE-FM 99.3/98.5, the freshly minted reboot of Austin’s pioneering 1970s progressive country station.
KOKE began broadcasting on Sunday, with longtime KVET personality Bob Cole as both a co-owner and the morning DJ. Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson also serves as an announcer.
In “That 70’s Show,” John Spong’s oral history of outlaw country from the April TEXAS MONTHLY, Spong wrote about the station’s genesis, and its relationship with Nelson:
Once he figured out how to bring the hippies and the rednecks together, the scene grew into something no one had seen before. Most folks have always credited that to his innate charisma, to the idea that Austin was the place where Willie was finally allowed to be Willie. But the fact is, Willie came to town with a specific goal in mind: building a scene that would allow him to ignore Nashville completely. And he pulled that off with more than luck and a smile…
Another focus of Willie’s strategizing was radio station KOKE-FM. On New Year’s Eve 1972, KOKE switched to a new format geared to the mixed crowds he was pulling at the Armadillo. Programmers at the station, which was housed in a little walk-up near a gun store on North Lamar, first thought to call the new format “country rock.” Realizing they’d never be able to sell “rock” to country advertisers, they settled on the term “progressive country.” Willie was a regular on-air presence, showing up unannounced to pick his guitar and spin records. Billboard named KOKE the most innovative station in the country for 1974.
“What we now take for granted as the alternative culture in Austin, what led to South by Southwest and Austin City Limits — it’s all feeding off that period in time,” writer Joe Nick Patoski told the Austin’s American-Statesman‘s Brenda Bell last summer for a feature about Joe Gracey, who was KOKE’s biggest DJ in the seventies (Gracey, who was also a musician, producer and food writer, died of esophageal cancer last November).
As Lance Venta of Radio Insight noted, KOKE 2.0 started off sneakily last week, making the transition from its former identity as a Christian talk outlet by broadcasting a continuous loop of Dale Watson’s song “Country My Ass,” with a changed lyric of “Now Austin’s on track ’cause KOKE-FM’s back!”
Nelson also recorded the station’s first ID: “You’re listening to 99.3 KOKE FM. Remember our motto: We’re Not Happy ‘Til You’re Not Happy.”
“I knew about KOKE-FM long before I came to Austin,” Cole told Gary Dinges of the Austin American-Statesman. “It’s legendary. That’s what we’re out to re-create.”
“Everybody has that perfect radio station in their head,” co-owner Eric Raines said in that same story. “We’re going to be putting our arms around the local and Texas music scenes. It’s going to be a mix of everything we consider cool.”
You can listen live to KOKE here.