KFTW 97.5: The Southside’s Pirate Radio
Along the radio waves, many music fans find their first favorites.
Before listeners could control each tune in their environment with precision and control, there were guides up and down the dial delivering them. Often out of the wild blue yonder, great tunes can quickly become buried in a listener’s psyche. Perhaps unlimited access of streaming services has changed how these discoveries are made, but the drive for novel moments lives on for aficionados and connoisseurs alike. Low-power FM is an arena showing growth, allowing community radio stations like Fort Worth’s KFTW The Pirate, affectionately known as Southside Pirate, to broadcast local music completely for the past five years. Head pirates John and Sallie Rody met in 2012, married shortly thereafter, and, ever since, they have been on a mission. John, part of KZEW’s wildly successful Morning Zoo in the 70s and 80, knows that of which he speaks, “Radio is a funny thing and it should be fun. Listening to radio machines offers a connection on a community level like it no longer does on any other level.”
Not quite Christian Slater’s suburban anarchist of 1990’s Pump Up the Volume or the unregulated hi-watt stations south of the border depicted in Wall of Voodoo’s New Wave masterpiece, Mexican Radio, these pirates operate a brilliant beacon of Fort Worth’s music and culture. The Booty Box has subversive undertones, especially when John Rody gets a glint in his eye plotting out his original concept of tasking local musicians of all types with a mission to physically bring the Pirate their music, “Not email MP3s, but get off your couch and physically drop your music in the box.” And thus, began the great pilgrimage to The Boiled Owl on Magnolia, which had housed the Booty Box for most of its life before it was abducted and started its tenure at Avoca; so, it should perhaps be no surprise that the recently-disbanded Oil Boom dropped in first, given bass player Steve Steward’s tenure as bartender at the establishment.
Sallie Rody enthusiastically listens through all of the submissions and catalogs the entries, curating fresh playlists from them, “It is great fun bringing in all kinds of amazing music, old and new.” Based out of Panther City’s creative heart in the Near Southside, the Pirate’s comfy studio has been operational for a year and a half. The station has grown consistently with a combination of community outreach, unique programming and, of course, homegrown music of every shade, which Sallie loves, “We wanted to draw upon the familiarity of local talent because we are surrounded by so much.” This growth was further boosted last November when Southside Pirate stepped up power to support an expanding array of shows by installing a new tower. The grassroots signal now covers Fort Worth’s metropolitan area, though anyone anywhere can listen online at http://www.southsidepirate.com/ to hear all the great singers, songwriters, pickers and players making music around town.
The broadcasters have also added technology to tag songs and artists, so radio listeners can track all the great tunes they come across on the air – one step closer to finding a new favorite song by an artist who will be playing a set nearby. Beyond the stream of local music, KFTW offers a platform for voices from throughout the community to reach their neighbors and tell their stories, as John details, “We look to have our shows underwritten rather than host long pledge drives.” As Southside Pirate continues to enhance their live broadcast abilities, they are always looking for new programs to add to their roster, which includes Ansley Dougherty’s Under the Influence on local music, Stefan Prigmore’s Texas Woods & Waters, Susie Ramone on local business, Katsuk’s metaphysical Roots of Change, Keegan McInroe’s Traveling Troubadour, as well as Matthew Broyles’ long-running music round table, The Barbershop. John Rody is eager to find hosts for shows, for example, focused on the Grateful Dead as well as Van Cliburn, “it just takes the right purveyor and we’ll have something solid.”
From broadcasting live at ArtsGoggle to hosting a City Council debate, their community outreach now extends to Live & Local remotes downtown from Flying Saucer with live music, trivia and giveaways. Technology advances and reinvents media engagement; community radio has allowed the Southside Pirate to invite listeners to join the local revolution and attract support from all walks of life. They have reinvigorated a spirit which has largely been drained out of radio by nameless corporations as John illustrates, “To deconstruct the medium, you have to boil it down into a nice sauce. We run it lean and do a lot of the work ourselves.”
An Austin native, Lyle Brooks relocated to Fort Worth in order to immerse himself in the burgeoning music scene and the city’s rich cultural history, which has allowed him to cover everything from Free Jazz to folk singers. He’s collaborated as a ghostwriter on projects focusing on Health Optimization, Roman Lawyers, and an assortment of intriguing subjects requiring his research.