Sound Inspirations: From Freberg to Firesignals

Creative inspiration for some members of LCS’ Post-Void Radio Theater originated listening to record albums by The Firesign Theatre and Stan Freberg. The recent passing of FT’s Phil Austin, and the death of Stan Freberg (wrote & starred in network radio’s last great comedy series–replacing Jack Benny who left radio for TV) prompted discussion between Post-Void participants investigating the why of radio as means of expressing themselves. What were the listening influences of Peter Stenshoel, Damon Mathews, Jeff Pike, Stu Mathews & Jerry?

Peter: Old time radio was already in my blood. Along with Freberg. 50974-fullFirst album heard was Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, the year it was released! (1961) And Bob & Ray.

00314926Damon: Bob & Ray forever! Bob & Ray were, still are, and probably always will be my shining stars. I took an interest in old time radio so far back you had to get episodes on LP records. But cassettes arrived about two minutes later & I was off & running after that.

Jerry: No Stan Freberg…no Bob & Ray…no Jerry! They blew my mind discovering them.

Peter, Damon, Jerry

Peter, Damon, Jerry

Jerry: My buddy Mark Masyga and I started taping OTR on cassette around 1972 when re-runs were programmed on commercial radio: Lacrosse, Wisconsin AM radio ritually re-broadcast The Shadow, Green Hornet, Lone Ranger, Fibber McGee & Molly. Then-current CBS Radio Mystery Theater was text book “here’s how it’s done” and I kept a log of each episode title for quite a while. Now you can listen to them at

Peter: Miriam and I discovered CBS Radio Mystery Theater on Far East Network the 3 months living in Tokyo. A really fun ritual!

Stu: I think I was just seven, maybe eight years old (’61-‘62) when my grandmother Jewell Vowel thrilled me by sending me a “miniature” transistor radio for my birthday. I found out that I could put the radio under my pillow, and then, laying my head with my ear directly over the speaker, I could keep it low enough. That’s when I had my most fascinating listening sessions…listening to places like Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago. It’s where I first heard the Motown sound and the girl groups that were popular, including the first time I heard The Supremes.  To me, it didn’t seem like these sounds were coming from a specific place.  The experience seemed so mysterious to me that I felt these songs and the announcers were just “out there,” like voices from outer space (imagine that).

Jerry: Also KAAY-Little Rock. Freberg’s 1957 network radio show re-played on WCCO-FM, I strung a copper wire across the kitchen ceiling & on good nights in Winona listened intently.

Damon: Stringing wire in the kitchen to get WCCO is such beautiful music to my ears! I spent a good chunk of childhood fascinated with both the content and technology of radio.

Peter: I got a crystal radio set for my birthday when I was ten. That was just awesome. Later, the famous Jim Gilbert was my then not-famous science teacher who started a ham radio club with a few of us radio heads. Again, superb fun and thrills. My Morse code got good enough so I had my own “rig” in my room and I was WNOBJX.

Damon: That’s great that you got to be a ham in the days when it was really unique to connect to other countries. I had a Heathkit receiver that I built when I was about 9.

Peter: I also “built” a Heathkit receiver (my Dad did most of the soldering!) which was part of my rig. Bought a used transmitter…so cool! My Heathkit receiver allowed me to hear shortwave radio. Voice of America played Frank Zappa’s Concerto for John Luc Ponty.

Jerry: Looking for the elusive & interesting radio signals in the old days…like spelunking in a dark cave! The heart would race when happening upon something interesting!

Peter Bergman (d2012), Phil Proctor, Phil Austin (d2015), David Ossman

Peter Bergman (d2012), Phil Proctor, Phil Austin (d2015), David Ossman

Stu: Now that Peter Bergman & Phil Austin have passed away, I feel compelled to emphasize that, although I consider the Post-Void Radio Theater to be our own, there’s no use in denying how brave this foursome was to commit to their muses and boldly go where no comedic group had gone before, and not give a damn whether people approved or not. For me, they were The Beatles of a new kind of unfettered creativity that could be called as much Performance Art as it is Comedy. It is so vivid to me, my memory of the evening that Peter & David Stenshoel invited me to listen to a double-vinyl album they had acquired, called Dear Friends. We lounged around in their parents’ bedroom listening to four full album sides of four guys just doing whatever the hell they wanted to do, on the radio! I would never have been inspired to actually try to be funny – live – on the radio if I hadn’t heard Dear Friends, the only Firesign vinyl album that is just them goofing around on the airwaves. It was magic. It was more than magic. It changed my whole life paradigm. And I haven’t been the same since.

Jerry: I was living in Waverly, Iowa working at a radio station, off-hours at home could pick up Rochester, Minnesota late night FM playing whole sides of rock music albums without interruption, they played FT’s Nick Danger from their second LP.

Peter: I was speaking with a fellow at NPR West & he pointed out FT pre-dated Monty Python. FT credited The Goon Show as inspirations. $_35Maybe 1966 first heard The Goon Show and so I was well-primed when my brother David woke me up to hear the very surrealistic second side of FT’s Waiting for the Electrician. You didn’t have to be literate to enjoy it although you could understand more references if you were. FT’s David Ossman really admired the European avant-garde of the ’20s. And the ’50s. Ionesco, Beckett.

Jeff: Being absurd on the radio is so much more effective than almost any other medium. Radio triggers the imagination so easily. They pitched it at this low-brow level with TV, mystery novel references.

Peter: We could all instantly understand something of what they were doing, and yet there was always a mystery to it too. That absurdism translates beautifully in that medium.

Jeff: Funny, without being heavy-handed, that’s what Firesign Theatre really did. Obviously we were influenced by them. They were so unique, and they mapped out these huge terrains. I’ve gone back and bought all their albums.

Stu: If The Firesign Theatre had not happened, The Post-Void Radio Theater–and Little City in Space Show–would not have happened.


The Tony Levin Interview

Jerry & ChrisJerry & Chris Waterbury (pictured left) had the pleasure to speak candidly by telephone with one of guitar’s legends, Tony Levin.

Tony Levin

Tony Levin

Tony describes working with drummer Bill Bruford (Tony & Bill are an important part of King Crimson), specifically their Upper Extremities collaboration featuring David Torn & Chris Botti. Also heard is Black Light Syndromewith Terry Bozzio & Steve Stevens.

Tony is considered one of the greatest exponents of the Chapman Stick (pictured). He’s also a sought-after session musician, playing for Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Catie Curtis, Buddy Rich and many others. Tony talks about his work with them, running his own independent record label, and his unique love of barbershop quartet harmonizing.

Also heard: The Clams, Tony’s rare 45 spoofing The Carpenters’ “Close to You” (ala Spike Jones).


Internet Archive logoBroadcast 1998 on The Musical Transportation Spree, KFAI Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Little City in Space: Peter, Paul and Miriam

Late night radio fun with longtime friends Peter Stenshoel, Paul Zaiser and Miriam Stonehill on the Little City in Space from aircheck of July 5, 1989 taped by listener Brian Anderson. Features include News from Nowhere, Sports, Paul Bunny commentary, Joblines; ads for Smilin’ Simon’s Attitude Adjustment Capsules, Post-Modern Flakes, Swekkmakk’s Bleeper Pad Lounge. Records by Ted Heath, Yashiro Aki, The Hoodoo Rhythm Devils. With the talents of Bob Zander, Mark Masyga. Listen:

From July 19, 1989 excerpts of a solo-hosted LCS show by Peter, with guest appearances by Jack Swekkmakk, Halvor Johansen, Paul Bunny; sponsored by Smitherweenies and Gnarly School of Ash and Sack Cloth. Also featuring the talents of Mark Masyga. Listen at Archive logo

Peter, Stu, Miriam & Paul

Peter, Stu, Miriam & Paul

LCS ’89: Altering Realities

img0011989 was a busy year marked with experimentation on the Little City in Space show. Substitute players like Brian Anderson, Chuck Isle & Mark Masyga helped keep things aloft–Post-Voiders Peter Stenshoel, Stu Mathews & Jerry maintained the weekly KFAI radio commitment while logging many hours off-the-air tape recording the syndicated LCS series. img001 Early ’89 they (with Bat Lenny) threw a mad space-jam party in downtown St. Paul during a blizzard; The Post-Void Radio Theater appeared on-stage at Minicon for The Philip K. Dick Van Dyke Show; on KFAI, the LCS Universal Top 12 became 10; the show’s first hour format was tweaked (to match the hour-long national show under construction) and the second hour, Little City in Space Farther Out, allowed for diverting, more mysterious excursions outside any boundaries: from sound collage & spoken word to Golden Internet Archive logoCage/Radio Mortuary, it was anything goes.

We’ve collected more highlights from 1989 shows: The Best of Little City in Space Vol.2 with Peter, Stu & Jerry features special guest Mark Masyga: the pie-chute mystery of Stan Baxter‘s disappearance and re-appearance begins here! Tribute to Mel Blanc (d.1989), music by The Crash Dummies, The Toy Lovers. Sponsors include Old Dotage Fig Paste and Moot Point Resort. Listen:

June 28, 1989: Jerry with Mark Masyga, Brian Anderson; the trio’s Farther Out portion is one of LCS’ all-time best; also Nowhere News, sports, joblines & Gil Goose editorial; ads for Screaming Phoenix Edible Bi-Product Dispensation Outlet; Deja Food. Listen:

September 20, 1989: Jerry with Chuck Isle, Brian Anderson; ads for The Samuel T. Party Gompers; Mom’s Maply Syrup; Geek Weekly; Hi-Fiber Cellulogs (#2). Music by Zoltan & Squidley, Snakefinger, Gaby Pahinui. Conspiracy theorist Alabama Neptune‘s commentary on Stan Baxter. Listen:

img003The Void-Posts (#3 and #4) were published from the Post-Void in 1989. #3’s hot pink reflects some mind-bending visions for the eye. Art by Ernie Bushmiller (left) and (above) Wayne Modjeski.

Moved To Saturn

Sun-Ra-Space-000The Musical Transportation Spree, with help from Little City in Space, ZXQ Universe, Fubar Omniverse, Willie Murphy, and noted Arkestra authority Rev.Dwight Frizzell join unseen forces to pay Ra radio tribute.  Broadcast soon after Sun Ra departed planet Earth forever, all participants testify to the influence of the cosmic composer-philosopher-bandleader. Listen:

Blanche Fubar from Fubar Omniverse

Blanche Fubar from Fubar Omniverse

Internet Archive logoFeaturing the talents of Peter Stenshoel, Stu Mathews, Blanche Fubar, Chuck Isle, Brian Anderson, Bob Zander. Thanks to Jay Mandeville, Wabi Media, John F. Szwed.

Best of Little City in Space

cf0ad4bc9f3e209f10979581cf8fefd8The Post-Void Radio Theater brings outer space living down to Earth via their KFAI series, Little City in Space. Here are more highlights from the late 1980s with hosts Peter Stenshoel, Stu Mathews and Jerry.

News from Nowhere rounds up current events, along with Sports and the Paul Bunny commentary, featuring ads for Paul Molitor Dish Washing Liquid, and for an enigmatic contraption called The MJ-12. Music by Myron Floren, The Crops, Bat Lenny, The Harmonicats.

Listen: Archive logo

Thanks to the voices of Joan Timmis, Chuck Isle and Dan (Dr. Science) Coffey.



Little City in a Flask

Chuck Isle joins Jerry & Peter aboard LCS-1, this 1989 in-person appearance Chuck’s first since a very impromptu on-air cameo during Cancelled Edition in 1980. Long-time Little City in Space show listener Chuck has no difficulty navigating the satellite with its quirky alien cultures, and he quickly rises high to the occasion as emcee for the opening introduction, Nowhere News, Sports and Joblines.

Chuck Isle

Chuck Isle

Sponsors include Mundane Gruel / The Batter Chalks Cafe / Brick’s Bat Caves  / Hypno – Goggles. Alien composer Moteb Rindfeld #2 is featured. Listen:

With the talents of Brian Anderson, Stu Mathews, Rob Ordahl, Wayne Modjeski. Broadcast 8-9-89 on KFAI Minneapolis-St. Paul. Produced by The Post-Void RadioTheater.Internet Archive logo

Little City in Space: NPR Pilot

Created for National Public Radio, this audition was designed to help introduce first-time listeners to many popular locations of satellite LCS-1 guided by Stu, Pete & Jerry. With regular features such as Nowhere News, Sports, The Paul Bunny Report and Joblines, there’s the most popular songs in the entire universe. Of special note: TV spoof called Secret Reagent guest stars Charles Brin and Alice Phoenix. Listen:

Internet Archive logoAlso featuring the talents of Blanche Fubar, Bob Rynkiewicz, Chuck Isle, Mark Masyga, Elizabeth Thurber, Joe Shalita, Rob Ordahl, Lola Mathews. Produced & written by The Post-Void Radio Theater.

All Night, All Ventures

Jerry with Nokie Edwards of The Ventures (2003)Jerry and guest David Elrod (The Revtunes) host a night of music by The Ventures, playing hits and rarities. So far, ancient tapes yielded nearly half of six broadcast hours–hopefully in the not-too-dismal future, a complete rescue of the remainder of this radio special from 1984.

(Jeff Cook and The Ventures (2003)Above) Jerry with lead guitarist Nokie Edwards (Surfin’ to Baja with The Ventures, February 2003).

(Right) Jeff (Alabama) Cook; Bob Bogle & Nokie Edwards (The Ventures).

Broadcast March 24, 1984 (KFAI, Minneapolis) on Random Access (Frothing at the Beaker). Listen:

Internet Archive logo

Rescued audio thanks to Johnny’s Cassette Dungeon.

Little City in Space Syndicated Series Episode 13

The final installment of the national series will air Sunday November 30 at 9:30 p.m. (CST) on KFAI. LCS celebrates Crossover, commemorating the anniversary when inhabitants first arrived in space, with many unusual events around the orbiting community. Meet a Crossover Oracle, and join hosts Stu, Peter and Jerry in a live remote from Jack Swekkmakk’s Bleeper Pad Lounge. img004

(left) Peter Stenshoel edits reel-to-reel tape at LCS’ recording facility, Film in the Cities in St. Paul. The concluding episode of the series was result of back-to-back all-nite sessions; master tapes were express mailed to Ames, Iowa in the nick of time for satellite uplink. img005

Thank you Jerry Stearns for playing LCS on his program, Sound Affects, A Radio Playground every week featuring new and classic radio theater.

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