DJs reminisce at KEOL Fest

Former KEOL disc jockeys Tony Marks, left, and Joe Garner renew acquaintances at an Eastern Oregon University DJ reunion in July 2013. Marks and Garner joined a cohort of other KEOL alums who met for coffee to chat and catch up as part of the 40-year-old station’s KEOL Fest. The student-run radio station may be shut down in 2021 due to lack of funding.

KEOL DJs from the past four decades reunited in the name of music this weekend.

As part of KEOL Fest and Crazy Days, the station celebrating 40 years of being on the air invited DJ alums back to La Grande to remember the pre-digitized days of records.

"KEOL was an education," said longtime DJ-turned-faculty adviser Jack Kemp. "I think we got our real education at the little college radio station."

Kemp was a DJ at the station from 1987 to 2001, served as student station manager from 1990 to 1991 and was a co-faculty adviser from 1994 until he left in 2001.

"It's good to see the old gang again and see what they've been up to," Kemp said.

A group of alumni gathered on the Eastern Oregon University campus Saturday morning for coffee to chat and catch up before a barbecue that afternoon.

"Anyone who's been on KEOL is lucky," said Tony Marks, now a DJ for KWCW in Walla Walla, Wash. "I'm still doing it. It's still fun."

The group reminisced about station mishaps, personal mistakes and good old-fashioned rebellion.

Peter Harmon told a story of doing a show one night and singing along with the music - without realizing the mic was on.

"Then I got a knock at the door and this guy said, 'Your phone isn't working. I've been trying to call and tell you to shut up,'" said Harmon, who holds the station record for longest on-air show for one person at 72 hours.

"We also engaged in civil disobedience against the no hard rock or heavy metal before 4:30 rule," Kemp reminded the group.

They recalled some thefts from the KEOL record collection and laughed about the days before computers when DJs resorted to stealing from each others' shows when a new band or album was discovered.

One of the biggest changes noted by the former KEOL DJs is the obvious transition to digital media.

"There's this weird nomenclature of what a DJ was and what a DJ is," said Harmon, who worked at KEOL from 1989 to 1994. Two DJs of different ages have varying ideas of what it means to be a DJ, he said.

And the DJs seemed to agree that plugging in a computer, tablet or phone is much easier than writing playlists and organizing records.

"It's lazy to just plug in your computer," said Mark Masterson, current community liaison for the station who

has worked at KEOL since 1982.

Despite technology making it easier to be a "DJ," whatever that may mean, many of the KEOL vets are still in the business, still networking with each other and still love music.

"It's been nice to reminisce," Masterson said.

Contact Kelly Ducote at 541-786-4230 or kducote@lagrandeobserver.com. Follow Kelly on Twitter @lgoDucote.

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