At right, Laura Ellen With Jay Boy Adams at KFAT.
On Memorial Day, Laura Ellen Hopper passed away due to complications from cancer.
This truly is the week the music died.
Laura Ellen was the Program Director of KPIG radio – 107 oink 5, in Freedom, California. Before that, she was the Program Director of the legendary and infamous KFAT radio, located in Gilroy, California, the garlic capital of the world, from 1975 through 1983.
I didn’t find out Laura Ellen had passed away until today, because in a fit of nostalgia, I’d been listening to the KFAT stream for the past few days.
Laura Ellen has been in my life for over 30 years.
I started listening to her in the mid-70’s on KFAT. I was staying in Aptos, living a counter-culture lifestyle.
One of my friends suggested I ditch KLRB and try listening to this strange new hippie station that’d started-up in Gilroy (Garlic capital of the world!). The station played all sorts of weird shit – country and western, blues, rock, bluegrass, zydeco, reggae, folk – they played damned near everything, except top-40.
I tried it.
I loved KFAT. It was completely unpredictable. In one half-hour, you might hear Randy Newman, Frank Wakefield, Jimi Hendrix, Merle Haggard, Joan Baez, Clifton Chenier, Larry Hosford, and The Allman Brothers Band. All chased with some Hawaiian Cowboy music.
From that point on, KFAT was all I listened to.
Through KFAT and Laura Ellen, my musical vistas were expanded greatly. I broke out of the rock and roll mode I’d been in for too many years, and started listening to country and to bluegrass and all sorts of the other music that she and KFAT played.
There were the Fat Frys and Le Club Fat. KFAT became an institution in the Monterey Bay area.
In 1982, I moved up to the city, so I actually missed the very end.
But for the years afterwards, I remained a Fat Head to the bone. It was hard being Fat Free – I hadn’t had the foresight to record any KFAT off the air. But I existed.
Then in the late 90’s living up in the Seattle area, I found KPIG online, and rejoiced! Because the Fat One was reborn!
I’ve been a faithful listener ever since (minus a couple years when Real Player was the only stream option). I don’t know what I would do without the Pig.
I think it’s only been in the last year or so that I came to understand exactly how important Laura Ellen was to KPIG and KFAT; came to understand how much of the stations were her.
It’s against all odds that KPIG lives. In this era of Satellite Radio and Clear Channel, KPIG should not be allowed to exist. It’s an anachronism; but more than that, it’s seditious – the last true free-form radio that exists, at least in this country. It shows exactly how good radio can be.
And with the advent of the web stream, KPIG has oinked its way into the lives of people all over the world – reaching a tremendous audience. An audience far beyond anything she ever envisioned, I’m sure, when she started out with KFAT.
My sincere hope is that KPIG will live long and prosper in Laura Ellen’s absence. That more than anything would be a wonderful monument to her – a fitting tribute to the enormous 30-year musical legacy she has left us.
She affected my life greatly. She made me a better, more well-rounded person.
Thanks, Laura Ellen.
We’ll miss you a helluva lot.
A Fattie Forever