Ghost Radio

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Not that that's a bad thing. On the contrary, KCDX's apparent lack of a human program director reshuffles every record lodged in the baby-boomer memory banks and plays them all back without judgment: Hendrix is cool, but so is early-period Chicago. And younger listeners get treated to some of the strangest music they've never heard, without some media conglomerate market-researching each track for hipness and relevance.

Musical snobbery and DJ attitude are not programmed into KCDX. Graham Nash's sublime, topical-again "Military Madness" can immediately be followed by the early-'80s pop kitsch of Olivia Newton-John's "Magic." The KCDX A.I. is esoteric enough to select the kick-in-the-lobes delight of "Kuiama" when it scans for ELO, but it can just as easily pick "Living Thing." Which it will probably do in five minutes.

KCDX, you see, also has a peculiar habit of heavily showcasing a particular artist every few hours. On the classic rock outlets, such artist showcases are usually smartly assembled Sunday night affairs, distilling the greatness of such Rock and Roll Hall of Famers as Eric Clapton or Led Zeppelin and reexperiencing landmark LPs like The Dark Side of the Moon and Tapestry.

On KCDX, you're more likely to hear a reexamining of Billy Joel's An Innocent Man, sprinkling the Piano Man's long-forgotten odes to Christie Brinkley between totally unrelated rarities by the Buffalo Springfield and Foghat. Inevitably, at some point in a particular broadcast day you will find yourself wondering why you're suddenly listening to more early Blood, Sweat & Tears than anyone has in the past 30 years.

Because of this illogical pattern, a lot of KCDX listeners believe the man behind the curtain is actually nothing more than a very large compact disc multi-player.

"At first, I thought it was coming off a big computer server," says Pfeifer. "But the same artists wouldn't be coming up that repeatedly if you were randomly playing from an MP3 library. That's why I think it's one of those large, 500-disc CD players. Because even when you set those things on random shuffle, sometimes they'll hit the same CDs for a while."

Sure enough, while Pfeifer is talking, the third Rolling Stones song in 30 minutes, "Sympathy for the Devil," comes on his living room stereo. Even if KCDX is just a big CD carousel, there's still the matter of who's loading those CDs, and the lyrics of this particular classic fairly taunt Pfeifer to guess what kind of person would dedicate the time and money to create such a public archive.

Obviously, whoever's providing the Valley with this nonstop classic rock time capsule is, as Mick Jagger sneers, "a man of wealth and taste." But what's puzzling everybody who's discovered this station is the nature of his game.

"I could see if some station owner was just doing this to get a buzz going and get advertisers interested," Pfeifer says.

"But then," he says, smiling, "wouldn't you think there'd be some way to get in contact with him?"

About four hours after successfully tuning in the elusive 103.1 on "the good radio" upstairs in his central Phoenix home, Dwight Tindle is on the phone again, raving all about his brand-new favorite station.

"This is amazing stuff!" says the 52-year-old veteran Valley radio man, who now makes his living in the global telecommunications industry. "I can tell you right now, there isn't another station like this in the country. What this guy is doing is very special. Because this kind of thing never happens in radio. This is one of those great rarities."

A former "rich hippie," according to pal Russell "Wonderful Russ" Shaw, Tindle was instrumental in creating Phoenix's other great radio rarity, the original KDKB. Funded by Tindle and Eric Hauenstein, a radio sales guy Tindle met after the two attended Woodstock in 1969, the first KDKB crew, led by the late, now-legendary program director William Edward Compton, served up a unique hippie diet of folk, rock, jazz, comedy and whatever else fit the mood of the moment. It was an exhilarating, weird mix of music that, save for Tindle's short-lived Sunday night program with promoter Danny Zelisko on KMXP in 1998, hasn't been heard on Valley airwaves since.

Until now, that is. While Tindle isn't sure how much of KCDX's programming is automated, he is certain whoever's selecting the music for the station listened to a whole lot of early-'70s KDKB.

"I'm hearing a lot of songs with a definite Phoenix signature," he says. "Artists that we developed on KDKB who really didn't get played anywhere else. Jerry Riopelle, early Linda Ronstadt. Whiskey Train' by Procol Harum, Dolly Dagger' by Hendrix, Dixie Chicken' by Little Feat. Records that we played to death on KDKB but didn't get much airplay anywhere else in the country. I'm waiting to hear [Little Feat's] Spanish Moon' on KCDX -- it would fit right in."

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Jimmy Magahern
Contact: Jimmy Magahern