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April 19-26, 2006

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'The Sound of Young America'

The Sound of Younger America: Jesse Thorn's early shows are now available as podcasts.


End of an Era

By Bill Forman

YOUNG AMERICAN: If Santa Cruz radio has chapters, one of them surely came to a close this month with the passing of Jesse Thorn's 'The Sound of Young America' from the KZSC airwaves. Thorn's final show for the station that saw him through those difficult college years at UCSC was titled 'Santa Cruz, You're Not That Far' (after the song by Dublin's The Thrills) and featured two of his all-time favorite segments: the debut episode of Mace Detective: Private Detective and an interview with primal rocker Andrew W. K., who talked about his UCSC professor uncle and gave Brendan Thorn, the host's little brother, career advice on how to be a rock superstar. As a result, Brendan, who's now 10, has a five-song Total Annihilation EP out featuring four originals and a cover of Iggy & The Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog.' The elder Thorn describes Andrew W.K. as "the most amazing person ever" and raved to Müz about how Andrew somehow combines total sincerity and amazing kindess with the intensity of hardcore punk and "those Swedish death metal bands that implant horns in their heads and kill people and eat them and stuff."

"It's possible," Thorn acknowleges, "that he's crazy."

But we digress. Asked why he left KZSC, Thorn said he hasn't been a student for two years now, and that he wanted to move beyond community-specific programming. After all, his show also airs on stations in San Francisco, Hattiesburg, Miss. and, of course, Walla Walla ("a town in Washington," he explains, "where they have a college and onions"). Thorn says he's in talks with another, mysterious unnamed Santa Cruz station that may end up hosting the show. "Hint," he offers, "it's not KDON." Which is too bad, because, as Thorn himself notes, "I'm in the house like YEEEEEEEEEEE."

Santa Cruzans can still get a weekly Sound of Young America fix by subscribing to the band's podcast through In fact, the show has just launched a second podcast reprising Thorn's "College Years," which will rerun all the old broadcasts in succession, a move bound to appeal to the show's hard-core fans as well as individuals with severe cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

HE ONLY COMES OUT AT NIGHT: After the loss of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Rory Gallagher, I'd pretty much given up on ever seeing another great white blues legend live. But that was before Johnny Winter turned a Saturday night at Moe's Alley into the ultimate bluesy roadhouse heaven. A packed house came out to see John Dawson Winter III playing up close and personal, even if having recently overcome health problems--a broken hip followed by carpal tunnel surgery--required him to front his band from a seated position. Backed by bassist Scott Spray and drummer Wayne June, Winter's fiercely fluid guitar work testified both to his surgeon's skills and his own phenomenal talent. It was well past midnight when Winter's followed up his Muddy Waters medley with a rendition of "Highway 61 Revisited," his gut-bucket slide slipping across the fretboard like a young Bob Dylan skidding off his motorcycle. Weird to think that he first recorded that song 35 years ago on Second Winter, reputedly the only three-sided double-LP in the history of music (there weren't enough songs for four whole sides) and featuring some guy named Edgar on keyboards. Weirder still--but good news for those who prefer Winters' more rock-oriented sound--is the fact that Johnny and Edgar Winter are back playing together after all these years, with Rick Derringer sitting in as well. Still alive and well, indeed.

The Sound of Young America:
Brendan Thorn's Total Annihilation:
Andrew W.K.:
The Official Johnny Winter Website:

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