Telling Our Story
Telling Our Story: Jesse Hebisen

By Jesse Hebisen
KDHX Donor Connections

I started listening to KDHX sometime in 1988 when I was 10 years old. My dad loved old folk and blues, especially pre-war acoustic blues. Someone told him about Ron Edward’s show, Nothin’ But the Blues, and KDHX became a permanent part of my life. 

KDHX was wild back in those days. There would be days of nothing but dead air because something broke. There were multiple on-air emergency fundraising drives every year just to barely scrape by. There were DJs that didn’t sound like the corny, “professional” voices typically heard on radio - they were real people and sounded like it. So many of the DJs knew so much about music while others seemed like they were just grabbed off the sidewalk so there wouldn’t be empty space. You were liable to hear almost anything at any time - and regularly did. It was wacky. It was zany. It was everything a depressed boy from the suburbs could want from a radio station. For a kid who often felt alone, KDHX was a connection to something greater. 

KDHX and I grew up together through the '90s. By later in the decade, KDHX had worked through some of its early growing pains while managing to maintain or increase the diversity of the programming. There were shows featuring everything from merengue to hip hop hosted by DJs from those local cultures and scenes. The Brain Sandwich was still talking about the Braunschweiger Hut, so the wacky zany quotient was maintained. As I grew older, I learned that if I met someone who was a fellow KDHX listener, they would be worth getting to know better. I still have many friendships that started out of a mutual love for KDHX’s independent programming. 

In 1999, I moved out of state. Needless to say, there was nothing like KDHX in my new home. When I moved back to St. Louis in 2008, KDHX was at the top of the list of St. Louis institutions I was excited to connect to again. KDHX sounded different in 2008 than it had in the late 90s; the programming was more homogenized and streamlined than it had been. The Brain Sandwich was gone, but Bob’s Scratchy Records and The Pop Life brought a new kind of energy and old staples like Ireland in America, Lotsa A Capella, and No Time To Tarry Here were still going strong. I loved it. I was so happy to be reconnected with the organization I loved.

The next decade continued to see changes in KDHX's programming. Old favorites went away for one reason or another, and new favorites came in to take their places. In 2018, I was looking for a job and saw that KDHX was looking for someone with my experience. I am proud to say that since then I have been working to raise funds for that organization I love, the organization that comforted me when I was a kid, the organization that taught me so much about music and culture, the organization that connected me with community. 

That brings me to today. 2023 certainly brought a lot of change to KDHX. I won’t go into why these changes were made; you can read Kelly Wells’ piece for that explanation. What I will say is that I have been listening to KDHX for 35 years and change has always been constant. The station in 1990 was very different from 1999, and different again in 2010, 2020, etc. However, the independent and educational nature of KDHX has never changed. As you read this, a KDHX DJ is playing music that is not played anywhere else on the radio with the careful curation an algorithm can never match. 

Right now, there is a 10-year-old finding connection to music and the arts through KDHX; a connection to a richer life. However, today KDHX faces a fundraising shortfall that could be extremely serious. KDHX needs your support in order to make sure that independent, community radio in St. Louis lives long into the future, long after we’re gone. Because I want KDHX to be there for my kids when they are my age - not the same shows, but the same spirit. Because there is nothing else in the world like KDHX. Because KDHX is irreplaceable.

Join me now in supporting a future for KDHX we can share together. 

Further reading:

KDHX Telling Our Story Series

Telling Our Story: Kelly Wells

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