The Origins of KFER

I said, Elvis Presley ain’t got no soul (huh)
Chuck Berry is rock and roll (damn right)
You may dig on the Rolling Stones
But they ain’t come up with that style on they own (uh-uh)
Elvis Presley ain’t got no SOULLLL (hell naw)
Little Richard is rock and roll (damn right)
You may dig on the Rolling Stones
But they ain’t come up with that shit on they own (nah-ah)

In late 1999, these Mos Def lyrics from the album “Black on Both Sides” took to the airwaves at KCOU 88.1 FM and played on repeat for 24 hours straight. Not out of sheer excitement for Mos Def’s debut (it did chart well at the station), but because of the lack of staff attention to their assigned on-air shift.

For four years, I had the honor of working for KCOU. During that time I wore many hats: format DJ, specialty show host, promotions co-director, and eventually general manager. During my tenure at KCOU, we encountered a consistent issue with late night and overnight DJs not showing up for their shifts. This appears reasonable since the entire staff of 50 -100 (depending on the year) was volunteer only. So if you had an early morning test, stayed out too late, or were just too lazy to make it down to Pershing Hall, you would skip your shift. So when a DJ missed their shift the protocol was to have the DJ prior to the missed shift read an FCC blurb and shut the station down.

However this went against the mission of the station, which was to provide the community (both Columbia and the world wide web) with programming. After hearing the Mos Def 24 hour rotation AND a later 48 hour rotation of LL Cool J’s “GOAT” album, Jason Cafer decided to provide a pre-programmed CD for a DJ to use when there was no one to relieve him/her at the close of their shift. After reviewing some FCC guidelines it was apparent that KCOU could maintain programming with pre-recorded CDs. (We are talking 2000-2002 here so CDs will be referenced a lot).

The word went out to the DJs, that they could provide pre-recorded CDs to the station, but only one really heeded the call, Cafer. In all of my years working at the station, Cafer was an anomaly of the typical KCOU DJ. First of all, he did not look like what you would think of when conjuring up an image of a college radio DJ. He was a clean cut fella with a brain that held decades worth of album information as well as storing his newly learned Med School content. Additionally Jason stayed out of the KCOU social functions (ie go to concerts, hit afterparty, etc). He would come in and do his shift as host of the Country Brunch, and later Shake ’em On Down (two VERY popular shows in our programming) and then take off. He was 100% dedicated to the station, but did not really hang in the social circles the station naturally created.

When Cafer inserted the first disc into rotation, it played like a DJ performing their shift. Three songs, some informational blurbs, then play three more. It was truly seamless. But as more DJs missed their shift, this disc was being played… a lot. So Cafer, made five more. Before anyone knew it, there was a box next to the board filled with 20 CDs which would later be labelled with “KFER CDs” (gotta love college dj sarcasm).

Now for those tech nerds out there, you have to remember that during 2000, iTunes did not exist, and our computer technology was beyond basic at station, so Jason had to record each song on to a .wav file, then load them into an editing program where he would do some voice work in between the .wav files. Then record the whole thing from the computer on to an 80-minute disc. Every part of the process had to be done in REAL TIME! The entire process would take approximately 5 hours.

Cafer only did this with the first five CDs. After that he found a much quicker home-based approach. So sometimes I would walk into my shift and see the KFER CD collection grow by leaps and bounds. By the end of Cafer’s tenure the estimated final total of CDs was 200. Cafer even donated his 100-Disc changer to the station, fully stocked with KFER programming to make it easier for DJs to move to pre-programming.

After a summer of pre-programmed CDs the community took notice. It was hard not too, when you  would hear Cafer at 9:00 am, then again at 3:00 pm, and then on a random radio search at 11:00 pm. The reliance on the CDs were beginning to bother the listening audience. Not that Cafer didn’t do amazing work, his playlists were always current, its just that the community loved the variety of programming. One hour you are listening to world music, the next hour is all country, and the next was everything in between. It was one of Columbia’s truly diverse radio formats. Cafer made those CDs as a stop gap when shifts were not being covered, and not to take over the station.

Over the years, KCOU has put some pretty good distance between the station and those CDs. With all of their programming operating from a computer source and a new crop of student volunteers, we may have heard the last of Cafer’s CDs. But as the lazy days of summer roll around, it is quite possible we may hear the faint sound of the KFER programs on KCOU… when you’re not listening to your Pandora app.


  1. He broke our band and then he broke our label- or vice versa? Jason Cafer is the shit. Nuff sed!

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