Back in the time of plaid shirts and waffle stomper boots when rock ’n’ roll was king, a radio DJ on Tahoe’s West Shore celebrated the era in a one-man show that only a few lucky folks were aware of.
He spun records, produced simulated advertisements, and put out creative musical radio masterpieces. Only, you couldn’t find him on any dial. You had to know how to get the goods.
Today, Steve Teshara is known as a fierce community advocate, who helmed the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association for seven years, and is currently CEO of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce (Tahoe Chamber) as well as owner and principal of Sustainable Community Advocates. But back in the late ’70s, this longtime Tahoe resident created KNOT radio, a station he billed as “the radio voice of the secret mountain clown and friends.”
Teshara moved to Tahoma in 1973 and followed the ways of a lot of folks when they first move to Tahoe: “I did jobs I wasn’t qualified for, but I wanted to stay here. In 1975 I worked in Squaw Valley doing maintenance and burning trash in an incinerator,” he said. “I didn’t need much money to live. I lived cheaply. In those days you could.”
Teshara had studied communications in college and was always fascinated with radio, so in 1975 he borrowed $5,000 to put together a recording studio in his home for taping local bands and helping produce radio commercials. Then, he came up with the idea to launch KNOT radio. When in broadcasting school, he was told that he didn’t have a voice for radio and had no business being in the industry. With this project, he proved them wrong in his own unconventional way. It was a penultimate ’70s-era radio station — mind-bending music proffered up by entertaining and enlightening disc jockeys. But only the music was real.
The disc jockeys were all characters developed by Teshara. There was Steve himself who played the rock ’n’ roll. Richard Alison Phoxx spun the smooth and funky tunes. And for late night listeners, Moby Dick was your man. With the slogan “toasted times for toasted folks,” this persona was a takeoff of every stoned DJ from the era. You can occasionally hear him dropping something in the middle of songs, or forgetting to change to the next tune. In other words, he fit right in with the ’70s Cheech and Chong vibe.
The music was a great encapsulation of the best of the decade, with the popular and familiar like Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and The Beatles, but remarkably he also cast a wider net, treating listeners to some surprising genres, including jazz, folk, funk and, for this reporter at least, the dreaded disco.
There were “commercials” that were quirky, sarcastic, and often laugh-out-loud funny, yet based on completely made-up businesses.
And the only way you got to listen these shows? You bought cassette tapes. Ten bucks got you a recording of a show; as a guideline, vinyl records cost less than that, maybe even half. KNOT shows were primo-grade stuff. Teshara says he sold several hundred, which helped fund his diet of macaroni and cheese.
Ed Miller from Tahoma remembers meeting Teshara when he was looking for a recording studio for Miller’s Wild West Graphics business. The two collaborated on producing real commercials for clients, but “Steve did all the KNOT stuff by himself,” Miller said. “All the characters, and sponsors, had stories behind them. He even included little color cards like album covers with the tapes when he sold them,” Miller said. “It was like an alternative universe he created.”
THE CHARACTERS: The personalities were like day and night, in a one-man show. (left to right) Richard Alison Phoxx was very good at reading commercial copy; Moby Dick kept you company until the wee hours; and Steve Teshara, well, he was KNOT behind it all.
The clever moniker helped maintain a shroud of mystery. One day, when Miller stopped to pick up a hitchhiker, a KNOT radio cassette was playing in his car. The rider asked what this great radio station was, and Miller said, “It’s KNOT Radio.”
Then Miller joined his confused rider in “a variance on the old who’s-on-first, what’s-on-second Abbot and Costello routine,” Miller reminisced.
Laura Moriarty, who has lived at Tahoe for 44 years, is a corporate trainer and executive coach with Tahoe Training Partners these days, but when she first moved here from New York she was one of Teshara’s roommates while he was the star of KNOT radio. She said that Teshara’s creative verve made for fun and interesting times at the house.
“The music selection was awesome, he had very eclectic taste. It was a place to be happy and have great energy,” Moriarty shared. “Our group of friends were all Deadheads and got exposed to other artists by KNOT. He really believed in the world of music and creativity.”
Eventually, Teshara decided he needed a real job and went to work at an actual radio station. He started in 1981 at KEZC, a small easy listening country station based in Kings Beach.
“I really got into news, which was my original ‘career’ when I owned a newspaper in my home town called Fresh Air. For KEZC, I wrote all my stories and read them on the air,” Teshara said.
A year later he ended up as news director at KTHO in South Lake Tahoe, the number one station in the Tahoe area. From there, he was off to a series of jobs on the road to being a Tahoe community mover and shaker in the “real world.”
But truth be told, the “alternative universe” he created 45 years ago was the real deal.
Picture, if you will, a promo for Chuck’s Slophouse restaurant in the Gastro-intestinal Shopping Center in Gastroville where you could dine on Roasted Pig with Mud Sauce, Broiled Nose of Goose, Vegetarian Pheasant, or Filet of Fly. All cooked up by Chef Starch Fiero.
Another favorite was an ad for Dusty’s Records where you were urged to pick up your LPs at any of their locations in the following three communities: Ozone,
In-place, and Insane.
Not to forget the movie trailer for National Lampoon’s Towering Inflation, with lines like, “See the economy wrecked by idiots,” and, “This movie is misdirected by three administrations.”
Steve’s Favorite KNOT Radio Shows
My favorites were tough to pick out of the library of more than six years of shows. But here goes, with a little something special about each one.
Moby Dick Radio Program
Good Lovin’ (May 4, 1980)
Starts out with a great comedy song by Jimmy Buffett. Moby, with his selection of music and “toasted times for toasted folks” foolishness, just soars from there.
Moby and the Elk (so much fun in the dark of night, the date is not recalled)
Moby with his mysterious guest, Guillermo Elk. A particularly memorable selection of tasty songs straight from Moby’s ever-eclectic musical mind.
Steve Teshara Radio Program
Servin’ the Music (Oct. 27, 1979)
Steve’s upbeat selection of rock ’n’ roll music complements a great mix of unique KNOT sponsor commercials and live music by the Cedro Willie Band recorded by Steve live at Pelican’s Pier in Tahoe City. Authentic Tahoe City musical history.
Pressure Drop (Aug. 26, 1978)
A great menu of rock from the era that still stands out today, from Boston to Bad Company to the Stones, Allman Brothers, Heart, and Journey. More live Cedro Willie Band music, this time from Victoria Station in Tahoe City, also with Steve Teshara at the controls.
Richard Allison Phoxx Radio Program
Sundance Kid 4/17/79, Secret of Life (Sept. 27, 1979)
Both shows feature Richard’s lighter blend of musical gems and youthful insights into the fantasy world that is KNOT Radio. A great way to start your day.
Intrigued? Get your own copy of a KNOT Radio show. Email email@example.com.