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Ray Taliaferro

Dave Randall

Posted on December 3, 2018 22:52

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A Beacon in the night has gone out.

As recently as the late 1990's, the isolation of a drive home in the night, or the tossing and turning of sleeplessness in one's own bed, could be made tolerable by a voice from far away. A 50 thousand watt, clear channel signal out of San Francisco carried in the dark as far south as Baja, north to the Alaskan panhandle, and east, into Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming. Station was 810 KGO. The voice belonged to Ray Taliaferro, journalist, progressive firebrand, musician, poet, fighter in the struggle for civil rights, human rights, the environment and the well being of his fellow man and woman.

I discovered Ray heading home from my own Long Beach based radio job in 1984. Even then, there was a dearth of listenable talent in the middle of the night, let alone a liberal with a furious zeal, who gave it right back to the hate-mongers that tried to bait him, and stung them with lash after verbal lash. He was the only person who had the temerity to open a microphone and rip the patina off Ronald Reagan, saying,"The man is unintelligent!" That's a direct quote.

I listened sporadically over the years, from San Diego, Ventura County, where ever I was in California, up late at night. Every election cycle was worth the listen. A man who worked for a Northern California polling concern, "John from Sunnyvale," would call with updates on the electoral college. He was dead-on throughout the 1990's, and in 2000 called Florida for Al Gore, a week before the election. Even George W. Bush knows had the recount not been halted, "John" would have been right, his information heard only over KGO, dispensed to Ray Taliferro in the wee hours.

I worked many 5am New Year's mornings in the 2000s. I'd listen to Ray on the way to work as he played jazz on New Year's Eve. Unheard of for major market talk stations. He offered poetry nights a few times a year, and poets would share their work over the air. And he stood tall against racists and ignorance, while refusing to call it intolerance. "Why must I be tol-er-rated?" he asked angrily. 

The rage with which he burned would worry me. But then he would say he only required about four hours of sleep before he rose to conduct his busy days of public service. I reckoned that anyone getting that little sleep was cranky.

One night, he and a caller commiserated over George W. Bush's low approval numbers. The caller surmised Bush would need a second Pearl Harbor to save himself. Ray agreed. It was just after 2am, September 11, 2001. Uncanny coincidence.

When KGO was sold in 2011, Ray's show was eliminated. I often wondered what became of him. Now we know: His body was just found in Peducah, Kentucky, three weeks after he went missing. A distressing way for this Beacon in the night to dim, forever.

 

Dave Randall

Posted on December 3, 2018 22:52

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Source: The Guardian

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