Beaker Street – Rock City Outfitters

Beaker Street With Clyde Clifford: The Real Life Circle Game

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It’s impossible to talk about Beaker Street and not mention Clyde Clifford, too.

Clyde Clifford, or Dale Seidenschwarz in real life, started the underground radio program in 1966.

It had legions of fans from across the globe and continues to enjoy a cult following to this day.

The show went off the air twice, only to be revived as many times.

A lot of other DJs have also hosted it, and other American radio stations have picked it at one point or another.

Clyde Clifford’s professional life followed an equally fascinating path as he switched from AM radio to FM before finally hosting Beaker Street again.

To quote Joni Mitchell’s song, they went “round and round the circle game,” but they are finally right back where they started—and belong.

Beaker Street: The Early Days

Whether you are a film buff or a music enthusiast, you have probably noticed that things tend to follow a certain formula.

Movies of a particular genre normally have a certain script, and songs usually have a distinct sound. It might be hard for you to believe, but this is nothing new.

Even back in the 1960s, most bands and artists wouldn’t be able to get much airplay from a traditional music radio station.

You had to have a unique quality to gain mainstream success.

Clyde Clifford tried to change all that. He was a broadcast engineer who also doubled as a radio announcer.

He created Beaker Street, using a name that alludes to acid or LSD, which was made in a lab using a beaker. The program first went live on 50-000-watt AM radio station KAAY.

He played the songs that he liked there, and it was clear that he preferred long album cuts, especially from artists who wouldn’t get any attention from commercial radio stations.

It included gems like one haunting cover of Tom Paxton’s Cindy’s Cryin, performed by vocalist Barbara Raney from the band Deepwater Reunion.

Another interesting thing about Beaker Street was that Clyde actually broadcast it from the station transmitter location instead of the studio in Little Rock.

Doing this allowed him to perform both jobs as DJ and broadcast engineer.

It also resulted in one of the most distinct and memorable details of the program: the weird background noises that people hear in between songs.

These sounds were actually played by Clyde to mask the sound made by the transmitter nearby.

Clyde went on to host the program for the next six years, dominating nighttime radio until he left KAAY in 1974.

One interesting tidbit that we have to circle back to a bit is the story behind the name. Why Clyde Clifford?

It was actually a product of an ongoing tradition among the on-air personalities of KAAY. They were using the names of the board of directors of LIN Broadcasting, which owned KAAY. 

Clyde Clifford was the company’s comptroller general.  

After Clyde left the station, several Ken Knights followed him, and there was a Stuart McRae. Stuart was able to extend the show to the full five and a half hours.

However, in 1977, KAAY got a new program director who felt that Beaker Street was not a good fit with the station’s other programs.

He decided to end the program, a decision that gave Stuart little choice but to resign.

Drawing by Arkansas Artist Gary Campbell

Finding a New Home

In the years following the program’s (first) demise, many fans remained hopeful that Beaker Street would eventually go back on air.

This went on until 1985, when KAAY was sold to another company and promptly converted into a religious format. The outgoing owners went out with a bang, so to speak.

They decided that in their final hours as a rock music station, they would let Clyde Clifford handle the programming.

Fans thought that this latest development would put the last nail in the coffin, killing their hopes of hearing Beaker Street again.

So, naturally, it turned into a melancholic and emotional program.

The last track Clyde played was Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game,” which would turn out to be a preview of how things would play out later on.

The Much-Awaited Comeback

It wasn’t until years later that both Beaker Street and Clyde Clifford would hit the airwaves again, but come back, they did.

The new Beaker Street was on air every Sunday night on KZLR and later on at Magic 105.1, where it stayed for a while.

During this time, Beaker Street was also streaming through the internet from its homepage.

This just shows you that, through all the waiting and the changes, the fans of the program remained loyal.

When it was revived, it hit the ground running.

There was no more need to mask transmitter noises, but they decided to keep the weird space sounds that defined the program through the years.

Things felt strangely familiar for Clyde, who was hoping that this was what he would be doing until the day he retired.

Another change in station programming format forced Beaker Street to broadcast from its new home: The Point 94.1 FM.

It was in the same building where Clyde Clifford broadcasted the final hours of KAAY before it switched from rock music to a religious format.

So, it was only fitting that, when the program was canceled again in 2011, the final song played by the DJ was The Circle Game.

The management team of The Point said that the decision to cancel the program yet again was made necessary by the business situation at the time. 

Clyde carried on with his work until he retired. He also had a recent bout with a serious medical condition but is in the process of beating it.

Beaker Street on Arkansas Rocks

As fate would have it, a group of veteran radio talents got together and formed Arkansas Rocks. 

This network of radio stations and internet streaming decided to revive Beaker Street yet again and tapped Clyde Clifford to broadcast it. 

The program now airs every Friday night, between 8 pm and 12 am US Central time.

With the full support of like-minded individuals, it appears that Beaker Street with Clyde Clifford will continue to hit the airwaves for the foreseeable future.

Why Beaker Street Is Important

Clyde Clifford started Beaker Street at a time when people badly needed an alternative to milquetoast music that played it safe.

What made the program even more effective was that Clyde had the power of a 50,000-watt signal behind him.

He was able to reach a very wide area in the midwest and the south, allowing him to share the counterculture with towns and smaller cities.

These are places that have no other means to access such music.

As he delivered song after song of great underground music, he helped obscure but talented bands gain recognition.

This allowed them to transition to bigger performances and better venues. 

One example is the band Headstone, which was inducted into Iowa’s Rock and Roll hall of fame in 2006.

The signal of the transmitter that Clyde used was so strong that people in Cuba were able to hear him.

This was very important in the 1970s when the Communist government banned English songs from Cuba.

Get a Piece of Arkansas History

Beaker Street and Clyde Clifford touched the lives of many people from all over the world. That said, nowhere are they more appreciated than in Arkansas.

They played a big part in shaping the state’s counterculture, giving people an alternative choice in music.

If you want to show your support or just have something cool to wear, get one of these Beaker Street shirts by Rock City Outfitters.

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