Deadsplinter Up! All Night: Radio Free!

In 1991 a record and comic book store owner started his own radio station in Hawaii called Radio Free Hawaii.  What made this possibly the most unique station in the nation was the playlist was controlled by the listener’s votes.  Ballots were at every club, restaurant, bar, book store or record store on Oahu (this was obviously pre-internet days).  The ballot had 10 songs you want to hear, 10 songs you don’t want to hear and comments.  That was it!  Each Saturday our fearless leader, Sheriff Norm Winter, would count down the top 36 songs and they would go into heavy rotation.  Lesser voted on songs would go into less rotation and the song least wanted to be heard would be destroyed by Norm with a sledgehammer on air.  As you might imagine, the playlists were quite eclectic as Hawaii has some very diverse musical tastes and some people just filled it out as a joke.  What other station could you go from hearing NWA to Metallica to Mozart to Kapena (a Hawaiian/Samoan band) to C is for Cookie!  Yes, C is for Cookie was played in regular rotation until WE voted it off!  They had a great cast of DJ’s including Ken the Bone Machine, Pinkie Passion (I was in love with her!), Lips Fujiyama, and Mad Mohamed.  Every week my friend and I would submit our ballots and write in the comments, we want to guest DJ.  Finally my buddy calls me and tells me he is going to be a guest DJ on Mad Mohamed’s show so listen, it was on Halloween.  It turned out, he went to do his show in a gorilla suit and Mohamed was cracking up on air while my buddy got to play whatever he wanted for an hour. Finally, I got that call that I was going to get to guest DJ on Lips show (I asked for Pinkie but I think she thought I was a stalker!).  When I got there a famous DJ from LA was visiting, Jed the Fish, who thought he was going on to give away what he thought were the 3 best CD’s of the year.  Instead he saw I was going to DJ & said, I’ll just give them to you.  The 3 CD’s  were:  The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld;  P.M. Dawn – Of the Heart, Of the Soul & of the Cross; and Temple of the Dog.  Radio Free went off the air in ’94 only to return in ’95 before going away for good in ’97.  If you would like to see some of what people voted for, it has been archived at this site:

Here’s a few songs from my playlist that day

My favorite band at the time
For my buddy that couldn’t keep track of his wallet
The best lineup of 24-7 Spyz


  1. We took our son to see the Bosstones, Samiam, Cherry Poppin Daddies, and Green Day in the late 1990s. He was 12. And he met the singer from the Bosstones while walking in the crowd before the show, dude was very nice to my starstruck kid. We took a friend of his along too. Years later the friend turned into a big biker-looking fellow who bartended for a while at a local club. Every time we were in our first drink was free, because we took him to his first concert.

  2. That’s such an awesome format. It reminds me of the epic programming stunt an indy station in Columbus, Ohio pulled back in 1999. They tallied up listener requests over the station’s 20-year existence and ran a solid week-long “Top 2000” countdown of the all-time most requested songs in the station’s history. Fucking wild. The #1 song? An absolutely unexpected and largely forgotten track from 1991:

    You can slog through the whole list here:

Leave a Reply