Teen radio co-host loves musical education that comes with job
Peter Ahrens (back left), Scott Hunter and Peter’s daughter Kate Ahrens host Psychedelic Pete’s Underground Freakout, which airs Fridays at 10:30pm on CKWR FM 98.5.

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By Carrie Debrone
Kitchener Citizen
March 10, 2016

In the dimly lit radio studio at 10:30pm last Friday night, 13-year-old Kate Ahrens squeaks out “Oh I love that song” as her dad, Peter, spins the next selection in the Psychedelic Pete’s Underground Freakout show line-up -- Namby Pamby by the Hardy Boys.

Kate knows a lot more than your average teenager about the music her parents grew up with – and she’s been using and developing that knowledge since 2014 when at 12 years old she became one of two co-hosts on the psychedelic music show, which airs Friday nights on the first community radio station in Canada - CKWR-FM 98.5.

When’s the last time you heard The Rubber Room by Porter Wagoner, Four O-Clock in New York by The Lords or The Semi-Great Predictor by Jerry Reed? Chances are, you may have never heard them, but that’s exactly what Psychedelic Pete’s Underground Freakout is banking on. Often using the slogan “Feel the Fuzz and dig the beat with Psychedelic Pete” the unique show offers listeners music they are unlikely to find anywhere else and, along with it, some fascinating and unusual bits of information.

It’s clear that Kate loves the show, loves the work she does on it and loves learning about music.

One of the youngest radio show DJs in Canada and known affectionately by her listeners as “the Clock Fairy,” Kate prepares the show log, helps develop the lineup, tells her Kate’s Friday Funnies jokes, and confidently introduces the show on air,
​including the station call numbers and phone-in
​request numbers, as she co-hosts with her dad,
​Peter Ahrens, and Scott Hunter.

Hoping to pursue a career in either broadcasting or agriculture, she fell naturally into the challenge.

“They used to give me heck because I‘d forget to do station IDs, “ Peter laughed.

“So, I got Kate down here to do them. She was pretty good at it so she’s been here ever since,” he said.

“I always really liked Dad’s music and I wanted to learn more about music,” Kate said. She got the idea to add her Friday Funnies to the show after her school’s principal started a joke of the day during school announcements.

“That gave me an idea that we should do some comics on the radio show,” she said.

“I really like everything about the show and I learn something every week.”

Her newly acquired knowledge has spin-offs too. A few weeks ago she was able to inform her class about Hank Williams’ music.

“My teacher didn’t know who Hank Williams was. When there was a reference to Hank in one of our assignments and my teacher said he didn’t know who that was, I put up my hand and said, I do.”

Although Psychedelic Pete’s Underground Freakout is focused on the psychedelic music popular in the 1960s and early 70s, the show features all genres including rock, lounge, surf, country, soul, jazz, Krautrock, blues, folk and garage band music.

“My show’s listeners want music they can’t get on mainstream shows,” Peter said. “You’re going to hear beautiful music and some weird music. I try to give something for everyone and we take requests.”

“I’m supposed to be the comic foil on the show,” laughs Scott. “But, I’m not that funny. Kate’s funnier than me.”

“She keeps us fresh and she looks out and after us,” Hunter said, joking that he is only about “12 years old at heart” an attribute that he reasons allows him to get along with Kate so well.

“I’ve got a son Kate’s age, but he’s quiet. Kate’s got moxie,” Hunter said. The show is a hobby for Hunter who owns and operates the KW Bookstore in downtown Kitchener.

“Usually Scott and Kate are talking and laughing and having such a good time that I can’t concentrate on the show,” Peter laughs.

“We’ve got some good chemistry going here.”

That energetic banter continues throughout the show that Peter created in 2002, and as he generously doles out some little-known history or an interesting tidbit of musical trivia about the song he’s about to play, Kate and Scott join in adding comments about who was in the band, who produced the song or album and if the group’s style reminds them of other bands.

They all chuckle on air as Kate affectionately refers to her dad as “dadosaur.”

And so it goes, an hour and a half show that seems akin to enjoying the company of good friends --with some good conversation and a few laughs about a mutually interesting topic.

Born into Peter’s lifetime of knowledge and passion for the music made in the 1960s and 1970s, Kate has grown up with what seems to be an unending supply of both the popular and the obscure songs from those decades.

Peter’s extensive and constantly enlarging collection of over 3,000 vinyl albums, 3,000 45s, 2,000 CDs and four terabytes of music stored on computer is at her fingertips. It became the music she grew up with too, as her father was never shy about sharing his passion for it with his family. Many years ago, Peter installed a Wurlitzer jukebox in the family rec room and his six children and their friends used it regularly. It still works well. Just put in a quarter and enjoy your selection.

Peter, formerly known as Chicago Pete, used to play harmonica professionally, and performed regularly with many cover bands in the 1980s at the former Coronet Hotel in Kitchener and throughout the United States.

His love of music and record collecting began when he was 10 years old after seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show.

“I listened to the radio constantly all night after that searching for American stations.”

When he was about 15, he and his friend would stop by a downtown Kitchener record store almost every day after high school. His interest grew and soon he was going to concerts and avidly listening to the music of that decade -- the Monkees, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles -- and was always on the lookout for the unusual or strange music produced in those years.

“We ended up buying boxes of records sometimes when the store was cleaning things out,” he said.

Later in his career, Canned Heat and CCR were huge influences as he kept searching for the unusual. Hearing Harvey Matusow’s Jew’s Harp Band album once on a local station in 1969, he searched for the album for more than 35 years, finally finding an original copy owned by someone in Argentina who has since shared the digital files with Peter.

Peter has hosted several radio shows in his lifetime, including a Christian Rock show in the 1970s, a show at the University of Waterloo’s radio station, and was a co-host on the Adventures in Plastic Land radio show developed by Stan Hilborn. He used to give the “Psychedelic Snack” on an Oldies 1090 show that ran in 2007 and 2008.

Kate and Scott became part of his Psychedelic Pete’s Underground Freakout show in 2014 shortly after former co-host John Balge died of a heart attack.

“I have no producer and no engineer, so I’m glad Kate’s there to help. I concentrate on making the show and she does everything else. I think most of the listeners are older people so they’re glad to hear a younger person on air. A lot of young people are interested in this music too. Now when our listeners phone in, they don’t want to talk to me. They want to talk to the Clock Fairy,” Peter laughs.

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