Half a century. Five decades. Six hundred months. Close to 20,000 days.
However you slice it, fifty years is a long time. And it’s an especially long time in the unpredictable, unstable radio industry, where business models are finicky and format changes common. Yet that’s how long student-run KNHC, based out of Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School, has been in continuous operation.
Better known to its loyal listeners as C89.5 (89.5 FM is the station’s location on the good ‘ol radio dial, while the C stands for Communications), KHNC is renowned around the globe as the world’s oldest remaining dance radio station. It broadcasts a mix of EDM (electronic dance music) and related genres — from trance to house to industrial — with a bit of pop rock mixed in, commercial free.
The station was conceived towards the end of the 1960s and started out as a low power AM radio station. By the autumn of 1970, KHNC had applied for, and received, an FM construction permit. It began broadcasting over the FM band from Wedgwood Hill on January 25th, 1971: fifty years ago today.
Originally, C89.5 broadcast at just ten watts. By the end of 1972, its power had increased to 320 watts, and by the end of 1974, 1,500 watts.
Today, KNHC broadcasts at 8,500 watts from Entercom’s backup tower on Cougar Mountain in the Issaquah Alps. Hundreds of thousands of people listen to C89.5 over the air in the Seattle area. But the station is also available around the world — and in high quality, too — via Internet streaming.
Like NPR affiliates KUOW and KNKX, and the UW’s KEXP, KNHC is a public radio station. It belongs to the people, and it is sustained through the support of its listeners. (I’m one of them: I’ve donated to keep those turntables spinning!)
However, unlike those stations, KHNC is run in part by high school students. It’s thus, in some respects, the radio equivalent of a teaching hospital.
That is unquestionably part of its appeal. There’s nothing more satisfying as a listener than to hear from young people learning the craft in between enjoying Seattle’s hottest music. Though the station does air public service announcements and sponsorship messages, almost all of what you’ll hear in a given hour will be dance tracks — sometimes beautifully mixed by a DJ during one of the station’s shows, like during the 5 PM hour on weekdays, known as the Drive at Five.
Even the station’s sweepers reflect its quirky, wholesome, music-first personality.
“While they’re spinning the news, we’re spinning Seattle’s hottest music!” exults one. “Talk is overrated, so we’re going to leave this right here!” goes another.
I was in high school myself when I first discovered C89.5. Since then, it has continuously occupied the the foremost position in my radio presets. I only need to press “1” on my remote or console in order to tune to the station when I am in listening range. (When traveling, I make use of the Internet stream.)
Pretty much every aspect of C89.5 meets my criteria for what goes into a beloved institution. As mentioned, it’s not-for-profit. Publicly owned. Run by dedicated staff and students learning about radio. And, of course, it plays the most upbeat, high energy, danceable tunes anywhere on the radio dial.
It’s music you can work to — and work out to.
It’s music you can write to, too! Most of the posts I’ve filed over the years for this blog have been written with the help of C89.5. It’s arguably the closest thing that the Cascadia Advocate has to a soundtrack.
In recognition of its excellent service to the people of the Pacific Northwest, Governor Jay Inslee and King County Executive Dow Constantine have both honored KHNC with statements and proclamations. We at NPI thank them for paying tribute to one of Cascadia’s finest institutions.
On behalf of our team, I’m honored to present a tribute of our own: a list of fifty danceable tunes that I know of because I heard them on C89.5.
Many of these are songs I’ve never heard played on any other radio station in Seattle. Even today, in the age of YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, and the rest, KHNC is still a great way to hear sweet new music. Props to everyone who has helped keep this fantastic station on the air for five decades. Here’s to the next fifty!
Fifty great dance tunes heard on C89.5 FM Seattle
Note this list includes original songs as well as remixes, spanning a variety of electronic dance music subgenres. Click a link to hear the song. Enjoy!
- Iio: At The End
- Freemasons featuring Amanda Wilson: Love On My Mind
- Sunfreakz featuring Andrea Britton: Counting Down The Days
- Simply Red: Sunrise
- The Shapeshifters (aka Shape UK): Lola’s Theme
- Tritonal featuring Phoebe Ryan: Now Or Never
- Eric Prydz: Generate
- David Guetta & Sia: Flames
- Global Deejays: What A Feeling (Pop Radio Edit)
- One‑T + Cool‑T: The Magic Key
- Black Rock featuring Debra Andrew: Blue Water
- September: Satellites
- The Chainsmokers featuring Emily Warren: Side Effects
- Roc Project featuring Tina Arena: Never
- Milky: Just The Way You Are
- Cozi: Stamina
- Jupiter Rising: Electropop
- Edun: Put ‘Em Up
- Marly: You Never Know
- Sophie Ellis-Bextor: Mixed Up World
- Sunset Strippers: Falling Stars
- Star Pilots: In The Heat Of The Night
- Kylie Minogue: Red Blooded Woman
- Tami Chynn featuring Akon: Frozen
- Tube & Berger featuring Chrissie Hynde: Straight Ahead
- Erika: I Don’t Know
- Plumb: In My Arms (Bronleewe & Bose Radio Edit)
- MGMT: Electric Feel (Justice Remix)
- Galleon: One Sign
- Longo & Wainwright featuring Craig Smart: One Life Stand
- Solitaire: I Like Love
- Andain: Beautiful Things
- Deepest Blue: Deepest Blue
- Kygo featuring Ella Henderson: Here For You
- Zhu: Chasing Marrakech
- Mono Mind: I Found My Soul at Marvingate (Sofia Tunes Remix)
- Vicetone featuring Cozi Zuehlsdorff: Way Back
- The Night: Different Story
- Krewella: Team
- Aly & AJ: Joan Of Arc On The Dance Floor
- Cascada: Evacuate The Dancefloor
- Alexandra Stan: Mr. Saxobeat
- Era Istrefi: Bonbon
- Armin van Buuren & Garibay featuring Olaf Blackwood: I Need You
- Sam F featuring Sophie Rose: Limitless
- Jonathan Peters featuring Maya Azucena: Happy (Radio Edit)
- Hikaru Utada: Exodus ’04 (Josh Harris vs. The MPC Radio Edit)
- Wildboyz featuring Ameerah: The Sound Of Missing You
- Krystal K: Let’s Get It Right (Radio Cut)
- Deadmau5 featuring Chris James: The Veldt
Many of the songs above are now considered classics/throwbacks, and C89.5 has two shows where you can hear them: Anthems (an hourlong special that airs at noon on weekdays, hosted by the delightfully talented Harmony Soleil) and Planet Dance (a three-hour music vault spectacular that airs on Thursday evenings with the station’s dynamic duo Mel & Matt). Both shows take listener requests.
If you love discovering amazingly cool new music, C89.5 has a show for that too: Test Spin, with Gabriel Zus. That not-to-be-missed show currently airs Saturday nights at 7 PM. An encore presentation can be heard on Monday nights at 11 PM.
All times referenced above are Pacific.
There are many, many more C89.5 shows (like New Skool, Old School with the legendary DJ Trent Von or Nocturnal Transmission with the incomparable DJ Tamm!) and you can explore them all here.
Congratulations again, KNHC, and best wishes from all of us at NPI!