I don't know how I could have gotten through a certain part of my life without KNAC, the late, great heavy metal station that played the kind of music once known as rock and roll. I grew up in Ohio, garage band central, and as the 80s rolled in with its "greed is good" top ten play lists, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen and Black Sabbath were dropped from the airwaves, and the bands that ran with the groove - Metallica, Alice in Chains, Faith No More, Guns 'n Roses, and so many others - were outlawed. But KNAC played them all and Tawn Mastrey was the siren, calling the faithful to the fire and taking you through the night. "If I played Jethro Tull," she once told a reporter, "the station would get bombed." Ironically, KNAC had a weak signal and in 1989, Tawn left for a better gig at another station.
Years ago, I interviewed Tawn for the New York Times. During the course of our talks, she introduced me to another great LA character, Lonn Friend. While Tawn was the voice of heavy metal, Lonn was its scribe, and without his memorable chronicles of those years, the era would be lost to the ages. Last Tuesday, Tawn passed away. She was fifty-three. I leave it to Lonn to sing her song:
In Memory of Tawn Mastrey
With immense sorrow and profound tenderness in acknowledgment of her talent, beauty, and eternal heavy metal heart, I bid fond bon voyage to my old friend, Tawn Mastrey, the sexy, throaty veteran DJ who succumbed to the ravages of hepatitis C last week. Back in the prurient, poseur-filled day, Tawn held court at KNAC FM while me and mine rocked RIP magazine. Our paths crossed at numerous shows and promotional events, like the '89 TJ Martell Charity sports blowout where Tawn lent her low-cut lovely light to our Leibowski lanes and rolled for the good cause along side side Married With Children upstart, Christina (the other) Applegate, Scott Ian and those two millionaires from KISS. A few years later, we shared air shift space at Norm Pattiz's Pirate Radio. Tawn never had an ill word for anyone. She adored the decadence with a genuine sense of playful wonder. Above all, she lived for and loved rock n' roll. And rock n' roll will miss her.