IMAGE: basil childers
To think that a bit of chemistry as innocuous as LSD could cause such problems.
On a 1990 spring day in Hawaii, Danny Fallon was surprised by a group of Narcotics Squad officers, handcuffed and arrested for possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. The controlled substance: 3,000 doses of acid. The legal consequence: 12 years in federal prison.
Fallon served eight years and 11 months of that sentence, mostly in Sheridan's Federal Correctional Institute, before being released in May 1999. The first thing he did after sucking in a breath of free air was hightail it to KBOO.
While he was inside, Fallon pulled in Portland's lefty community radio institution by hook or crook, eagerly absorbing all the soul-saving reggae he could. Now free, with the support of longtime KBOO personalities Michele Wellnitz and Teresa Kozic, Fallon has become a regular substitute programmer at the station and a presence in Portland's reggae scene.
I spoke with Fallon recently at KBOO headquarters, just off East Burnside Street.
Willamette Week: So you learned about Rastafarianism and reggae in prison?
Danny Fallon: When I got shipped from the jail in Hawaii to the mainland--though I had been into reggae for a long time and heard of Jah Rastafari through the music--I didn't really know much about it. So I decided it was time to start learning. I started ordering books about Marcus Garvey and other great black people. And I also got involved in the African-American culture group in prison. Through this learning process I found my real freedom. Ironic, eh, that I would find it in such an environment?
How did the black folk inside react to what you were doing?
I had a lot of support from the brothers, though some of the Rasta didn't seem to go out of their way to talk to a white boy. My attitude was that I was showing white guys that they could do this too, that we don't have to be separated. That separation is something the system creates. I was and still am trying to be an example that we can transcend all the bullshit if we just take one step in front of the other and take chances.
How did you discover KBOO?
When I first got to Sheridan, KBOO didn't have a transmitter in Corvallis. So you had to stand out in the middle of the prison yard with your Walkman and hold your radio up at arm's length and move it around just to keep the signal in tight. And inside you could hardly get KBOO at all unless you stuck your radio out a window or you put it up against a piece of steel. But I managed, and in there was where I got a lot of my reggae education. In my first years at Sheridan, when they still had pay phones you could use for collect calls, I called up KBOO during Sista E's show and made a pledge, becoming a member. I found the show Positive Vibrations to be the most educational, so I wrote to Michele and Teresa and began a friendship which lasts to this day. [That program is now called Shocks of Sheba, airing 3 am to 5:30 am Wednesday mornings.]
You listened to their show out in the yard?
They come on really late at night, so I was in my cell. Sometimes I'd have to use my whole bed, which was made out of steel, as an antenna. I would go to bed early and wake up at 2:30 so I could listen to them. And then it was off to work in the day. Sometimes the compound would open before their show was over, so I'd go out on the track and do my running while listening to them.
Do your former prisonmates listen to your show now?
I get cards and letters from them all the time. I've always said that prison is like a microcosm of the world outside. You've got people in there who would be model citizens on the outside but they got caught screwing up and they're in there too. There were white collar criminals, and there were gangbangers who got busted for running big-time coke operations--just great people to be around, but because they got mixed up with what was going on in their neighborhoods, they ended up in jail. But they were really great, soft, beautiful people.
Now all of my shows, even if I don't announce it, are livicated to my bredren and sistren who're doing time in there for whatever. I am here for them. I am trying to show them and the world that we too can be vital members of this or any community.
Are you on a mission?
My mission is to forward Jah to the massive, through reggae and by being an example. I want to visit and comfort the prisoners and the needy and make reggae a household word. That's what my show should do.
Fallon's show, Higher Reasoning Reggae Time with Ras Danny, can substitute for just about any program on the KBOO grid. Mostly, though, it can be heard at 4:30 am Sunday mornings, alternating with Revolutionary Reggae Hour.
Visit www.kboo.org for programming specifics.