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caption: Larry Mizell Jr, KEXP’s director of editorial and DJ for the afternoon show with Larry Mizell Jr.
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Larry Mizell Jr, KEXP’s director of editorial and DJ for the afternoon show with Larry Mizell Jr.
Credit: Courtesy of KEXP

Where the music has mattered for 50 years: KEXP's big anniversary

You’re listening to Soundside on 94.9 KUOW.

But today, we’re talking about a different Seattle radio station.

This year marks KEXP's 50th anniversary, and they’re now one of the most influential listener-supported music stations in the world.

The station was the first to air Nirvana's debut album "Bleach," and they nurtured local hip-hop and rap artists like Blue Scholars and Common Market.

KEXP is kind of our much cooler sibling station. KEXP and KUOW both started in the hallways of the University of Washington.

And 50 years is a long time to stay on air. Especially as a listener-funded, independent, music-focused station.

Larry Mizell Jr, KEXP’s director of editorial and DJ for the afternoon show with Larry Mizell Jr., recalled how he first encountered KEXP.

"Back in the day, I remember I would listen to cube. Sometimes I listen to the jazz station on 88.5," Mizell Jr. said. "And I remember at one point going past 90.3. And it's a talk show and it was Dan Savage."

From there, Mizell Jr. said KEXP opened him up to a whole new world.

"It exposed me to so much more music and, like, in depth in a way I wasn't getting from like The End and commercial alternative rock," he said. "I was getting like some real more historical stuff."

Mizell Jr. said the station introduced him to music he might not have found otherwise.

KEXP has changed a lot throughout its 50-year history. From starting at the University of Washington in 1972, to receiving funding from Paul Allen and moving first to Dexter and Denny, and later to their current location at the Seattle Center.

The station itself has grown, but so has it's footprint.

"This station has become a global tastemaker and breaker of new artists and everything," Mizell Jr. said. "So, seeing that has been huge, and I, even before I started working here, I got to feel like I was a part of it as a listener."

Mizell Jr. also emphasized the station's role in helping people discover new music during a time when it's easy to just let an algorithm feed you bands you already know.

He said that's part of KEXP's goals for the future, as well.

"I really see us deepening our work as tastemakers and deepening music discovery for more people," Mizell Jr. said. "And showing people that there's more options away from like, what the robots feed you. So yeah, being more for more people that are passionate about music is what I see us doing."

This Saturday KEXP will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a free concert at the Seattle Center.

You can find more information on the event here.