Phil Andrus signs off from Tossed Salad May 29

Posted 5/27/20

KPTZ 91.9 FM in Port Townsend celebrated its ninth birthday on May 14. On May 29, the station will mark another significant milestone, when Phil Andrus hosts the final regular episode of Tossed Salad.

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Phil Andrus signs off from Tossed Salad May 29

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KPTZ 91.9 FM in Port Townsend celebrated its ninth birthday on May 14. On May 29, the station will mark another significant milestone, when Phil Andrus hosts the final regular episode of Tossed Salad.

Andrus served as the creator, producer, curator and host of the show, which he conceived when KPTZ went on the air in 2011.

“Phil started Tossed Salad at the very beginning of KPTZ, nine years ago,” KPTZ programming manager Larry Stein said. “He quickly established our relevance to the region through his wide range of guests, from varied sectors of our listening community, including music, arts, politics, social issues and our maritime community.”

Stein went so far as to describe Tossed Salad as Andrus’ own radio station within KPTZ.

“He is such a pro in community radio that we just trained him on our new equipment, and off he went,” Stein said. “He was a key player in establishing us as a real service to the community, given his knowledge of our region. Programming four hours of guests every Friday is no small task, but Phil pulled it off every week, and rolled with it when things didn’t go just as planned.”

‘ON A WHIM’

Andrus described what came together in Tossed Salad as a blend of the sorts of programs he hosted and produced on KRAB in Seattle some 25 years before KPTZ went on the air.

Andrus’ genesis as a radio broadcaster owes to an invitation he received during the early 1970s.

“On a whim, I was offered to host a program of North American folk music, three hours on Friday afternoon, and on a whim, I accepted,” Andrus said. “I soon realized the collection of LPs I owned was not equal to three hours each week, so I borrowed records from friends and another radio station, and soon realized that they were not sufficient either.”

To save himself from a truncated career as a volunteer program host, Andrus turned to live music by recruiting artists from the Pike Place Market, both buskers from the street and artists who played for tips in the Soup and Salad restaurant.

“What worked for me then worked for me in 2011,” Andrus said. “I had expected to host a two-hour show, as most shows were then on KPTZ, but there was such a need for hosts that I stretched to four hours and found that I enjoyed the longer time.”

Andrus realized Tossed Salad would need to be different from what he’d originally envisioned as soon as he figured out he would be producing a show longer than the KPTZ norm of two hours.

“That’s when I began to give thought to the possibility of a true variety show, like radio presented in its early years,” Andrus said. “Four hours is a lot of time to fill, even with my collection of recorded music and the collections of our two public libraries, but our community is blessed by a wealth of talented performers, graciously willing to come to KPTZ and Tossed Salad.”

Andrus has maintained a “nearly complete” audio archive of Tossed Salad, dating back to the first month of the show, with an accompanying log of who was on each show.

“The first musician to perform live on the show was guitarist Daniel Macke, who was on in our first month of May of 2011,” Andrus said. “The notion of including regular readers and music presenters came later — but not much later — inspired by a show on CBC Radio 2, ‘Richardson’s Roundup,’ which I much enjoyed.”

From its first year, Andrus wanted to take Tossed Salad out into the community, to produce remote shows.

“And that’s eventually what we did, taking Tossed Salad to the Jefferson County Historical Society Museum, the Wooden Boat Festival, the Jefferson County Fair, the Old Nordland Church Community Hall and Finnriver Farm,” Andrus said. “Being on stage, in front of an audience, is not something I am accustomed to. I prefer the distance offered by the medium of radio, but I found I enjoyed the face-to-face experience too.”

Andrus thanked Bill Putney and Mike Carroll for making those remote broadcasts possible.

At the same time, Andrus recalls it was early in the show’s history he became aware the show was coming to him, rather than him having to go out and find it.

“Music venues were opening in Port Townsend, and their managers approached KPTZ to get exposure for the artists they were bringing to town,” Andrus said. “Environmental and social service organizations came together and wanted to tell of their work on KPTZ. These requests were routed to the Tossed Salad inbox and soon the ‘Salad Bowl’ was filled to the brim each week.”

The rapport Andrus has maintained with Denise Winter and the Key City Public Theatre performers “put many a smile on my face and, I noticed, theirs too,” as he expressed his gratitude for their patience with him “and my limited knowledge of theater.”

Likewise, Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra conductor and music director Tigran Arakelyan’s invitation to conduct the orchestra was “a remarkable experience” for Andrus, “one which I never imagined would come to me and which I will never forget.”

It hasn’t all been veteran artists and entertainers, though, since Andrus has also welcomed guests who had never been in front of a microphone.

“Close to 10 familiar voices currently heard on KPTZ were first heard on Tossed Salad,” Andrus said. “It’s a pleasure to take people who are quite evidently nervous and help them relax and flourish. And while getting together with my regular guests, both music presenters and readers, may not qualify as a highlight for the show, appreciating their company and artistry has meant a great deal for me personally.”

Indeed, Andrus’ greatest challenge has been making time for all the people he wishes to include in each week’s show without having the show seem as though it’s rushed or turning down worthy requests.

“Fortunately, in recent years, other KPTZ show hosts have added interviews to their shows, in support of our growing community,” said Andrus, who also thanked KPTZ colleagues Taylor Clark, Chris Bricker, Tim Quackenbush, Ruby Fitch and Al Bergstein for stepping in to host the show, “so that Emmy Lou and I could have vacation time.”

But every show must come to a close, and it was the coronavirus that made Andrus realize Tossed Salad could not continue on as it had.

“On the morning of March 13, the first email I read while preparing for the show announced that at 5 p.m., the KPTZ studio would be closed to all but staff and program hosts,” Andrus said. “With the conclusion of that Friday’s Tossed Salad at 5 p.m., the show as it had been for nearly nine years ended. No longer could I invite guests to join me in-studio, and without them, Tossed Salad has been telephone interviews and recorded music from my archives. This is not the sort of Tossed Salad I care to serve to my listeners, or to myself.”

Andrus’ fans need not fret, however, since he’ll wendhis way back to the airwaves soon enough through his new show, “Cats in Our Laps,” set to premiere in early July.

“The radio I most enjoy is that which brings companionship to listeners,” Andrus said. “‘Cats in Our Laps’ will bring recorded music, mostly from CDs and LPs, along with brief readings, internet resources and calls from listeners. In time, when the corona curse has passed, I will invite the occasional guest to join me in the studio.”

Andrus expressed his gratitude not only to Stein, but all those who brought KPTZ into being, from first president Colin Foden to present board president Robert Ambrose and general manager Kate Ingram, as well as his many guests and listeners, “who have written such kind and insightful words.”

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