Two San Bernardino County radio stations have removed Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Joni Mitchell recordings from their play lists because the entertainers appeared at a benefit concert for Native American Leonard Peltier in Orange County Tuesday night. Peltier has been convicted of slaying two FBI agents.
KQLH-FM San Bernardino, a 50,000-watt station that plays soft adult contemporary music, and KWRM-Corona/Riverside, a 5,000-watt country & Western station, will continue the ban "as long as there is a public association of (the performers) with that type of concert," said Pat Michaels, 60, general manager of both stations.
Tuesday night's benefit, organized by actor Peter Coyote ("E.T." and "Outrageous Fortune") was intended to raise funds for Peltier's defense fund. Peltier has asked for a retrial in light of suppressed evidence that has come to light since his conviction.
Michaels said playing records by those who played at the concert not only would be "attacking the reputations of the two agents who died, but slapping in the face every peace officer who daily puts on a badge and a gun and goes out on the street and risks his life."
Between them, the stations have 30 Nelson songs on their play lists (at least one Nelson song is played at least once every hour on KWRM, according to the station's program director) and one Mitchell song, but no Kristofferson songs.
(In initially announcing the ban, Michaels had not included Mitchell because, he said, he hadn't realized she was on one of his play lists.)
Michaels said that the ban on the records "may hurt us."
But, he added, "other stations may follow our lead."
Chris Adams, program director of KIK-FM in Orange, a country station that held ticket giveaways for Tuesday night's performance, said he has no plans to stop playing Nelson's or Kristofferson's records.
"The issue around the concert was whether or not Peltier had a fair trial, not whether or not he was innocent or guilty," Adams said, "and we considered that before we decided to get involved with it.
"There are tons of benefit concerts around all over the place, and Willie has been at the forefront of a lot of them. The listeners know that. Our position is that we play what listeners want to hear, and if they want to hear Willie, we'll play it. We wouldn't pull his records unless we got massive amounts of phone calls saying, 'Get Willie off the air.' "
KIK, he added, has not received any negative phone calls regarding the Nelson concert.