It was October of 1982. Jefferson Starship–complete with Kantner and Grace Slick–was launching a 20-day tour with a concert at Illinois State University. A local minister, Rev. Wesley Ates of the First Pentecostal Church in Bloomington, Ill., had claimed the devil spoke backwards on Beatles records and urged people to attend his prayer service rather than the Starship event.
I was host of a talk show on WJBC Radio. Rev. Ates had challenged Kantner and Slick to a debate about rock’s impact on young people. Kantner had read about Ates in a San Francisco newspaper. So he was quick to say “yes” to a debate when I approached his camp about the idea.
We wanted a live, in-person audience, but we didn’t want a mob scene. So we quietly arranged to do the broadcast in a relatively small room in ISU’s student center. We invited Rev. Ates to bring along 25 of his supporters and filled another 40 seats with students who were happy to occupy them when they learned what was about to happen.
The event was broadcast live on both WJBC and its sister (rock) station WBNQ. What you’re about to hear is the complete discussion–in other words, you’ll also hear what went on during commercial and news breaks. Enjoy! (Photos courtesy of McLean County Museum of History)