I first posted this article on my Facebook page in early 2019.
Last month marked an important anniversary in Star Wars fandom. The first ever Star Wars podcast*, Jedi Talk, was streamed live on February 7, 1999.
*(This was so long ago in fact that the word “podcast” wouldn’t even be invented for another five years. iTunes, rss audio feeds and the iPod were all still things in the not-so-far future).
Back in 1999, 3 friends, Victor 'Darion Blade' Maier, Eugene "Lars Quillion" Cash, and Mark 'Kal Thanos' Hendersen got together to broadcast their love of Star Wars with anyone who would listen. Would anyone listen?
They did. And what followed were 160+ shows, a new episode almost every Sunday for over 3 years; a pace and consistency that few shows since have managed to reach.
Those guys were there sharing their thoughts when the Phantom Menace was still months from release. They were there talking about their experiences at the first every Celebration. A month later, they broadcast their thoughts on Episode 1 (hint: they loved it). Later, the guys got to document the lead up, premiere and discussion of Attack of the Clones. It’s interesting to go through their old archives, and hear many of the same topics we talk about today: ideas for a sequel trilogy, the importance of the Expanded Universe, and even speculation for a ‘ Lucas Land’ at a theme park!
Real world events also crept into the show. It was interesting to hear them talk about Y2K, and heartbreaking to be transported back to the days following the September 11 attacks.
A lot of what we consider podcasting staples first showed up in Jedi Talk. They include listener feedback, live call-ins from listeners, advertisements from sponsors, author interviews, ‘question of the week’ and more.
Speaking of interviews, they got several big names at the time, including authors Michael Stackpole, R.A. Salvatore and Kathy Tyers, as well as game designers from Decipher.
Jedi Talk pretty much had the Star Wars ‘podcasting’ scene to themselves for the first few years. But that changed in 2001. That was the year that three new shows premiered:
But it was Nathan P. Butler’s ChronoRadio and accompanying Star Wars Fanworks website that really kicked things into high gear. Fanworks provided a single location for both creators and audience to find on another. And not just podcasts, but fan produced audio dramas were showcased on the site. Nathan’s efforts in the audio realm were immeasurable, and only matched by the immense work he put into his Star Wars Timeline Gold literature chronology project.
From that central clearinghouse, many other shows came to peoples’ attention:
Of these, the oldest surviving show is Dany Pepin and Sébastien Mineau ’s Star Wars en Direct, going strong for 18 years now. Followed by Marjorie and Arnie Carvalho’s Star Wars Action News at 14 years. Nathan has continued to podcast through various shows, including The Butlerniverse, The EU Review, and his current show, Star Wars Beyond the Films.
At the last Celebration in 2017, I was lucky enough to meet some of these podcast trailblazers and thank them for the hundreds, even thousands of hours of entertainment they’ve brought into my lives. Even though this was my first time meeting them, it felt like they were folks I’d known for a long time. That sort of connection is a tribute to their excellent skills as hosts, and explains what’s kept them in the game nearly two decades later.
It’s my hope to continue to meet some of my ‘podcast heroes’ at next month’s Celebration in Chicago. I listen to a couple dozen shows now including Rebel Force Radio, the Forcecast, Jedi Journals, The Wookiee Gunner’s Rebels Chat, Geeky Bubble, Rebel Cels: The Star Wars Animation Podcast and more! I definitely hope to thank them in person and get a photo with them as well.
I do still wonder though about those three guys from Jedi Talk. What ever became of Victor 'Darion Blade' Maier, Eugene "Lars Quillion" Cash, and Mark 'Kal Thanos' Hendersen? (if you know, lemme know). Do they even realize the importance their little fan project had on the wider Star Wars and podcasting communities. In some small way, we can thank their trailblazing work for the hugely popular Star Wars Podcasting Stage now present at each Celebration.
Little did they know their show would be the start of a movement that has grown to 1200+ different podcasts covering everything from literature, collecting, film commentaries, audio dramas, animation, live play recordings, current news, Disney, gaming, and more.
That’s a great legacy to leave behind, and makes February 7, 1999 a day long remembered....