Long time KZUM Programmer, Scott Colborn, passed away on March 30, leaving a hole in the hearts of his family, friends and devoted fans. Scott was the host of the Saturday morning talk show Exploring Unexplained Phenomenon, which would have celebrated 36 years on air in October. Having been with KZUM since 1984, his passing will be felt deeply in our organization.
We asked a few of his fellow KZUM Programmers both past and present to share some thoughts on how Scott impacted our lives.
You can hear encore airings of Exploring Unexplained Phenomena, Saturday mornings at 10 a.m.
By Kate Smith
April 23, 2020
Scott Colborn was my Dumbledore.
He was impish and whimsical, with a dry wit and an ever present twinkle in his eye. He lived to serve, to learn, and to educate. And I can’t help but think it is a bit ironic that he left this mortal plane so close to the Feast of Fools!
One of my favorite memories of him takes place on April Fool’s Day about 20 years ago. In those days, he was the proprietor of The Way Home Books & Gifts, a marvelous little shop in the Indian Village Shopping Center in Lincoln, NE. Among other things, he had a substantial Harry Potter section. He got the books in as soon as they were available for sale and had a great selection of merch. Diagon Alley all in one store! When the movies came out, he made arrangements with one of the theaters in town to set up a table in the lobby and sell his Hogwarts wares. And at one time, he had a promotion going on involving Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. One could earn a discount by eating (and swallowing!) three random beans…
…I got a Sardine flavored one once. I could feel the bones in my throat…ick! BUT I GOT MY DISCOUNT!!!
Anyhow, it was April the First, Twenty-0-something, and I was working in the cafeteria in one of the dorms at UNL. I got a wicked idea to “fool” my coworkers, and knew just where to go to buy what I needed. I arrived at The Way Home before Scott even got there. I was greeted with a warm smile and a genuine exclamation of “Nice to see ya!” I told Scott my plan and a devilish grin spread across his face. I bought him out of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. He was still giggling like a schoolboy when I left the store. Needless to say, most of my coworkers got a kick out of the mysterious dish of jelly beans left by the time-clock where others in the past had left cookies or brownies or other treats to share. Oh the mayhem! It took them all day to figure out it was me.
Scott and I both loved sharing that story for years afterward. It brings joy to my heart that I do believe that was his favorite memory of me.
Scott was a very special human. His absence will be deeply felt in the community, especially at KZUM. Though it will be nice to have another benevolent ghost in the studio.
By Ed Rumbaugh
April 23, 2020
My name is Ed Rumbaugh, I host a program on KZUM called Variations on Jazz and Creative Music on Tuesdays at 1 p.m.
I have known Scott for about 45 years. Scott was the person who got me interested in KZUM radio way back in the mid 1980s.
Scott and I shared an interest in unexplainable phenomena, the basis of his radio program, Exploring Unexplained Phenomena (EUP), which he hosted for 35 years. I started helping Scott and his, then co-host, Dale Bacon at the radio station in the early 1990s when KZUM was located on the tenth floor of the Terminal building. As time went on and Dale moved on I took over the co-host position with Scott for about five to six years.
I was always amazed at the ease that Scott had with a variety of people and subject matter. He treated all the guests on the show with dignity and compassion, asked each one honest yet probing questions, and honored their response with kindness and courtesy. He may not have agreed with them all but he never said so on air during the interview.
We were both members of The Fortian Reseach Center, a local organization based on the work of Charles Fort. We hosted a National Conference in Lincoln, NE for ten years. Scott and myself plus many others organized and worked on the conference between 1985-1995. We had attendees from all over the US plus international guests.
Scott and I attended many UFO conferences together over the years. So the basis of our friendship was that activity, which offered us many hours of conversation talking about a bottomless subject matter of the unexplained. The same attitude was on display at our conferences.
Without a doubt Scott is an extrovert 100% and I’m not. And without noticing my reluctance to engage with strangers, Scott pulled me into numerous conversations with his willingness to make everyone friends.
Scott’s need to be surrounded by many people would end up with large lunch crowds of strangers trying to fit ourselves into small restaurants. The cafes would be bewildered by so many people arriving at once. It always worked out some how. It was Scott’s magic and positive manner that calmed everyone down and allowed all to enjoy themselves.
Scott’s flamboyant personality was always the talk at conferences. Everyone knew Scott and recognized him by the Hawaiian shirt, and they were familiar with his voice from the radio show as well. As the station’s signal strength grew and new technologies increased to encircle the globe, there was a waiting audience for the sound of Scott’s voice on the Exploring Unexplained Phenomena program every Saturday morning.
On the wearing of the colorful Hawaiian shirt; winter and summer there would be Scott walking down the street with shorts, sandals and a Hawaiian shirt. I believe it started in the early 1980s after Scott stopped working for Woods Bro’s Real Estate as a broker. He started the Way Home Music and Books store on S. 48th St. selling new age books & music, and from then on his uniform was the colorful, happy, and noticeable Hawaiian shirt that became his identity. I’m not sure of Scott’s original statement on the reason for the shirt, but I believe it was something like “How can anyone be unhappy with a guy in the room wearing a Hawaiian shirt?”
That was Scott’s gift, to make people happy, to make people calm, and to create friendships with all those who came in contact with him.
By Clark Besch
April 23, 2020
I met Scott Colborn almost 40 years ago when I was a DJ at KZUM. This guy had an infectious attitude that you could not help but love. He was always upbeat and smiling with lots of fun comments and of course, THOSE HAWAIIAN SHIRTS! He had one on the day I met him and never saw him without one. Soon, he had a radio show on KZUM which I was happy to hear. It was called “Woodstock & Obscure Rock.” For what it was worth, it could have had MY show’s name of “Strictly 60’s.” His focused more on that late ’60s/early ’70s period. Both shows were on KZUM Wednesdays–Scott’s in morning and mine at night.
We became good friends seeing each other at station meetings and we often did fund raising events for KZUM. We emceed live events together and one such was a VERY cold 1985 night in downtown Lincoln when we did a KZUM “Blizzard Dance Party” in which we showed Annette’s “Beach Blanket Bingo” movie and had a picnic as a station fund raiser. I’ll give you one guess who came up with THAT idea. It was the man who didn’t need to change for the event: Hawaiian shirt and shorts and flip flops! As a note of trivia, Lincoln had nine days in that month of 1985 below zero. I remember that night must have been close to one of those.
It wasn’t long and Scott opened up “The Way Home” book store which featured things from his passion of Unexplained Phenomena (UFO’s etc) which became his new KZUM Saturday Morning show. It started in 1984 and was still going strong at the time of Scott’s untimely passing. It is thought to be longest running show on the subject. When I started working a night shift and left KZUM after 10 years, we lost touch some, but emailed again in the past decade several times.
He started his “Lincoln Ghost Tours” which became sellouts every Halloween with Scott a big part of it. He taught guitar lessons to a friend of mine at work and we talked about that and Scott was so kind to his student/my friend, Will.
It’s tough to lose a KZUM member from the good old days when we fought for every dime to keep the little 10 watt station afloat that is now heard worldwide on the internet. Scott was certainly one of the best of the best and lived as full of a life as I could imagine. He was a true KZUM joy.
I’ll leave you with a few words FROM Scott in emails he sent over the past year. That will tell you all you need to know about my friend Scott.
Clark Besch (KZUM 1980-89).
By Jim Shorney
April 23, 2020
Scott Colborn was my friend. Scott was everybody’s friend. If you were not a friend of Scott’s you would be after you met him. He would greet you with a big smile and a hearty welcome, and there was no doubting the sincerity in his voice. Always polite, if he did not know your name you were addressed as “Sir” or “Ma’am” until he did. He was a big man with a big heart and genuinely cared about everyone he met regardless of who you were or where you came from. Always positive and upbeat, I believe he was the happiest man I have ever met. On the last day I was with him after the radio show he wasn’t even fazed in the face of unexpected car trouble which put his back-up vehicle in the shop along with his primary car. He cheerfully engaged with the tow truck operator as if he were an old friend and remained cheerful and upbeat through it all. Typical Scott.
I was first introduced to the EUP program by a co-worker (whom still listens!) in the early 1980s when it was Scott and Dale Bacon. Like many, I first met Scott in person at his book store “The Way Home” a few years later. It was a small and friendly place on south 48th street at that time, near the current KZUM location. Over the years the store in its later and larger incarnation became a place to meet friends (old and new), find unusual books and items, engage in friendly conversation, learn, and find advice and solace. It was just a cool place to hang out. You could smell the incense as you walked up on the sidewalk and always received a typical warm greeting from Scott. You would always find something interesting there, guaranteed. And you often found just what you needed.
Scott was a teacher and a mentor. At a time in my life when I was looking for new things to do I answered Scott’s call for volunteer producers to help with the Exploring Unexplained Phenomena radio show. I already knew him though his bookstore so I thought, “why not?” He taught me how to be on the big radio. I tremendously enjoyed my time spent with him on the show over the past years and often called it “the best job I have ever had that I don’t get paid for.”
“The Paranormal without the fear” was his hallmark and he often quoted his friend Three Eagles who said “what’s so super about natural?” He valued everyone’s opinions and welcomed input from callers and his producers. Always kind and non-adversarial towards the guests, he strived to make them feel comfortable and welcomed. Guests often commented later that they felt like they were at home having a nice conversation with an old friend. He was always prepared; I can’t count how many times he came into the studio and told me of the late hours he spent over the preceding week reading a guest’s new book cover to cover. The talking points memos often sent out by the publicists sat on the table unused; he didn’t need them. He would ask thoughtful and pointed questions, skillfully drawing the guest into a conversation as opposed to a simple interview, swapping stories and wisdom while the time flew by. Often he ended the show by asking “what do you do for fun?” or “how are you going to spend the rest of your day?”
The breadth and depth of his knowledge of everything strange and paranormal was immense. I had the privilege of meeting and speaking with so many interesting people over the phone and sometimes in person thanks to Scott. After a time I began referring to it as the “EUP Family,” and that’s what it was. The guests, fellow producers, the listeners and callers, and the KZUM staff who helped out were all like family and I am grateful to every one of them. But I am especially grateful to Scott for allowing me into his world.
Maybe not as well known was Scott the guitar teacher. Watching him teach guitar was a joy. He taught students of all ages and his patience was inexhaustible. Scott was always encouraging and upbeat no matter how badly you mangled a tune. He knew every song, and if he didn’t he would after 10 or 15 minutes. It was an amazing thing to watch him as he listened to a wall of music coming from a tiny speaker, magically picking out the individual guitar parts from the noise and tabbing them out on paper for his student in mere minutes. I think he really was a wizard! He was always quick with a joke, or a story about a concert he went to or his adventures touring with a rock band when he was younger. He knew the best trivia about all the top guitar players and could teach you their techniques and tricks in a way that was understandable. Scott was an incredible talent and the world is too quiet without him.
One thing is for sure, Saturday mornings will never be the same. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t think about him and miss him. I picture Scott now on the other side, hanging out with friends and family who have passed before, playing in the ultimate rock band, and having a good chuckle about it all. And walking in beauty.
Kate Smith is the host of The Mystery Spot
Ed Rumbaugh is the host of Variations on Jazz.
Clark Besch is the former host of Strictly ’60s.
Jim Shorney is a producer on Exploring Unexplained Phenomena.