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November 4, 2005

Still Not Santa Cruz, But Life More Complete

-- by Dave Johnson


One of the heartbreaks of moving from Santa Cruz up to the San Francisco peninsula was leaving KPIG behind. (107.5, prounounced "One oh seven oink five") But now they're available in the SF Bay Area, at 1510 AM! I know, music on AM, but you take what you can get. (They're also at 94.9 in San Luis Obispo now.)

They're available on RealPass and AOL radio - in fact KPIG was (maybe still is) the most popular radio station on the internet. I subscribed for a while but that was ... money ... Bloggers (and think tank fellows who aren't on the Right) aren't about money, so it had to go.

From a story about KPIG,

Ramblin’ Ror is on the air in the next room, coaxing listeners with his seductive, whiskey-soaked voice—not Vegas-lounge crooner cheese, but the relaxed authority of a deep-voiced, twinkling-eyed, story-telling uncle—before he slaps on a rare Dick Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughan collaboration.

. . . “We are a radio station built on small, indie labels,”

. . . As ironic as it is, the funky, run-down station has earned worldwide reputation as one of the most listened-to stations through a different medium—the Internet. In fact, what is even more dumfounding is that KPIG was the first radio station in the United States to stream radio full-time on the Internet. And it all came from a man who went by the name of Wild Bill Goldsmith.

Leading me through a cramped maze of music storage and editing equipment, Ellen brings me to a small closet-like room next to the bathroom where there is a confusing rack of wires, computer parts and indicator lights.

“Wild Bill was this crazy wild man, and a techno wizard,” Ellen explains, pointing to the rack. “Back when he was doing (DJ-ing) the morning shift, he would go back into this hovel of a back room. We really had no clue what was going on back here. When we asked him, he said, ‘I’m going to put KPIG on the Internet.’ And we just laughed and said ‘OK, whatever.’”

Eight years later, KPIG today has regular Internet listeners all over the world—from Australia to Antarctica. According to a Web counter, about 320,000 people tune in to KPIG through the Internet at least once in a given month.

... “We’re not going to compete with anyone,” Ellen says. “We just have to be who we have always been, but better. That seems to have always worked for us.”

. . . The only struggle, then, is trying to describe just what KPIG is. One can look to their playlist to get an idea but, then again, the average music connoisseur can recognize only about half of the artists. As for the big names, there are such regulars as Tom Petty, Neil Young, Los Lobos, Tom Waits and John Hiatt. Then there are lesser-known artists such as Robert Earl Keen, John Prine, Taj Mahal and Susan Tedeschi. Most of the songs played from these artists, however, are not their singles, their big radio favorites. They are just as often the obscure B-side, a rare import or live recording. KPIG is also heralded for its frequent live performances by artists who drop by the station to pay their respects.

This actually is a subject for a "liberal blog." It's about independent vs corporate media. It's about small, independent artists getting a chance to be known without selling out to a large corporate entity. It's about a local public getting what they want rather than a national corporation marketing stuff to them. What does radio sound like in your area?



Click here to take a tour of Santa Cruz. (Best with Cable or DSL) (You'll see the bank that was robbed at the beginning of Clint Eastwood's Sudden Impact.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at November 4, 2005 8:17 AM

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Comments

Spent about six months in Santa Cruz (with weekends in Fenton and Prunedale) in the late 70s (or early 80s, it is a bit of a haze) and the station of choice was KFAT out of Gilroy. Obscure country, 60s Willie Nelson, bluegrass, 30s and 40s roots music, I don't remember it all that well except that it was great listening for an aging hippie.

I have heard than an earthquake and dot.com sprawl ate the city. You sound like it is still a bit of heaven.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at November 4, 2005 12:13 PM

Turns out I had already blogged my answer before you asked -- WRFG in Atlanta, real community radio and a real treasure.

Posted by: Bruce at November 4, 2005 12:31 PM

We have been listening to KPIG over the internet for years, and often email in during "Please Stand By", the live show on Sunday Mornings. KPIG is a great station and is the desendant of KFAT.

The music played is the choice of the DJ so the less known artists gain exposure. Perhaps the best way to describe the music selection is "Y'all turnative."

Posted by: Don and LaDonna at November 5, 2005 6:07 AM

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