It wasn’t exactly the same as man’s first words on the moon, but KVMR 89.5 FM’s on-air debut brings a legendary smile to many longtime listeners.
The date was July 14, 1978, exactly 35 years ago this Sunday.
The location was a broadcast booth high above Banner Mountain.
“No, no, that was not a booth,” laughs former KVMR broadcaster Bobby Angel. “At best, it was a shed.”
Angel, former KVMR host Jima Abbott and original station engineer and founder Lee Amundsen were there as Amundsen officially fired up the Nevada City radio station.
Abbott got the cue, leaned into a vintage RCA microphone and uttered the station’s first words, “What should I say?”
According to Bobby, “Then I said, ‘Here, give me that. Hiya folks.’”
“And I don’t think I ever stopped talking until I left the station (in the mid ’80s),” quips the gregarious Bobby Angel, now the leader of a ’60s rock revival band in Los Angeles after working a few other radio gigs.
Angel’s creative on-air radio persona clearly endeared him to early KVMR listeners, while Amundsen stayed behind the scenes and remains active in starting radio stations. Currently, Amundsen lives in Hawthorne, Nev.
Meanwhile, Jima Abbott thinks his first on air statement might have been “Are we on? What do we do?” but he’s not quibbling.
“No matter what my words, it blows my mind that I’ve met two people who actually heard me (sign on),” he recalls. “What were the chances they’d be tuned to 89.5 FM at that time?”
According to Abbott, “We were sort of inventing things by the seat of our pants” to get the station on the air.
For instance, half of the equipment in the so-called studio was borrowed home stereo gear.
“But it worked -- even at 10 watts,” beams Abbott, now a semi-retired jeweler in Caspar on the Mendocino coast after he left KVMR and Nevada City in 1995, ironically the current dividing line between the station’s first and second halves.
“And it kept on working, and it kept on growing...here we are at 35 years, which is really incredible to contemplate.”
And the beat goes on
Celebration of the station’s 35th birthday month begins in earnest this Monday as KVMR Lifetime Achievement Award winner Dawn Fischer returns to host the Monday Morning Show with Program Director Steve Baker (7-10 a.m., KVMR 89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming).
They’ll feature the “Woody Guthrie at 100” star-studded concert special (Guthrie and KVMR share the same birthday), featuring Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Ani DiFranco, Lucinda Williams, Donovan and others covering Guthrie’s songs as part of the station’s 35th birthday membership drive, starting Monday.
Donations and memberships are available through the station’s website, kvmr.org, and by calling 530-265-9555.
And the Worldbeat goes on
For the 17th consecutive year, KVMR will broadcast the entire 17th annual California WorldFest music gala from the Nevada County Fairgrounds, beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday (July 11). Friday, Saturday and Sunday coverage begins at 10 a.m. and concludes at 10 p.m. or later on KVMR 89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming. Bruce Cockburn, Pink Martini, Alasdair Fraser, MaMuse and other international and regional favorites are on tap for the festival.
A weekly wrap-up of news and oddities about community radio station KVMR (89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming), a noncommercial station offering diverse musical programming, independent news and provocative public affairs from about 150 volunteer “citizen-broadcasters.” Complete program listings are available at kvmr.org.