Country comes alive Grass Valley radio buff hosts national show
Bob Utley is a radio buff.
The Grass Valley resident who, as a child, loved to listen to replays of Orsen Welles’ dramatization of “War of the Worlds” now produces his own radio show that airs in 91 radio stations across the country. It’s called “25 Years of Hits,” and it plays country music and showcases some the biggest names in the genre. The 18-month-old program is a fulfillment of Utley’s longtime dream.
“Radio for me is the ultimate theater of the mind,” Utley said. “You have the ability to touch many people with one program because it’s broadcast to more people than you’ll ever meet in your life.”
The “25 Years of Hits” is a weekly two-hour “count-up” show that plays country music chart-topppers of a certain week of the year for the past 25 years. The songs are interspersed with nuggets of information on what was going on in sports, movies, and general affairs that particular week throughout the years. In Grass Valley, one can tune in to the program on Sunday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. on 101.9 FM.
“We try not to dwell on the negative stuff,” Utley said. “We decidedly try to be upbeat and positive.”
The show also includes interviews with country music celebrities like Shania Twain, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Kenny Rogers, and Dolly Parton.
Utley, who’s been a part-time disc jockey for 20 years, said he chose the country music genre for his program because “out of roughly 10,000 commercial radio stations, roughly 3,000 of them play country music.”
“The popularity of country music is … due to the fact that country songs speak to people,” Utley said. “There is a message in the music, whether it is a song about relationships, religion – it could be anything having to do with life itself. Whenever music can speak to you at a personal level, it is successful.”
Utley is thankful to technology for enabling him to produce the program from Grass Valley. The show is recorded at Sun Sound Studios on Ridge Road. Utley writes the script. Craig “Catfish” Hunter, the host of the show, records the voice track in Denver. The program is then finally put together in Grass Valley. Once produced, the finished product is posted on a server in Nashville, Tenn., for national distribution.
“The program is really different because it spans a several-year period and it does a good job of covering all the big hits that this genre has had,” said Becky Robertson, director of country broadcasting with Impact Radio Network, a Nashville-based radio syndication company. “It (the show) has been attractive to a lot of different radio stations because it bridges (the gap between) today’s music and the classic hits.”
Robertson said “25 Years of Hits” is her favorite show and she wished it would soon expand to include other genres as well.
Rick Stewart, director of program for The Wolf 101.9 FM in Sacramento, attributed the national success of the show to the way in which it presents older hits in an upbeat manner. He also praised the host of show, Hunter, for his presenting skills.
Utley said the growth of his company, “Cable Car Productions,” that produces the show, has been exponential.
“Our business model operates on what is called the barter revenue model,” Utley said. “We give the program free to the radio stations. In exchange, they give us six of the 12 commercial minutes per hour. We sell those to national advertisers. That’s how we make our money.”
Utley said he would like to expand the program to other genres of music like pop, R&B, and jazz.
“I would definitely consider partnering with a larger distribution organization to take the business to the next level,” Utley said. “Our aim is to reach 200 to 250 stations.”
To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4229.
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