Thursday, January 26, 2006

River City Radio

I got into Sacramento late last night and scanned the band pretty quick. There was oddly a large number of religious talk programs. I cant account for it with the stations licensed to the area and can only assume it's from translators operating illegally over power. Despite this flood of RF there are some great stations in this city.

The Capital Public Radio Network is available in Sacramento on KXJS 88.7 and KXJZ 88.9 making for a nice strong clear City signal but is simulcast and translated all the way to Stockton and even Reno. They run a really tight play list in their traditional jazz blocks but their acid jazz program is perhaps the best in the nation. I have always been partial to the funk show Friday nights on WXPN but this show is wilder, funkier and cooler. With cuts from Garaj Majal, Charlie Hunter, and Tower of Power; this show is rock solid.

Up the dial is 89.5 KVMR. Alice MacAllister used to be MD here. Not sure if she still is. If there is a taste-maker for eclectic community stations, they are it. In fact the MD from KVMR and KWMR, Kay Clements used to do an Americana radio show together at KPFA. Regardless The mix here is unbeatable" a comedy music show, a Hawaiian show, Blues, jazz, Americana, folk, native American, they have everything.
KDVS is hard to get on the east side of the city but who hangs out in Citris Heights? In a reaction to the well-funded CPR network and the music-variety monolith of KVMR the U. of California, Davis branch radio station went the urban route. It's mostly Reggae, Rap, and R&B. It really fills in the dial with options. They also get bonus points for helping KDRT-LP get going in Davis. Note thsi is the same KDVS that put out that 34 track comp. "Cool as Folk." All live in studio recordings, all artwork made by the hands of actual 3rd graders. Here is a quote that explains everything you need to know about KDVS:
"...In the fall of 1986, the KDVS staff posed nude for the center photo of the program guide. The news hit the Associated Press wire and the station attracted national coverage. A stamp disclaiming that the opinions expressed in the guide were not necessarily those of the UC Regents was mandated by the administration before distribution."
This is my kind of city. The roads are laid out in a grid, letters one way, numbers the other. They've preserved a portion of the city, beside downtown as "Old Sacramento" and left it looking like a old west movie set. I spent much of the day around R-10 sitting in a $800 chair waiting. But the chair was comfortable and I didn't have to buy it no matter how long I sat.
I bought a book impulsively at a small bookstore called Beer's Books. They have a big Maine Coon cat wandering around the store greeting people and I like to see that in book stores.
Radio in River City began in 1921. KVQ-AM signed on at the odd frequency of 883AM. That same staiton is on air to this day. They've has a couple license modifications since then and are currently known as 1530 KFBK-AM. They had the radio dial all to themselves for 16 years. 1210 KROY-AM opened its doors an they were it's only competitor for another 8 years. In 1945 the dial began to populate and more resemble the varied beast it is today.It was only about thirty years after that Brooks Records and Antiques opened it's doors. I killed an hour today talking to Brooksie. He was so knowledgeable about music, about Sacramento, about restoring radios and turntables and actually happened to know the secret of life. If you're in town visit his store and ask him.
Sacramento has a long a rich history in both music and radio. Jazz organist Jimmy Smith, the rock band Cake, The Deftones, Machine Head, and dozens of others are Sacramento locals. More here. And a great essay here on some Sacramento radio history here.