with Allison Miller

The Yes Man: when it comes to subbing for broadcasters, Eric Flaherty is just a guy who can’t say no

KVMR has more than 150 volunteer broadcasters, and usually they’re raring to get on the air and play music. But sometimes fate intervenes, in the form of laryngitis, a flat tire, a sick puppy. At those times, three words spring to mind:

“Better call Eric.”

In just a few years as a broadcaster, Eric Flaherty has become the go-to guy for desperate deejays, especially at the last minute. Why? He’s passionate about playing music, but, just as important, “I always say yes.”

A graduate of the 2011 broadcaster training class, Flaherty started out on the midnight to 4 a.m. Red Eye shift. One fateful day, Dave Olsen asked him to substitute as host of Good Foot Radio. One subbing gig led to another and, Flaherty says, “it just snowballed.”

In the past two years, Flaherty has probably logged more KVMR air time than any other broadcaster--with the possible exception of ubiquitous program director Steve Baker. Flaherty figures he’s on the air an average of 8 to 10 times a month.

When his phone rings shortly after midnight, Flaherty knows a Red Eye deejay might have come down with food poisoning or gotten stuck in a snowstorm. The Yes Man gets out of bed and drives down the hill to take the mic till 4 a.m. Or later. A couple of times he’s been on the air 10 consecutive hours, from midnight to 10 a.m.

Bookstore Owner to Broadcaster

Flaherty came to Nevada County in 2009 from San Francisco, where he was born and raised and co-owned two used-book stores. He was looking for a simpler life, liked the rural feel of Nevada City and thought he’d give it a try. He told his business partner he was taking a leave of absence.

A devotee of the 1960s radio renaissance in San Francisco, Flaherty thought those halcyon days were over. But when he heard KVMR for the first time--at the suggestion of neighbor and broadcaster Cheri Snook--well, mind blown. “I didn’t think that kind of radio existed anymore! But it’s alive and well here.”

He decided to volunteer at the station and ended up manning the front desk, flashing his signature open-hearted grin at visitors every Tuesday afternoon. Call the station at that time and you’ll hear Flaherty’s endearingly throaty voice answering the phone.

A year after moving to Nevada City, Flaherty called his business partner to tell him he wouldn’t be coming back. The cultural richness of the Foothills had taken hold.
       
But as much as he loved the station, it occurred to him that some of his favorite music was getting short shrift. “Hey, it should be heard!” he thought. “I’ll do it.” A broadcaster was born.

Play the Right Thing

Flaherty estimates that he’s been called to sub about 400 times. And how many times has he said no? “Oh, maybe three or four.” For the past four years, the KVMR program committee has recognized Flaherty for his service with an annual award.

And after several years of pinch-hitting, wonder of wonders, Flaherty now has his very own show: The Last Radio Show, 10 p.m. to midnight every other Monday. His taste runs to pop songs with feel-good lyrics. Favorites include Traffic, John Mayer and Little Feat. His philosophy of programming: “I just go in and play the next right thing.”                 

He still stays up all night filling at least two Red Eye shifts a month. And having his own show hasn’t stopped him from subbing.

Jenny Michael, host (alternating with Connie Coale) of the Wednesday Music Magazine, calls on Flaherty when she needs a sub. “Eric is truly one of my favorite people on the planet,” she says. “He's always willing to help and does so with a smile on his face. So easy going, quick to laugh, a genuinely kind and gentle soul, very passionate about the music he plays, and has exceptional taste in it to boot!”

Miraculously, he also has time to volunteer for the Center for the Arts, Miners Foundry, Hospice Gift and Thrift, and Friends of the Library, giving back to the community he adores.

“When I moved here, what I really wanted was to be closer to nature and to want what I have,” Flaherty says. “I have everything I need here. What an honor to be part of this community! KVMR is the huge bonus I never saw coming.”

Endless Summer of Love

KVMR will broadcast live from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 23, when the Nevada County Concert Band celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love with a concert from Pioneer Park in Nevada City. Guest musicians will double the band to more than 100 strong.
 

Save the Date: KVMR Birthday Bash

KVMR will celebrate its 39th birthday Sunday, July 30, with a community cookout, potluck, jam and sing-along. The free, family-friendly fun begins at 2 p.m. at Pioneer Park.