End Of An Era: Brian Lee’s Final KVMR Oldies Show Is Saturday
Written by Steve Baker on August 31, 2020
Back in 1987, new volunteer broadcaster Brian Lee’s love for a particular era of oldies found a radio home on KVMR 89.5 FM.
This Saturday (Sept. 5), 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., coincidentally 33 1/3 years later, will be the final show of Lee’s “Color Radio” on the Nevada City community radio station, a veritable Rhythm & Blues Revue, its original title.
“My wife and I are moving to Idaho, where we have five acres and plan to have a house built,” said Brian. “The dream started with retiring from my job, the desire to move near family there and find some exciting volunteer opportunities we both will enjoy.”
“And it was always a childhood dream of mine to be a radio disc jockey but other things got in the way,” he explained. “So it was an an amazing opportunity to get involved with KVMR when I moved to Nevada County in 1986.”
That’s when he started listening to the station while building his house, and one day he heard Len Gorsky and Klara Voyant (Debbie Hollier) on the air playing oldies.
A light bulb went off in his head. He had this album he thought the show was missing. So he brought it in.
Another show with Debbie, bringing in more of his record collection, and the radio bug really hit.
Brian took KVMR’s broadcaster training class, did an audition and got a show by early summer of ’87.
“And I’ve always been a record collector, which is my real passion,” he added.
Let’s see, over 50+ years, 1500 CDs, 1000 LPs, a good number of vintage 78s…and more than 18,000 singles a/k/a 45s.
He credits all the “revival” shows on Los Angeles radio back in the late ’60s as his ear — and interest — turned from then-current music to oldies, picking up music he’d heard and music he hadn’t at swap meets and garage sales.
Brian lives for and plays bands, groups and singers from the ’50s and early ’60s who had Billboard hits, rhythm & blues hits or records that didn’t hit or only hit a few markets.
“1964 is pretty much the cutoff,” he said. “Maybe it’s the style — the music was changing, doo-wop was disappearing.”
“Most of the guys I play…by ’64, they couldn’t get a job in music anymore.”
But here’s one thing that really whetted his musical appetite.
“I really enjoyed playing records that were only popular in certain regions of the country, but never were heard beyond those boundaries,” Lee noted.
“Sharing the music was great, but educating KVMR listeners about who they were listening to, where it was from, and facts about the artists became the most fun for me.”
And then there is that authenticity that Brian brought to his shows, week after week.
“Shouting or screaming into the microphone, trying to give a feel for the disc jockeys of the era, was also a blast,” according to Lee. “Adding to the ambiance, I played actual radio jingles from the late ’50s and early 1960’s.”
“When I first started the radio show, I lugged in boxes and boxes of vinyl, very similar to Phil Givant who did a blues show back then,” he said with a smile. “My boxes filled up my jeep to the brim, and it was a great workout.”
Now his entire collection is on a hard drive that doesn’t even fill up a seat.
Early on at KVMR, Lee remembers being influenced by “the passionate readings” that Bob Bione did on his show. “I always thought I should try and give that much effort to my program,” he said. “And Bobby Angel was someone who really influenced me with his positive comments and helpful instruction.”
And it didn’t take long for his colleagues to recognize the value of Lee’s work.
In fact, he was the second broadcaster ever to win the John Nichols Award for Excellence in Music Programming in 1990 — just his third year on the air here.
And he’s one of the few broadcasters to win it a second time as well.
“KVMR gave me an amazing opportunity to be a broadcaster,” Lee said. “I had no idea it would have lasted this long. I have new dreams and adventures to pursue, and I’m really excited to get started, but I will never forget the experience of working with KVMR.”
A one-of-a-kind broadcaster, Brian Lee will be missed.
On The Air is a regular irreverent feature about Nevada City’s eclectic community radio station at 89.5 FM and kvmr.org The station also has an indie pop stream at kvmrx.org and carries NPR and Pacifica programming by day and KVMRx programming at other times at 105.7 FM.
KNOW & HEAR
WHAT: After 33 1/3 years, volunteer broadcaster Brian Lee is presenting his final weekly “Color Radio” KVMR oldies show, featuring rhythm & blues music of the ’50s and early ’60s.
WHEN: This Saturday, Sept. 5, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
WHERE: KVMR 89.5 FM, Truckee 105.1 FM, kvmr.org worldwide