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Capturing the Passion That Is KVMR

Combine passion with magic, and what do you get? The story of KVMR.

Those two words come up over and over as KVMR-FM broadcasters Diane McIntire and George Grist talk about their new project: an oral history of the community radio station, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary in July.

McIntire, a graduate of the 2013 broadcaster class and a member of the KVMR board, is one of the originators of “Storycatchers,” an ongoing KVMR project that captures the stories of Nevada Countians and archives them as podcasts on the station website. Now she’s determined to document KVMR’s own story, all four decades of it, in the tellers’ own words.

Grist, whose nom de air is Hap Hazard, has been a denizen of the station since its birth on July 14, 1978, in a 10-by-10-foot cabin on Banner Mountain. Broadcasting a few hours a day at 19 watts, it was a ragtag operation.


‘Broadcasters Needed’

Grist answered an ad in the Union: “Broadcasters needed.” “Whoever could make it to the top of Banner could do a show,” he says. When he showed up at the shack, it was an “initiation of fire.” Training, what training?—uh, just do the best you can operating the equipment.  And good luck!

Today Grist, host of the “Espresso Music Magazine” (Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m.), is one of KVMR’s longest-serving DJs. And the community-supported station broadcasts 24/7 from modern studios on Bridge Street in Nevada City, extending its reach to Truckee/Tahoe, Camino/Placerville, Woodland and Angels Camp, and streaming around the world at kvmr.org.

An internet-only offshoot, KVMRx.org, began broadcasting last April. What’s more, all the broadcasters are trained before they go on the air. Imagine that.

McIntire notes that unlike some volunteer-driven organizations, KVMR has volunteers who tend to stick around for decades. “Through the ups and downs and good times and bad times,” she says, “people are still here.” She wants to capture their stories of KVMR’s early days while the tellers are still available. “I want to know how the heck this happened!”


Keys to the Future

She’s also a great believer in the idea that knowing the station’s history can be one of the keys to ensuring its future—not just as a radio station but as a community institution.

While other community radio stations struggle to find support, Grist sees KVMR as “a miraculous experiment whose listenership keeps growing.”  Documenting its story, he says, could help other such stations take heed and thrive.

Grist believes the magic of radio is that it’s an aural, not visual, connection. “It’s magic that happens when you’re on the radio and no one can see you. We’re all digitized these days, everything is fed to us on a screen. But there’s no screen here. We can’t see one another but we’re involved in a trade-off of communication.”


Hap Hazard’s Advice

Grist remembers one show when he advised his listeners that since it was a beautiful day, they should go for a walk instead of staying in and listening to the radio.

A few months later, a listener called the studio to tell Grist she’d taken his advice that day, when she happened to be quite pregnant. While out walking, she went into labor. She was calling to thank him, and Grist could hear her baby crying in the background.

As the oral history project’s first “guinea pig,” Grist will share stories like those. Other KVMR old-timers will be invited into the studio to record their memories. Future plans include a way for listeners to add their reminiscences, perhaps by phone line or through the website. The stories will be preserved on the KVMR website and make their way to the airwaves as promos and, possibly, as a documentary.

“It could go on for years,” McIntire says.

What’s your KVMR story?


Broadcasters Alan Stahler, left, and Hap Hazard (AKA George Grist) in the KVMR studio in 1984. Photo: Laura Miller.


KVMR broadcasters Hap Hazard and Diane McIntire are starting an oral history of the community radio station, which marks its 40th anniversary in July. Photo: Joyce Miller.


Program Committee Needs You

KVMR’s Program Committee is looking for a new “citizen member.” The committee plans and evaluates the station’s programming.

The basic qualifications are a love for the medium of community radio, a keen interest in improving the station’s on-air offerings and the ability to participate in twice-monthly meetings.

The Program Committee is made up of KVMR broadcasters and non-broadcasters alike. The current opening is for a non-broadcaster.

Interested? Send an e-mail to pc@kvmr.org or call (530) 265-9073.