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Laura Miller: Subtle Humor, Heartfelt Tunes Popping Into a Head Steeped in KVMR History

Steve Baker

Longtime KVMR 89.5 FM broadcaster Laura Miller was out walking her dogs a few days ago when her cell rang. 

It was someone from The Prospector as she looked around her and quipped, "It's the press. They're always hounding me." 

That's the sense of subtle humor and fun that Miller brings to her radio show and to her life, where she now specializes in arranging and conducting estate sales. 

But Laura's got a story to tell from virtually the beginning of the Nevada City community radio station to the past ten years when she'd returned to the airwaves as host of "Diamonds and Rust" (alternate Saturdays, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., 89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming). 

In fact, she'll be hosting a James Taylor birthday special this very Saturday (March 2). 

EARLY PD, GM JOBS

Laura was one of the very early employees at the station (an administrative job paid via a grant) and became the station's program director in the early '80s and station manager by the mid '80s. 

"I'm proud to see how far it (KVMR)'s come over the years," she said with a smile. "To quote (folksinger) Greg  Brown, 'who woulda thunk it?'"

"Back then, for us, it was a real big deal when we increased our power from 10 watts to 2000. People in new places could hear us, our membership drives were getting results..."

Laura left KVMR to start her own music store, In The Groove Records, in her native Carmichael, where she worked a decade or so when community and public radio came calling once again and she got a job as general manager at KZYX, Mendocino County Public Radio, in 1999-2000. 

Upon her return to Nevada City ("my adopted hometown"),  she started doing a lot of subbing on KVMR until she was assigned the Saturday night biweekly slot.  At the same time, she began to develop a day job as Laura Miller Estate Sales.  

"Around here you have to create your own thing," she noted. 

Her "Diamonds and Rust" show is named after a Joan Baez favorite song of hers, and Baez even recorded and sang a station ID for Miller when Baez was performing locally a few years back. 

ARTIST SPECIALS GALORE

Laura's shows have a heartfelt and hometown feel to them, and she admits she loves doing artist specials on the program, including that James Taylor one this Saturday.  During the station's recent on-air fundraiser, she featured previous specials she'd done on folk icons Joni Mitchell and Kate Wolf. 

In fact the station has chosen to end its last three membership drives on Miller's show because of the excitement an early Saturday evening show like hers can generate. 

"I do have some real good listeners like, for instance, Camino Harley," she said. "Not many people are in the habit of sending old-fashioned letters to you these days like he does."

And Laura is plenty impressed with the new KVMR building and programming. 

"I love all the community forums and the live music broadcasts," she said. "What I like is that KVMR continues to be accessible to the community, we still have a training class. It's not a closed, close knit group at all." 

Spoken by someone steeped in KVMR history, someone who still likes to give exposure to up-and-coming artists, plus old favorites....

"And I like it that songs always just pop into my head..."

LAST ROCKIN' STOMPIN'

A year ago this weekend, KVMR legendary broadcaster Wesley Robertson died from injuries in  car accident, stunning KVMR broadcasters and listeners. 

His "Rockin-N-Stompin" show, which continued to be hosted by "Friends of Wes", now comes to an end this Saturday (2 to 4 p.m., 89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming) after a special extra year.

Robertson's Saturday broadcasting buddy, Thomas Greener, dedicates his "Ragged But Right" show (noon to 2 p.m.) to Wesley, and Robertson's time slot will end with one last regularly scheduled edition of his show amidst a variety of co-hosts coordinated by Lynn Heintz. 

"Or maybe it'll be the first WesFest," quipped Friend of Wes and volunteer KVMR broadcaster Bob Woods.