UCR Magazine The Magazine of UC Riverside

Fall 2016

Past Issues

Passion at KUCR an Oral History

Passion at KUCR: An Oral History

Passion at KUCR An Oral History

As UC Riverside’s iconic radio station celebrates its 50th anniversary, its most notable alumni — who’ve gone on to become legislators, activists, Pulitzer Prize winners, venture capitalists, producers — tell us how this tiny radio station sparked their life goals.

Lilledeshan Bose and Sandra Baltazar Martínez

Louis Vandenberg

Louis Vandenberg

Louis Vandenberg ’77 (KUCR director and general manager): The original foundation of KUCR was in the A&I dormitory. Rumor had it that Bill Farmer, KUCR’s founding engineer, was part of the trio who had built a pirate AM station out of the Aberdeen-Inverness dorms, using a metal trash can as an antenna. Our (now-deceased) chief engineer Bill Elledge used to say the signal went halfway to Los Angeles. They took their enthusiasm to Chancellor Ivan Hinderaker, who immediately recognized that a radio station was something that could make UCR special because there weren’t many college campuses with radio stations. There is limited frequency available, and all the frequencies have been allocated. That’s why UC San Diego, UCLA, UC Merced don’t have radio stations. He gave his full support to establishing KUCR in 1966.

Hans Wynholds ’67 (KUCR founding manager, Silicon Valley venture capitalist): I started working with KUCR as a junior. My roommate, Kerry Kelts, was a member of the Student Council, and he volunteered me to be involved with building the station.

Hans Wynholds

Hans Wynholds

Building the station involved recruiting a team to build out the electronics and staff the operation, customizing the building donated by the administration to be a viable sound studio, acquiring the necessary licenses and permits for operation, and gathering a record library so there would be content to play on the air. The next year, as a senior, I served as KUCR station manager. The main goal was to find the soul of the station. What would be its personality, how would it fit in with student life at UCR? What would be its points of advocacy, and how would it evolve as an ongoing entity? Fifty years ago the campus was new with very few students and an open agenda. KUCR was one of many initiatives underway to help flesh out the campus environment. For me, it was an opportunity to build something from scratch. It was a challenge.

Louis Vandenberg: When I came into KUCR, I saw that the university had all kinds of resources; we have professors who can comment on world issues and politics, and we could draw upon the intellectual resources of the campus and do really interesting programs. That was the inspiration to actively recruit members of diverse communities who were in the student body and in the larger community to do programs here.

Mac Taylor

Mac Taylor

Mac Taylor (KUCR DJ, 1974-1976, California legislative analyst): I started out at the station just helping on the news broadcast—taking feeds off the AP wire and packaging them into the nightly newscast. I ended up serving as co-news director for two years. It was a great all-around experience as I got to interview people, produce pieces, and read on-air. It also exposed me to the particularly fun and eclectic group of people who worked at the station. My news-related work led to other activities at the station—from deejaying shows to doing the play-by-play on Highlander basketball games.

Jane Block

Jane Block

Jane Block, KUCR host, 1978, “Women’s Space, Women’s Place,” founder of the UCR Women’s Resource Center and the Commission for Women in Riverside County: This [time period, the 1970s] was a big moment for women, but women were very unpracticed in [making] public statements. One day I went to KUCR and explained [to Louis Vandenberg] that I would like to create a program on issues that affected women. He said yes. I invited local women to come speak on different issues, many had suffered domestic violence. That was a big deal. Women didn’t have much practice, much exposure on how to communicate with the media. KUCR was a fantastic entry for them, radio was their first media exposure. KUCR taught me how to be conscientious and how to present myself with the media. Having that visibility helped the women’s movement in Riverside tremendously.

Max Burgos

Max Burgos

Max Burgos ’92 (KUCR DJ from 1989 to 1992, Emmy award-nominee, TV producer):
I was proudest of developing an initiative that was passed to help fund KUCR by the students. But one of my most memorable moments at KUCR was the juxtaposition of having in our studio, within the same week, Jack Endino, who produced Nirvana’s first two albums and was one of the fathers of the grunge music scene and the spokesperson for the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, which was a El Salvadorian rebel faction at the time.

Robert Perez

Robert Perez

Robert Perez (KUCR host of “Indian Time” since 1994 and associate professor of ethnic studies at UCR): “Indian Time” was started in 1993 by Earl Dean Sisto, former director of the Native American Student Programs. Then Earl passed the show on to the students and I was one of those early students. To me, [radio has] always been about saying things on air that people say in the community. [Radio Djs] ask questions we hear the Native American community asking. Even though it’s an obscure section of the world, listeners like the fact that we are asking the same questions and represent their views. Even if they don’t agree with us, it’s having a native voice, it’s bringing that perspective.

Dexter Thomas

Dexter Thomas

Dexter Thomas ’06 (KUCR program director from 2003-2006, Pulitzer Prize winner, Vice news host): In my freshman year I was living in A&I. I saw this dude walking around with a big crate of CDs and I thought he was cool. He was a KUCR DJ, and he invited me to the station. I watched him do his show, and really wanted to do what he did, so I applied as a DJ-in-training. Eventually I became a program director and station manager in charge of hip-hop and electronica.

I went through every single hip-hop album at the station from the 1980s to 2008 and listened to every single song, to make sure that everything we had was playable. We had a lot of records that had not been checked in years, and things had gotten a lot stricter since they were originally checked. The FCC has a strict protocol which specifically regulates indecency, and as a KUCR DJ, you have to know all of this. I spent hours and hours at KUCR — I slept on that couch so many times, I can’t even tell you. Asking me what my favorite memory at KUCR is like asking me what the last six years of my college life was like. KUCR was my passion and focus. I would skip classes but I never missed a show; I never was once less than 100 percent on point for a show.

Hannah Benson

Hannah Benson

Hannah Benson ’16 (KUCR DJ, 2014-2016): KUCR is so great that it’s almost like a really cliché movie, where everyone is super hip, really obscure music, funny, and everyone gets along. If you were to put my experience at KUCR into a movie and portray it really accurately, it would look to other people like a fabricated thing.

KUCR Historical Audio Artifacts

Sound Wave

Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, speaking on campus at UC Riverside (specific location unknown). March 5th, 1975. From the Elledge Collection.

Audio Courtesy of the KUCR Archives Project

Sound Wave

Hans Wynholds, founding station manager, delivers the first sign-on for KUCR (then at 88.1FM). October 2nd, 1966. From the Elledge Collection.

Audio Courtesy of the KUCR Archives Project

Sound Wave

“UCR Focus” – Lucy Leontides, UCR piano teacher, interviewed by Gary Kern and Louis Vandenberg. Recorded October 9th, 1980. Air-date November 6th, 1980. Ms. Leontides also performs Brahms: Rhapsody, Op. 79 No. 2 in G minor.

Audio Courtesy of the KUCR Archives Project

Sound Wave

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., author of Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle, speaking on campus at UC Riverside (location unknown). Recorded October 21, 1966. LISTENER ADVISORY: Mr. Vonnegut refers to author Somerset Maugham with a pejorative word at 09:48 minutes. We preserved the audio in its original format to maintain historical accuracy.

Audio Courtesy of the KUCR Archives Project

Sound Wave

Dr. Francis Carney, professor of Political Science at UC Riverside, being interviewed ahead of the 1976 presidential primaries for the UCR Office of Information.

Audio Courtesy of the KUCR Archives Project

Sound Wave

Cameron Crowe, award-winning filmmaker and journalist, interviewed live on-air by KUCR alumnus Steven Casper (’78). Recorded in 1975 while Mr. Crowe was covering the Eagles for their Rolling Stone cover story of that year; also discussed is Mr. Crowe’s interview with David Bowie for Playboy Magazine the same year.

Audio Courtesy of the KUCR Archives Project


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Louis Vandenberg: When you have a licensed radio station, it is licensed expressly for the purpose of serving the public interest. If you look at the fundamental foundation of the University of California, we are a land grant institution whose purpose is to serve the public interest. And UCR does that with community outreach and supporting commerce and agriculture, supporting culture and the arts, — in a lot of ways, and one of the ways that this campus does that is with the radio station. KUCR to me combines these elements. Not only is KUCR supposed to be a really enriching thing for the campus for the student experience, it’s also supposed to enrich the community with radio broadcasting and content that wasn’t otherwise available on commercial radio.

Max Burgos: The significance of having a radio station on campus is two-fold as it is providing a service outside of mainstream media for the community in both news and entertainment. Additionally, it serves as a training ground for students to learn skills in broadcast as well as entertainment. Lastly, it is a touchpoint for students with the entertainment industry.

Hannah Benson: KUCR has really helped me connect to the community in more ways than I can count. I feel like KUCR provides like this bridge between UCR and Riverside. It’s important for those two to be bridged. And it’s important for Riverside to have a local media source. KUCR provides a way to really emphasize, express and grow the culture that already exists here.

Hans Wynholds: After my time at UCR and working at KUCR, I went to work for Lockheed in the aerospace industry and continued my education at USC and Stanford. After 10 years working for Lockheed (and by then living in the Bay Area), I ventured out on my own, starting my own business and eventually helping to found and build several more. In hindsight, my work with KUCR became a model for my working career of building small teams of motivated people to tackle interesting technical projects.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About KUCR:

7 Things You Didn't Know About KUCR

When The Washington Post named KUCR the No. 2 best college radio station in the nation, it said, “A good college radio station has the ability to reflect the eclectic tastes and culture of a campus.” KUCR has provided diverse musical and cultural offerings since 1966; today the station broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. It has also archived every playlist used since 2007. Want to know what you didn’t know about KUCR? Keep reading.

1

In 1966, UC Regents approved the ASUCR-originated proposal for the allocation of $10,000 to establish KUCR as a 10-watt broadcast signal situated at 88.1 on the FM dial. KUCR went on-air at 2 p.m. the afternoon of Oct. 2, 1966 with a well-attended open house followed by a live broadcast of the very first carillon concert from the UCR bell tower. It has broadcast from the same building across from the A & I dorms ever since (but on a different frequency and bigger transmitter).

Photo Credit: KUCR Archives Project

2

Both Chancellors Ivan Hinderaker and Tomás Rivera were champions of KUCR. Rivera had been a member of the Carnegie Commission on the Future of Public Broadcasting.

Photo Credit: KUCR Archives Project

3

KUCR students have covered elections, elected officials and special events. Among those interviewed include Pres. Ronald Reagan, Gov. Jerry Brown, activist César Chávez, Sen. Diane Feinstein, Sen. Barbara Boxer, labor activist Dolores Huerta, Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Richard Cheney, and Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Photo Credit: KUCR Archives Project

4

More than 4,000 UCR alumni have staffed KUCR throughout its 50 years.

Photo Credit: KUCR Archives Project

5

Hans Wynholds on that Ansel Adams photo: I had little appreciation of the truly fortuitous experience of being photographed by Ansel Adams. It was blind luck that events conspired to work out as they did — my timing at KUCR, having KUCR go on the air just when UC had its centennial, having the Chancellor be solidly behind the radio station project and encouraging Ansel Adams to photograph the studio. Finally, having Ansel Adams find this photo worthy of inclusion when there were so many others he could have chosen.

Photo Credit: KUCR Archives Project

6

Skateboard artist and musician, Tracy [Lee] Nelson, a Diegueño/Luiseño Indian, was visiting KUCR and spontaneously created an Indian Time theme song, which Robert Perez still plays today.

Photo Credit: KUCR Archives Project

7

Many artists and writers have been interviewed at KUCR: Ray Bradbury, author of “Fahrenheit 451,” has a 1975 interview. Musician Janis Joplin creating an on-air promo for the station. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., author of “Slaughterhouse Five,” was interviewed in 1966. Cameron Crowe, award-winning filmmaker (“Almost Famous”) and journalist, interviewed on-air in 1975. All of these are online at http://kucr.org.

Photo Credit: KUCR Archives Project

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Max Burgos: My time at KUCR wasn’t just about DJing, which I loved, or being on air, which I also loved, but the student-run organization, learning the ins and outs of working with a team and managing a staff. Also, most importantly, I got my first job in entertainment as a direct result of KUCR.

Mac Taylor: My experiences at KUCR certainly contributed positively to my career. First, it offered me opportunities to try new things, often times pushing my comfort level. It also required a lot of public speaking, which was a great way to build confidence in one’s ability to handle such situations. Being at KUCR also exposed me to a wide variety of people, which was helpful in understanding the different perspectives individuals have. All of these factors have been beneficial to me in my career.

I learned that the world is something that can be studied. But KUCR was the laboratory where I got to put that into practice

Dexter Thomas: At the LA Times, I covered culture — from Ferguson to Japanese pop, tech to Kanye West and Islamophobia. A lot of it came from what I was doing at KUCR — it’s where I learned to take culture very seriously. At UCR I learned that the world is something that can be studied. But KUCR was the laboratory where I got to put that into practice and I experimented with that by spinning, putting a jungle track from the 90s and dropping into rap and then going into indie rock and making these connections. And that influenced my writing; it was an extension of what I was doing musically.

Now I’m on the nightly news program with VICE HBO; I’m still chasing that KUCR feeling, where you can experiment and talk about everything. No culture is off the table, and you’re able to show people what they wouldn’t normally see. I had six years of absolute freedom doing that at KUCR, so that’s what I still want to be doing.

Louis Vandenberg: If you are very passionate about something and you are presenting that to someone, or to a group of people or to the general public, there’s a nonverbal thing that people will just key on. They will recognize your passion; it will produce their own interest in it. So what we often tell people to do is let people hear their enthusiasm. We say, “Know the material, but always be expanding your mind as well; expand into other kinds of music and other artists and always be developing that.”

These personal connections — where people bring forth their personal passions and air that into the radio show — is why so many of our students have developed a really strong, emotional connection to the radio station. And that’s sustained over years and decades. They recognize that they have the capacity to do things that they haven’t previously done and connected to the things that move them. If you can’t do that at the university, there’s probably no other time in your life when you’ll be able to do that. So this is a place where people try things and connect in a way they never have and never would otherwise.

Those wishing to donate to KUCR for its 50th anniversary may go to https://advancementservices.ucr.edu/AdvanceOnlineGiving/search?key=kucr#

By mail, please make checks payable to “UCR Foundation,” reference KUCR in the memo line, and send to UCR Foundation, P.O. Box 112, Riverside, CA 92502-0112.