KCPR Radio History, 1978-1979
If you were on the KCPR staff during Cal Poly's 1977-78 academic year, please add details: just a paragraph or two about your time at KCPR will help us fill in the gaps. Details about you might fit better on your personal page. Also see the Audio and photo gallery pages for this year. (If the information you're adding isn't just for this year, consider putting it on another page and adding a reference from this page.)
- General Manager: Chuck Schwynoch
- Program Director: Russ Sharer
- News Co-Directors: Paula Chambers & Tim Tomastik
- Chief Engineer: Mark Wurfl
- Production Director: Frank Thomas
- Music Director: Donna Pangburn
- Sports Director:
- Operations Director: Bob DeAragon
- Traffic Director:
- Special Programs:
- Faculty Advisor: Ed “Zuke” Zuchelli
Format, Programs, etc…. Lots of etc.
Format: The Music
The station’s music format for Summer 1978 through the end of Spring 1979 was “Popular Rock”. It was created by the General Manager and the Program Director. The Popular Rock music format was born from the desire to not repeat the heavily formatted Pop/Top 40 format of the previous year, and also to not return to the more unfettered AOR format of the earlier years. While Popular Rock was intended to be popular (not obscure) rock and roll, and to avoid anything overly pop oriented, it did not mean that we turned our back on new artists. We did have variations on the Popular Rock theme; mornings did tend a bit towards the lighter end of the rock spectrum, and nights tended towards the….heavier, and more loosely formatted, end.
Format: The Breaks
For at least the previous two years KCPR had a basic format of breaks every 20 minutes; on the hour, at :20 and:40 after. This also happened to be the same format as KZOZ (pop quiz: which came first?). We decided to have the break on the hour solely for the legal station ID. Breaks for back-announcing and PSA’s would be at :10, :30, and :50 after the hour.
Format: Pacific Concert
We also made what seemed to us to be a very radical decision; we changed Pacific Concert. I don’t know the origins of Pacific Concert, but to us it was an institution that seemed to date from the dawn of time itself. As an institution, it was something that had never been trifled with; until in 1978 we did. This was not a change made lightly, and it was not just a way to change classical music over to rock and roll.
We had feedback from listeners that indicated that much of the audience for the show’s classical music were not students, but were working folks who listened on their way home from work, and after they got home. They were disappointed that the show ended at 6:00; they were only able to listen for (at most) one hour.
We changed the hours of Pacific Concert from 3:00 to 6:00 weekday afternoons to 5:00 to 7:00. There was a break at 6:00 for a 15 minute newscast. We also felt this change would be appreciated by our rock and roll listeners; we thought they would like the extra two hours in the afternoon, and we also thought that the numbers of rock and roll fans fell off during the dinner time hours of 5:00 to 7:00. While there is no confirmation of whether we were right or wrong in our thinking, at least we did have our logical reasons for changing Pacific Concert.
Format: Special Music Programs
We also had a number of special music programs. If a particular DJ proposed a show with a specific format, such as jazz, country, or Christian, we usually accommodated them.
Get lots of listeners to listen to the Broadcast Journalism students learn their craft.
Little Orphan Amy II
The original production of Little Orphan Amy was in Spring quarter of 1977. Fond memories of LOA gave a small group of us the desire to want to produce an original radio comedy/drama. Frank Thomas, Paula Chambers, and Chuck Schwynoch got the ball rolling near the end of Winter Quarter 1979. For expediency with our workload of school, jobs, and KCPR management duties, we decided to resurrect LOA rather than create a completely new program. We started with the original LOA scripts, as that gave us a basic plot framework, and characters that already existed, and rewrote them. And so LOA II was born.
The first episode was written by the three instigators; then auditions were held, and a cast selected. The fun began…. The following episodes were mostly written by a varying group of females; the specifics of who wrote what have faded into the murky mists of time, except when for the final concluding/wrap-up episode. Frank Thomas sweated blood creating an homage to the conclusion of Animal House.
Each episode was written over the course of the week before taping. The show was taped in the large studio (was that studio A?) on Sunday night. We met at 7:00 (or was it 8:00?). When taping was over, usually around 9:30 or 10:00, a small group of us would head to Sully’s bar in downtown SLO. This was not the original Sully’s, which burned down with the Obispo theatre, but the new location at the corner of Marsh and Osos. The usual Sully’s crowd on a Sunday night consisted of the really hardcore local drinkers, not the student crowd. So, when a group of 4 to 6 animated students came in and started dropping quarters in the jukebox between rounds of White Russians, the other patrons were a bit…disconcerted; especially when we played Roxanne (by The Police); over and over and over and over again. Really, that much.
Time was spent Monday and Tuesday editing the voice track into one big coherent chunk. Ah, editing…tape reels, grease pencil, razor blades, and an aluminum splice block. And time. The first couple of episodes of LOA II were especially nightmarish in how much editing was required. One actor, who was a very good DJ, did not do well when reading a script. It sounded like they were reading… from.. a… script… and… doing… it… very… very… slowly. This required editing out small chunks of tape from between every single word. In each successive episode that character had fewer and fewer lines.
Final mixing of the voice track with sound effects and music was usually done on Wednesday night, and sometimes Thursday night just prior to the show’s airtime of 10:00 Thursday night. On one memorable occasion, we ran out of time to finish the final mix before airtime. So, Frank and Chuck mixed it as it aired, and taped it for posterity. Quiz: Listen to the posted LOA II episodes and see if you can tell which episode was mixed as it aired.
At the same time as the mixing and editing of one episode was going on, the next week’s episode was being written. Writing sometimes continued right up to just short of taping; just enough time to get the script photocopied.
Technical note: In both versions of LOA we let fly with the swear words, and then spliced in tape from a reel of tone created by the engineering staff just for this purpose. Eventually, both the desire to push the envelope, as well as some laziness, led to a unique editing technique: Instead of cutting out the center of the offensive word and replacing it with an inch or two of the tone tape, the tape was simply cut in the middle of the word, and some of the tone tape was spliced in. Sometimes, several seconds of tone was used. When heard on air, when an offensive word was uttered, it was sort of like entering a small time warp; time stopped while a tone played, and then the action resumed exactly where it had left off. Well, we thought it was creative. Quiz: What special frequency was the tone? Hint: The engineers chose it to have a particular effect if a listener was on a long distance telephone call when the tone came over his speakers.
Critic’s choice award: The best acted line of the whole series was Kelly Pierce (as Constance Payne) exclaiming something like this, “Nobody told me about a slumber party! I could have started popping corn HOURS ago!...”
LOA II historical notes (life imitates art): Reliable sources reported that shortly after the ‘food fight’ episode a real food fight erupted in the campus dining hall. During the summer after LOA II, another reliable source reported cleaning up a beach that had been created in one of the dorm bathrooms.
Personal note 1: In listening to LOA II all these years later, I admit to being shocked by the sheer volume of drug references. I recall only receiving one complaint from a listener about the content of LOA II. As Program Director, Russ had to listen to the caller’s complaint, and then tell them that there was nothing he could do, “since one of the show’s producers is my boss”. We wondered why that listener allowed his pre-teen child to stay up late and listen to a college radio station.
Personal note 2: LOA, both I and II, were great fun with great people. While attending a KCPR reunion in 2000, Frank and I were quite amazed to learn that the kids were rerunning LOA II. They had found the tapes, and were re-airing them. Never in our wildest dreams did we ever think that LOA II would have a life beyond our time.
Historical quiz: While LOA spawned LOA II, what spawned LOA?
Answer: A previous KCPR original production titled Susie Swisscheese. Much as we wanted to recreate the fun of LOA when we started LOA II, the original LOA was created by Mark Rief and Pete Hames in order to bring back the fun of the previous production of Susie Swisscheese. The initial seed for the character of Amy was President Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy Carter. Obviously, the character evolved quite a bit between the original concept and the first script; only the name remained the same.
Another highlight of (was it Winter quarter?) 1979 was another edition (The third annual?) of Newsday. 12 hours straight of news…a big challenge that was also Big Fun.
For the annual year-end picnic, Frank Thomas, as Production Director, initiated the Andy Tiura award for ‘Spot of the Year.’ Frank bought a trophy, put a little gold painted superball on one of the arms as a ‘spot’ and gave the inaugural award to Al Yankovic for his one minute and forty second ‘Homecoming’ spot—a spot that of course got complaints from the Homecoming Committee that had submitted the information.
One person came close to being fired for their on-air antics. And it was for their behavior as a newscaster, not as a DJ. The News Directors went to bat for them, and no action was taken against the miscreant (who probably never even knew how close they came to being fired). That person went on to a long, successful career as a professional broadcaster.
Actual Controversy I
A slight problem developed when Chief Engineer Mark Wurfl nearly resigned. Mark was overworked and severely underpaid. FCC regulations required that the Chief Engineer be a paid position. As a nearly-starving student Mark needed a job that actually paid him enough to feed himself and keep a roof over his head. The amount of time he spent keeping KCPR on the air prevented Mark from holding another job. Mark reached a point where he either needed a different job that paid normal wages, or the Chief Engineer position needed to provide a higher wage.
Of course, the school balked at increasing the Chief Engineer’s wages; there was no money in “the budget”. That put station management in a tough position; nobody else on staff had a Class 1 FCC license, so if Mark left to earn a living wage the station could not remain on the air.
Some unknown KCPR staffer leaked a rumor to the Mustang Daily about the station possibly being forced off the air. A Mustang Daily editor followed up with a walk down the hallway to the station, and pressured the General Manager into an interview about the situation through the now classic tabloid technique: “We know some of the story. We are going to print something. If you want us to print the truth, you better talk.”
The resulting front page article caused quite a ruckus in the Cal Poly administration. Zuke was pissed about the public airing of internal station business. But, the fallout resulted in the school suddenly finding enough funds to retain our Chief Engineer. Funny how that leaked rumor led to the desired outcome.
Actual Controversy II
In 1979 KCPR applied for, and was given, a grant by the ASI. It was in an amount of around $2,000. The grant’s terms required us to spend it on equipment. After consultation with the KCPR engineering staff, we decided that what we needed most were speakers for the Production Studio. Mark and Don found some awesome, professional grade, JBL studio monitors at a great price. We wanted real professional grade speakers because we were blowing out the home stereo speakers in the Production Room every few months. Replacing them over and over again was not fiscally responsible.
The ASI president, who had been a KCPR staffer, blew a gasket because he thought we were irresponsible to spend that much money on speakers. After all, we could have just gone down to a local store and bought home stereo speakers for a fraction of that amount. But, as a typical politician, why bother to ask questions, investigate the facts, etc.? Better to go public in The Mustang Daily and slam the station for poor judgment….
During the “last tour” of the old KCPR studios during the 2007 Alumni Reunion, those JBL speakers were still hanging in the Production Studio.
Paula Chambers took charge of the fund-raising auction. It was a rousing success. According to recent information from Rick -DeBruhl it was the third annual auction. At the time it seemed like it was a long-running tradition and we were hell-bent on continuing it as a successful fund-raising event.
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