.A Tale of Two Stations

Two radio stations crash, two women refuse to take no for an answer, two Phoenixes rise, two stations fly

This is a tale of two radio stations that were voices for the Santa Cruz community, burned to the ground by ambition and a changing media landscape, and how the charred bones of their community service were reborn to rise over Santa Cruz like two reborn Phoenixes. 

While many people deserve credit for bringing back community radio to Santa Cruz, this is the story of two women who were its genesis.

From the ashes of KUSP, broadcaster Rachel Goodman marshaled the Santa Cruz community to rebuild a new station, KSQD.  From the thinned ranks of KSCO, Rosemary Chalmers, the morning voice of Santa Cruz for three decades, led the exodus of her peers to a new experiment in internet community radio, SantaCruzVoice.com.

From Ashes to the Flight of the Squid

Rachel Goodman grew up in Berkeley and interned at KPFA, went to UC Santa Cruz where she started broadcasting at KZSC. She worked all over the country as a documentary producer (won a Peabody Award) and eventually hosted Talk of the Bay on KUSP and now KSQD. I asked her, “Why do you love community radio?”

secure document shredding

“There’s something magic about it.  It’s free. You can just dial it in on this little device in your car. And it feels like these people are your friends, you know, because they care about your local community and they’re making references to it. We’re not just catering to the local community; we’re exporting Santa Cruz culture to the world. People come to visit here and go, ‘I love this place, I’m going to miss it.’ And then they go back to Iowa and they listen on the internet, because they want a little bit of Santa Cruz.”

The Crash of KUSP

When a beloved community institution needs a responsible guiding hand, one person will rise to restate the mission, to lead the way, and sometimes that person is insane. Hired for his fiscal acumen, Terry Green took the reins of KUSP and fired all the community volunteers.

“He fired all the local programmers that people had become attached to over 40 years,” Goodman remembers. Then Green purchased NPR programming until debt drove the station into bankruptcy and KUSP crashed and burned.

In the end it was all sold: the frequency, the content, the music, the broadcast equipment. KUSP, which had served the community as a  vibrant community radio station since 1974, went off the air in 2016.

Goodman says, “There was always a tension at KUSP between ‘let’s make a lot of money from NPR and brand ourselves as the NPR station’, versus ‘it started as a community station with no NPR at all.’ We pleaded with the final KUSP board to cut expenses and move into a smaller space and go local. I was told that it could never work, nobody could ever pull that off.”

Rachel Goodman

It was a hard blow for the KUSP community, but there was one voice that kept insisting we build a community radio station from scratch. It sounded preposterous, but her voice wouldn’t go away. I was one of those who publicly applauded her, “Go Rachel, go!” but in the back of my mind I was thinking, “This girl is fucking crazy. You can’t just build a station out of nothing.”

For starters, the broadcast license would cost $250,000. Rachel had nothing, she’s a folk singer for God’s sake. She pitched everyone on the idea and got used to seeing eyes glaze over. Then one man, who had inherited a windfall and wanted to do something good for Santa Cruz,  donated $50,000, Rachel says.

“At first I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was a prank call,” but he was real, a former KFAT fan, and suddenly the dream had the odor of legitimacy. Santa Cruzans want their community radio and donations started trickling in– $100, sometimes less. Then two donors who had made millions in tech and who love Santa Cruz asked her, “What do you need?”  Rachel went shopping for a broadcast license.

I asked her, “How did you weather all the negativity and push forward with fundraising? What kept you going?”

“Anger and indignation at the despoiling of something good can motivate you, but it only takes you so far. There was also that feeling of, ‘You can’t have a town like Santa Cruz without a community radio station, it’s just wrong.’ And that can take you quite a ways.

“But, it was my husband Steve Colter, behind the scenes saying, ‘I don’t know if this is going to work, but I support you all the way.’ You know, just having someone to bounce ideas off of, or when things aren’t going well, having a shoulder to cry on. You can’t underestimate that level of support. And the rest of the board believing in this. If you’re the only one holding this vision, it’s not going to happen. It’s a community project, I’m just one of the village.” 

Once they had the license, pro bono tech help appeared, then a brick and mortar space, and Rachel woke up in the middle of the night, “Oh my God, we need a radio signal!”

“Okay, this is going to happen.”          

Rachel remembers the moment she knew The Squid was going to happen. After she tracks down the old KUSP broadcast equipment that had fallen into the hands of a repo man, she and Sandy Stone drive an old SUV to a warehouse in Vallejo, CA, and find stacks of old equipment, covered with cobwebs and dust.

In the middle of the night they bargain hard with a rough character standing in shadows and cut a deal for the worn out broadcast equipment. When engineer Sandy Stone said, ‘I can make this equipment send our signal,’ Rachel knew, “Okay, this is going to happen.”

Rachel says they went on the air in late 2019, “… right before the pandemic, the windstorms, the CZU fires and Jan. 6. With radio, we can report faster than print media, and reporting during those disasters was key to keeping the community informed.

“Look at us now, we’ve reached Monterey, we have programming about Big Sur and things people care about at the Monterey Jazz Festival. We recently purchased an additional frequency located on Fremont Peak; it extends KSQD’s potential from 187,000 to 645,000 listeners.” [10] 

You can hear Rachel Goodman on KSQD 90.7 FM, or online at kqsd.org, Sundays from 1pm to 3pm, and Thursdays, 5pm to 6pm.

KSCO’s Laid-off Hosts Fly Anew as SantaCruzVoice.com

For the past 31 years Rosemary Chalmers was the morning voice on Good Morning Monterey Bay, broadcast on KSCO radio five days a week. I asked my wife Julie why she listened to Rosemary every morning.

“I like her voice. You can tell who she is, not by her talking about herself, but by the way she treats her guests and callers. She’s kind, strong, and lets others make their case, but is knowledgeable and clear about the truth.”

Will Rogers said that he never met a man he didn’t like. I’d like to introduce him to Michael Zwerling. KSCO is a commercial station, but all of the broadcasters who provided a robust community component that built the station’s following were fired on Dec. 1, 2022. Thirty-two stunned local broadcasters exited.

Rosemary Chalmers

In five days, Rosemary got them talking. “Are we just going to give this all up? We’ve built this entire station, are we just going to let this guy pull the plug on us?” And like another Phoenix rising from the embers, the former KSCO employees banded together with Chalmers to create SantaCruzVoice.com.

These broadcasters have over 300 combined years of broadcasting experience and within six weeks they put the station together. So many work so hard that Rosemary insists she is but a piece, but from the beginning she was at the helm.

Good Morning Monterey Bay Rises Again

From 6 to 9 am, Monday through Friday, Rosemary does her magic. First, there is that British accent, but this is not your father’s BBC. It’s matronly sexy, made rough and warm by that infectious husky laugh, it makes you stop your morning coffee in mid-air; you know you don’t want to miss this next one. 

Rosemary booms, “Oh, this one is jolly good. The local restaurant owner of Tortilla Town and other San Luis Obispo restaurants said in a now-deleted TikTok video, ‘Fxxk the locals, they’re not going to be the ones that make us money, right? They’re not who this place is designed for.’ ”

The howl of laughter on the SantaCruzVoice.com morning show could not be jollier, because “the locals” are exactly who Rosemary and her side-kick Bill Wolverton pledge to serve. “Local, local, local,” is their mantra, they laugh with the joy of redemption.

Rosemary and Bill carry on about news, life around Santa Cruz and their personal lives, and their schtick is that they are so intent on making sense of it all. The comedy flows naturally but always towards the edge of discovery.

As they reveal their own stumbling journey through modern life, we can all relate. Bill laments to Rosemary, “My phone is always listening to me, I was talking to my wife in the vicinity of my phone about rat traps and up on my Facebook feed are advertisements for rat traps. This is so disturbing.”

Then we hear the semi-weekly interview with State Senator John Laird and finally a reminiscence about Rosemary judging an apple pie eating contest, “I have not eaten apple pie in 15 years.”

Rosemary and her second banana, Wolverton, are there to have fun, but even through laughter, the focus is on survival information; like a discussion of where poisonous tilapia comes from and where it’s safe to buy it. We get the current location of two mountain lions, facts about the Monterey Jazz Festival, and an account of a dog rescue.

 “Once I hear it and talk about it, it’s in my head,” says Chalmers, She has heard it all and has trained herself to remember it all. We have our own version of AI, Rosemary Intelligence.                          

Chalmers has no intention of retiring. “We’re up at 3:30 in the morning and I’m prepping all the way to 6 o’clock. I’ve been working with Bill Wolverton for 18 months and it was clear from the beginning that he would be a good foil for me. Susan Simon gets our local news together and so many people help us technically.”

Chalmers remembers the station’s birth. “I skydived twice. On the first one I hit like a bag of cement.”

Bill goes, “But you got back on the horse.”

“There were no horses involved, but I was dragged over the rocks by my parachute.”

“So why did you jump again?”

“I wanted to get it right.”

This might be the closest I get to how Santa Cruz Voice happened; Rosemary wanted to get it right.

Rosemary and Bill close with the classic Burns and Allen bit.

Bill: Say Goodbye Rosemary.

Rosemary: Goodbye Rosemary.

I hope you take some time to go to SantaCruzVoice.com and KSQD.org, and click the Schedule page; I’ll bet you find programs that will excite and inform you in ways that show you new possibilities.

These two women grabbed ahold and lifted the weight, the bones, the soul of community spirit and created platforms to let neighbors talk to neighbors. As one of the most beloved American voices to ever put on a red sweater would ask, “Would you be my neighbor?”

Voices at SantaCruzVoice.com

Charming, cantankerous, comedic, and with a cornucopia of Americana knowledge, “Sleepy” John Sandidge is the consummate roots music talk show host.

His radio resume stretches from KPIG in Santa Cruz, to the Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville, with fans from West Cliff Drive to Europe. Sleepy John’s second banana is computer whiz Luigi Oppido. Luigi knows everything about tech, he is brilliant, likable, and very, very funny.

Sleepy John Sandidge

You can call Luigi and Sleepy John about your tech issues on Tuesdays from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Or you may catch them bantering with with a woman about how to use AI and hear her say, “I don’t need AI, my husband knows everything.”

On SantaCruzVoice.com, Christopher Carr hosts Cannabis Connection. If you want to know anything about weed, how to grow it, use it, license it, how to not abuse it, this guy knows. I shit you not, Chris is a bass player in a reggae band, Ancestree. You can ask him your cannabis questions every Friday from 5pm to 6pm.

Raconteur and radio salesman Michael Olson calls himself a duck out of water. “I’m a Montana farm boy. I went to UC Santa Cruz and studied English and Chinese literature. There’s a certain contrariness there.” He says this ultimately led to his show, China Now! (China, friend or foe?) You can call Michael Olson on his shows China Now!, Thursday 3 to 5pm,  and Food Chain, Saturday 9 to 10am on SantaCruzVoice.com.

Don’t Touch That Dial, It’s Got Squid On It

Monday through Friday, KSQD 90.7 FM offers progressive staples like Amy Goodman at 8am, “Your Call” from KALW in San Francisco at 10am, and Tom Hartman at 4pm, but the spirit of the station comes from the local voices, from Rick Kleffel’s digital mixes at 9pm on Sundays, to “Unheard Voices” every Friday at 3pm with Reverend Elisha Christopher, to the afternoon drive “Talk of the Bay,” which features local hosts talking with guests about local social, cultural and political issues at 5pm . Andy’s show highlights local musicians with a mix of classic genres including Brooklyn Doo Wop.

 Not only does he sing lead with his own hard working band (often at MJA Winery) but with his deep basso Brooklyn voice Andy says, “I grew up in Coney Island and four guys would sing acapella doo wop underneath my window at night. I’m still in touch with one of them.” You can hear Andy every Tuesday at 11am on KSQD, 90.7 FM.

Special thanks to Contributor Julie Flannery, for editing assistance during manuscript development.


5 COMMENTS

  1. Fantastic article about 2 of the most talented and intelligent women in Santa Cruz. This would be a much more sterile media environment without these two. Of course we would still have “my first love” KZSC, but without these 2 women we would have lost the rest of our true community broadcasting voice. I know that it took many others to help create KSQD and SantaCruzVoice.com, but it would never have happened without the steely determination and phenomenal people skills of Rachel and Rosemarie. I appreciate both of them so much, and appreciate Richard Stockton and Julie Flannery for this informative article.

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  2. I enjoyed this article so much. I know and love Rosemary and know how much she has done to preserve radio. I value her beautiful spirit so much!

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  3. One Station: Few Voices

    Congratulations to Good Times for acknowledging community radio and two of the women behind it, but there’s a lot of history about KSQD’s inception that was not covered. There were three women who rose up to create a replacement for KUSP: myself, Mathilde Rand, and Rachel Goodman. The three of us worked together tirelessly from 2016-2018. Our nonprofit organization, Media Watch, became the fiscal sponsor (for free) of a collective dream to build a new Community Radio. When Mathilde and Rachel decided to give up, saying let’s send donors’ money back, I told them not to and within a few weeks, Jeff Grubb’s tech friend from Seattle came through with a huge donation that garnered local matching funds.

    Terry Green didn’t fire ALL the volunteers at KUSP, but Rachel’s program “Talk of the Bay” was cut. Green and his cohorts sadly auctioned off a huge community asset. I personally bid on KUSP during the auction, until we couldn’t outbid K-LOVE Christian Radio out of Rocklin, CA.

    Many volunteers worked to create what is now KSQD. It was Rachel’s ex who unearthed the call letters K-S-Q-D. I personally invited the amazing technical wizardry of Sandy Stone to join our efforts early on. Stone deserves endless accolades for her vigilant struggles to keep the signal alive.

    Once the money was raised, Rachel Goodman banned both Mathilde and I from voting as founding board members, claiming potential conflict of interest since Media Watch was the fiscal sponsor. Rachel and her 2 hand-picked board members were the only ones allowed to vote, ensuring she was named Board Director.

    Rachel named her KUSP colleague, Howard Feldstein, as head of Programming, without discussion or a vote during a group meeting. When I suggested we give Amah Mutsun Chairman, Valentin Lopez a regular program slot, Rachel dismissed it out of hand, responding “How is HE going to come up with regular content?” Howard nodded everyone else was silent.

    Ironically, while working on the founding programming committee Rachel, as Board Chair, insisted that all potential programmers be directed to enroll in her radio classes at Cabrillo, classes which she had earlier confided were at risk of being dropped for low enrollment. She ignored my concerns that this was a conflict of interest, others said nothing.

    Rachel is an autocratic leader who refused to share the microphone with me, when we spoke publicly of our dream of a community radio in the community. Rachel recreated the white, male-dominated KUSP programming of the past. With few exceptions, Rachel favors programmers who were friends from the old days of KUSP. My dream was to give diverse, new, young voices a chance to be heard.

    Once Media Watch moved the 350K out of our bank account and into the new radio’s account, Rachel convinced her board to ban me from being able to even volunteer for the station: no reason given, no mediation offered. Mathilde remains, as long as she stays in the back seat.

    Because of this dismissive treatment, I’ve twice asked KSQD/Natural Bridges to return the 3K Media Watch originally gave as seed money for the KUSP auction, and twice, the board has refused. In person, Rachel emphatically “explained” that I would never get that money back.

    Instead of being a more inclusive venue for unheard voices, KSQD features her once shunned program “Talk of Bay” 4-5 days every week; community radio has become Rachel Radio.

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