Don Mussell, June, 2000
KUSP radio started as an idea in the mind of David Freedman and Lorenzo Milam. As with any enterprise of this sort, individual characters have their own perspective on how things get started. Here is what Lorenzo remembers about how things began:
I always remember what James Bevel, the 60's no-nonsense black organizer, used to say about history. He called it HIS-story.
He was talking, mostly, about white-man's history. But he was also giving credence to the mud-pot that we call the mind, the something that afflicts those of us who pretend to remember the past.
And - you who constructed the History of KUSP? I think we are going to have to give you the Josef F. Stalin Memorial Prize for recreating, if not reorganizing, much of radio history. The penalty for such hubris? Right - we send you, barefoot, into American Siberia: to Midland-Odessa, Texas, or the Inland Empire (say, Walla-Walla, Washington), or the stockyards of Fresno, to work at a daytimer 500-watt AM commercial radio station for the rest of your days, so you can meditate on your sins at length.
Now: if I could only remember what the truth is (or was), I would essay to set you right. But I find that my own facts on the origins - like David Freedman's and every one else's - have gotten somewhat mushy over the years.
However, I do notice that the writer quickly ignored the fact that only one of the founders was able (or willing) to pledge $10,000 in assets to get the application through the portals of the FCC. There was only one dingbat willing to do that - without even demanding a place on the board, mind you.
He was the only one around, as well, to show those ninnies how to actually put an application together for the FCC so it would work. And to help them find a frequency. And to help them create a suitable non-profit 'pataphysical foundation. And how to look for a transmitter site. And a studio site. And to find cheap equipment. And good volunteers. etc.
At no cost. Zilch.
The fact is that these KUSP-like stations grew and prospered because of massive input of past (and hard) experience. And, as well, Kantean reaction.
As you recall, Kant - or was it Hobbes? - saw all historical forces in terms of dialectic: Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis. It was Marx who converted those ideas into the social force of revolution. (Thus, Stalin.)
KUSP was built in reaction to KTAO, as KTAO was reaction to KRAB, which was, in turn, a reaction to KPFA, KBOO and KDNA to KRAB, WRFG and WYEP to KDNA, etc.
In fact, that form of antithesis was the brilliant device created by Jeremy Lansman and me to keep the troops who slaved along with us from becoming too divisive and destructive.
We had both worked at KPFA, and had seen how the inner battles had so terribly drained the station, a situation (as my favorite writer would have it) where the "inner politics came to be more important than the life of the radio station."
Therefore, it was our Standard Operating Procedure that when someone got too trouble some, we would figure out another place for him. Send him off to Radio Siberia, as it were.
Jeremy was actually better than I in this regard - more inspirational, less Machavellian. Most of the community stations in the middle west grew out of people who came out of reaction to his style at KDNA. He would sense this, and immediately equip them with frequency searches for this or that city, a lecture on how-to-do-it, a $10,000 pledge - and off they would go. This was still possible in the early 70's, because there were frequencies all over the place, to be had, for the asking.
David Freedman - always a crabby sort - was perfect for me to send off to birth KUSP. His seeing me as such a sly villain gave a certain pith to his work, so we were able to get the very urgent best out of him.
Of course, since Lansman and I were so devious, we made sure that everyone thought the new station was THEIR idea. This gave each community station a hundred mothers, and no step-fathers.
And that was just as it should have been. If Lew Hill had taken a note from our books (think of how many FM frequencies were available in 1957!) he wouldn't have had to kill himself.
(Incidentally, in addition to my input at the beginning of KUSP, there was a hell of a lot of good work put into it not only by Freedman, but David Clark, Mary Silliman, Len Kesselman, and Jane Shannon. You might check with them on their version of His --- or Her --- Story)
Not long ago KBOO in Portland wrote me a nice letter when they were getting ready to celebrate their 25th anniversary. They wanted All The Facts of their pre-history for their celebratory program guide.
I wrote up a 20 page precis of the origins of the station. I mean, I really labored over it. It was not only insightful, and artful - it was true.
I reluctantly confessed that the real genesis of KBOO was not really me, nor Jeremy. It was a woman named Lloyde Livingstone. She did all the shit-work to get the thing put together...then, like a good sensible creator (like God) - she disappeared into the void of history. Jeremy and I just played master: we were her fingers pointing at the moon.
As KBOO was preparing for their anniversary, then, I suggested they find her, and make her a part of their celebration.
In my lengthy discourse, I also happened to mention that they still owed me $12,500 - money I had loaned them in 1976 to separate from KRAB and KRAB's parent foundation, Jack Straw (the two stations were beginning to do a Pacifica station vs Pacifica board battle). I didn't bring up the matter of the money and equipment I had dug up for them in 1968 for their first on-the-air appearance.
Maybe it was my interleaving my request for prepayment of loan with the charming text - but KBOO ignored my 20-page thesis with a vengeance. They made up some song-and-dance of their origins that would have made Gibbon turn over in his grave, ignoring Livingstone and her finger-pointers completely. It was very self-congratulatory, and very wrong.
Let me say here and now that we all knew what we were doing when we created KUSP, KPOO, WDNA, WRFG, WYEP, WAIF, KBOO, and all the rest. Our job was to get them built, built quickly (we could see how fast the FM frequencies were disappearing in the early 70's.) The frippery about how, and who, is far less important than the fact that the pie gets baked and set out on the table for everyone to eat.
My real regrets are not with these distortions of history. No, it's more my failure to get even more stations on the air. During that strange period where I so foolishly thought I could change the world, there were frequencies coming up for grabs in Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City. What a pity we missed those!
But there is still satisfaction. I was browsing through some daisy-chain on the web not long ago, and came across a reference to an off-the-wall gay program, in Texas. I didn't really have to go and find out which station it was, but I did, and sure enough, there it was: broadcast weekly over KNON - built on the ashes of KCHU.
By the way, your best reference on the anarchistic pre-history of KUSP, outside of my brain, is on page 39 of SEX & BROADCASTING, available through MHO & MHO Works, in San Diego. And, perchance, an interview with Mary Silliman (she still lives around the Santa Cruz area somewhere).
--- Joseph Trotsky Milam
Now, according to David, he had his own ideas, and was sufficiently inspired to look in Santa Cruz for friends to help with the project. This seems to make sense, based upon what Lorenzo states above. David has told us that he was quite discouraged after trying to raise money to build the station, and left Santa Cruz to return to his hometown of New Orleans. He returned to Santa Cruz after six months re-inspired to try to build KUSP. While money remained the main problem, David, with the help of many people throughout northern California, managed to build the station and get things going.
He found quite a few people who were interested in helping, including David Clark, Jane Shannon, Dick Scoppetone, Jack Benson and also Mary Silliman of Carmel Valley, who all became the first 'Pataphysical Board of Directors. All of these individuals who were a part of the dream of running a not-for-profit radio station had diverse ideas about what should be done about programming, but the general consensus was that a station modeled after a hybrid of KTAO, KPFA and the CBC, with a Santa Cruz flavor, would be a good thing to strive for.
KUSP was built for just over $700 in early 1972. This experiment in democracy and community participation has seen it's share of turmoil and dissent over the past 25 years. Amazingly, the original KUSP ideas that sprang forth from these humble roots have taken hold and guided the station and the foundation through very rough seas. Despite the consultants, marketing studies, arbitron ratings and other such distractions, we are sailing on, picking up passengers as we go.
The original staff of KUSP (initially unpaid) were:
David Freedman, Information and Finance;
Randy McLaughlin, Chief Engineer and Connective Theorist;
Dave Clark, Schedules and Clocks;
Joe Morrow, Vox Musica;
Bill Barlow, Solicitation and Intrigue
(David has said that the staff list was somewhat a lark; There was no money for a paid staff, nor was there really a staff, and after all, Bill Barlow was trying to make revolution, not radio...)
In May of 1974 KUSP moved it's transmitter from downtown Santa Cruz to Mt. Toro, increased the power from 10 watts to 50,000 watts and shifted from 89.1 to 88.9 Mhz. With the move, we began to reach the ears of the entire Monterey bay area.
KUSP is a non-commercial station. It will never broadcast a single commercial.
It will depend on the people it serves to survive. If the people are good and the station is good, it will survive. Many people are already making it possible because they believe in the idea of the station. Some give us money. Some give us material and equipment: Moore's Graphic Arts donated paper. Peter Fultz of Felton donated lumber. KWAV, KMBY. KPFA, KZSU donated equipment. And so did Vernon Buck of Berkeley, and Mike Rogers of San Jose, and the Used Component Shop. Ryan Scott donated space for the studio and transmitter. Chuck Flitton donated his time and skills to soundproof the studio and build a console. Tom Shanle donated legal services. Elizabeth Steele volunteered her secretarial skills.
The community will ultimately decide the nature and scope of the station's activities. With sufficient funding it will grow something like this:
See some more from the early days at KUSP here
Return to the BESBD Web Pages