KUSP History Corner
1975 to 1979

The mid-70's bring turmoil, staff changes, and then new Equipment, Remote Broadcasts and Stereo!

          KUSP was now a full-time, 50,000 watt non-commercial station, with a very large coverage area and a growing audience. However, some trouble was brewing behind the scenes. While KUSP was now in the big leagues of local broadcasting, we were still operating like a 10-watt Santa Cruz station, with live broadcasts of the city council and county board of supervisors meetings, and a very locally focused group of volunteers doing the on-air programming, under the watchful eye of Jeb Henley.

          We were still operating with a very small budget (less than $12,000 a year), and starting to feel a little cramped in our 450 square foot studio-office. David began to look at moving the station to larger digs, perhaps even buying a place to fix up. Many properties were looked at, including the old Windham Market, which had just closed, as well as assorted garages and warehouses, all of which seemed a little too frightening to envision turning into a radio station. Then a place was found that looked like it had all the right elements: sufficient space, a good microwave path to Mt. Toro, right on the bus line, and closer to downtown. David plunked down a couple of months rent, and announced to the Foundation that we were moving.

          Little did the staff imagine that the Foundation did not like the idea of moving away from the beach. Not at all. The 'Pataphysical Foundation consisted of anyone who volunteered at least six hours a month for three months, and who under powers granted by the 'Pataphysical by-laws actually controlled the station. This is the same way we operate to this day. The studios were located upstairs in a building right on the beach. One could stand in the doorway of the studio and watch the boats come and go from the Santa Cruz Harbor, and the late-night programmers had a habit of putting microphones out on the walkway and just putting ocean sounds on the air (in glorious stereo, no less!). Even when winter storms blew salt spray and sand into the studios, it was still the most spectacular spot a radio station could ever ask for. Nobody who volunteered wanted to move, despite the cramped quarters.

          Then there was the little problem of payroll taxes. Someone had forgot to pay them, small as they were (the salaries only amounted to $7,000 a year). KUSP found itself owing $12,000 in fines, with no money like that to spend at all. In short, we had a little crisis on our hands. Tempers flared, meetings were called, angry words were exchanged, and many people who loved KUSP worried about it's future.

          By the time the dust settled a year later (1976), we had fired the staff and the board of directors, elected a new board and hired a new staff to run things. We put the studio move on the shelf for the time being. The sound of the Pacific Ocean when announcers opened the mic was to stay with us for a few more years yet.

          While all these big changes were taking place, much was also happening in the technical areas of KUSP. In late 1975, we managed to talk the county into a one-time grant of federal revenue-sharing money, which we used to equip the station with remote broadcasting equipment and an actual production room. This enabled us to broadcast election returns from the county building, and also music concerts from around the Monterey Bay area.

          The first such music broadcast was a concert of modern "orchestral" music, live from the Monterey Peninsula College Theater, but turned out sounding more like aluminum cans being dragged across the floor. After about 20 minutes of it, we gave up and returned to the local studios and something from the turntables. Later Live broadcasts were much more interesting, including such notables as Sun Ra, Bob Marley and the Wailers and many others.

          When we did our first radio auction from downtown in Spring of 1975, we were wildly successful. So much so that it got the attention of Vern Berlin, the owner and operator of KSCO AM-FM, the commercial station in Santa Cruz. He filed a formal complaint with the FCC, charging that KUSP was acting like a commercial station, selling advertising and holding an illegal auction on-air. We brought in our lawyers, and after a six-month hearing, his complaint was thrown out as "WITHOUT MERIT". We were, as you might imagine, relieved. Vern kept grumbling about "that damn pirate station across town", but never tried to challenge us legally again. We got a little revenge later when we covered the 1976 elections by taking his position at the county courthouse to broadcast the returns live. We found out that he had the same table for every election since the late 1940's, right where the returns were tabulated, in front of everyone else (including the print media). We also found out that the rules said "first come, first seated". We got to the County courthouse an hour before Vern showed up, and when he did arrive, you could see his face turn pink, then red, then almost blue from his anger. He never spoke to anyone at KUSP ever again in his lifetime, he was so angry with us. It was a great night for an election!

          Around this same time, we happened upon some equipment that was being thrown out by a San Jose station: a Stereo Generator! This had the potential for good things, but we still were using a 1946 vintage RCA console (very much MONO only!). Occasionally, late at night, we would hook up a stereo cassette deck and plug it all in to the transmitter and test in stereo for a few hours. We even got letters complementing us on our stereo "experiments"! This was back in the days when stereo was an option for most FM stations, and at least half of the FM stations in the Monterey Bay area were mono full-time, so stereo was a treat for some listeners. It seems like so long ago now.

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