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Radio Survivor's top radio shows – Matthew's #1: Bonnie Simmons and Derk Richardson on KPFA

Bonnie Simmons and Tom Donahue from the KSAN days

Bonnie Simmons and Tom Donahue from the KSAN days (source:

Every Thursday night I drive home from Santa Cruz, where I teach at the University of California campus situated in that fair city. Soon as 8 pm comes around, I tune into KPFA to listen to the Bonnie Simmons / Derk Richardson music show, which I absolutely love.

To be accurate, they’re actually two separate shows, but I experience them as one. Folk rock, hard rock, classic rock, R&B, lesbo-womyn’s-punk-crossover-wuddever rock, just folk, ethnic,  plus wuddever by itself—they play it all. Or, to be more accurate, they play the good stuff. And it is so good. Trust me on this. I don’t even listen to rock and roll and I listen to them religiously, because they’ve got that mysterious, unexplainable thing called great taste in music.

First comes Bonnie Simmons. Here’s the first five songs of a recent Bonnie playlist:

Elvis Costello River in Reverse
jeb loy nichols as the rain
eric bibb flood water
joss stone the chokin kind
sam phillips same rain

I mean, who can argue with this? For two hours it’s like an alternate universe where nothing ever sucks. How does Simmons do it? Years of experience in the music biz, going back to the free form radio days: music director at KSAN, promoter for Prince and Dire Straights, deejay at KFOG, LIVE 105, and KOFY. Plus she managed Cake for eight years and currently hustles for Noe Venable and Etienne de Rocher.

Plus, I just love listening to her. She’s got this charmingly officious way of talking. “Oh so Beattle-y, and yet not . . . ” she crooned as she back announced the Phillips tune. Plus she’s endlessly meditating on the second half of the evening, Derk Richardson. “I believe that Derk Richardson will be in tonight ” she proclaims, as if she was warming up for the Prime Minister of some place. “I haven’t discussed this with him in depth, but I believe that he’s headed in.” She’s got this way of tartly saying Derk—drives me nuts.

Derk Richardson

Derk Richardson, as per his Facebook page photo

And rest assured, Derk is worth staying up until 10 pm for. A prolific writer, reviewer and Bay Area music-o-phile since the 1970s, the most amazing stuff gets broadcast live on Derk’s Hear-and-Now show. Thursday last week I could not believe I was actually listening as the Quartet San Francisco broadcast live, so beautiful was the evening—they doing spectacular selections from their arrangements of Dave Brubeck songs,  The lyrics of Elvis Costello floated through my head—”with every one of those late night stations playing songs bringing tears to me eyes.”

Bonnie and Derk—goddamnit, somebody give those two their own radio station. And take along the fabulous Betty Beasley, who often deejays during those hours  (and just had on the Real Vocal String Quartet live last night; amazing) and the Tony Ferro/Joel Sachs live music engineering team.

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2 Responses to Radio Survivor's top radio shows – Matthew's #1: Bonnie Simmons and Derk Richardson on KPFA

  1. glennbrown March 23, 2010 at 11:37 pm #

    yes yes i could not agree more larry kelp is good to bonnie simmons thank god for the web betty beasley

  2. Lauren Rose November 17, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    I have listened to Bonnie every thursday since I was a teenager growing up in the bay area.I would drive up into the foothills and smoke cigarettes and listen to her and meditate on the lyrics. I have a journal (somewhere) that I kept then with an extensive list of my favorite lyric snip-its that I heard on her show in the mid 2000’s And I absolutely adore dirk’s intro music.

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