My grand tour of Arkansas radio stations concluded with a trip to see KUHS-LP in Hot Springs. Host of the 2016 Grassroots Radio Conference (GRC), KUHS-LP is a new, solar-powered low power FM (LPFM) station, having launched over 97.9 FM in August, 2015. As far as field trips, my visit to KUHS was different from most, as it stretched over the course of two days and also included a group hike to its transmitter.
Since KUHS-LP was hosting the GRC event (see my recap for Radio World), station personnel invited conference participants on a sunset trek to the transmitter site, followed by a large open house at the station. I don’t often get to see tower sites, so it was an added bonus for this tour, plus it gave me the opportunity to catch an expansive view of Hot Springs.
Only a fraction of GRC attendees took the hike, but a big group convened at the station for food and socializing on the night of Sunday, October 9. By the time I arrived, KUHS was packed with community radio fans, who mingled in every nook and cranny of the station. The hub of activity was a back room and adjacent space that was in the midst of construction for future restaurant/brewery SQZBX (Squeezebox). The founders of KUHS, Zac Smith and Cheryl Roorda, are also launching the brew pub, although it’s an entirely separate business from the radio station, whose license is held by the non-profit Low Key Arts.
KUHS founder and General Manager Zac Smith recounted how both projects came to be, telling me,
The connection goes back to sitting around, underemployed, in a past prime small city/large town coffee shop in the late nineties, and having the aha moment that wouldn’t it be cool to have a radio DJ booth in the ‘day ward’ where I was sitting, bullshitting each other over strong drip and 25¢ loosies. The DJs could play music when we weren’t regaling them with our brilliant philosophies, or whatever you’d call the unending fountain of words.
Fast forward to the early two thousand teens, and Cheryl and I had a broken old building we were slowly rehabbing, painfully coming to the conclusion that its very hard to bootstrap a twenty ton A/C system, and I heard that a new LPFM filing window was about to open. The plan is born. Few years later, KUHS-LP is on air, and we are a few months away from opening SQZBX.”
The station is near historic downtown Hot Springs, occupying a storefront space adjacent to a pawn shop on one side next to the future restaurant on the other. An enclosed DJ booth has a window overlooking a small lobby, which is visible from the street. Behind the studio is the General Manager’s office and the long brick-walled hallway features artwork and a small music library with both CDs and vinyl.
When I got to KUHS after dark that Sunday night, DJ Cat Daddy was on the air. GRC folks crowded in the studio, peppering him with questions about the station, the equipment, and the music that he was playing. After most of the group trickled out, I grilled him a bit more and he explained that this week was atypical, saying that normally, “I turn off the lights and I just listen to music and dance and have a good time…it’s my fortress of solitude.”
He also pointed out a few interesting items in the studio, including headphone holders that looked like they had been crafted from a 3-D printer and beautiful wooden monitor speakers that were built by students at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts.
DJ Cat Daddy is among the 70 or so DJs and hosts who fill the KUHS schedule. The following morning when I stopped by to take more photos during daylight hours, I met two more show hosts. DJ Trinity was on the air and DJ Kitty was quietly sitting in the studio preparing for her show. When I asked her what she had in store, DJ Kitty revealed that it was the couple’s 16th wedding anniversary, so she was going to surprise Trinity with a special set of music. It was a sweet moment, hearing from both of them about how much they meant to each other and how their work at the station provided an outlet to express some of those feelings. You can hear tidbits from all three of these interviews on Radio Survivor Podcast #68.
Today, KUHS has a packed schedule, with just a few gaps in the middle of the night and early morning hours. Show titles speak to the diversity of music and talk programming, including Outlaw Country, Valley Noise, Lady Bits Radio, ADHD Radio, Two Hours of Silence, DJ Emcee Triskit’s Righteous Hip Hop Radio Hour, Vaporwaves with Justin, and the Fluid Druid’s Medicine Show.
Thanks to everyone at KUHS for the welcoming hospitality during the entire GRC event. My trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas was truly memorable, largely because of the kindness and enthusiasm of all of the inspiring radio people who I met. This is my 121st radio station field trip report. Next up are my Pennsylvania travels from a my hectic October. My most recent field trips can be found on Radio Survivor and a full list of all my station tour reports is compiled on Spinning Indie.
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