Two KCPR alumni were back on air this summer, and though they may be years apart in age, they share an incredible passion and dedication to the station they started at.
When Brad Brown and Neal Losey, who both still live in San Luis Obispo and work in the radio business, heard that KCPR was in need of disc jockeys for the summer, they both jumped at the opportunity.
“I think it was great of them to come back for everyone,” said Tyler Johnson, KCPR program director. “We don’t have to have the open air time and the listeners get to hear these guys. They have real radio voices.”
Having Brown and Losey back not only benefits the listeners, but is a great experience for the student DJs.
“I think it’s really good for the student DJs to see people who have been there before,” Johnson said. “The new DJs don’t know much about the history. They see this DJs come back who is passionate about the station and who has gone out into the world and made a living off of it.”
In the beginning…
It’s been 37 years since Brown was in the KCPR studio to hear the first words broadcasted. But time has only served to increase his love for the station.
Brown stumbled upon this passion for radio in his first days at Cal Poly when he accidentally wandered into the KCPR studio.
“I was there the moment KCPR first went on air,” Brown said, “and I’ll tell you, it was a traditional bailing wire kind of thing. Those guys used whatever they could to put that station together.”
The first words? As the group of students struggled to make their first broadcast, one voice rang out over the air waves: “IS THIS THE DAMN SWITCH?”
These are words that may sound unprofessional, but they are words that Brown said, “exemplify how vital and real the station is.”
Since then, it has become tradition at KCPR to try new things, experiment and stay ahead of the crowd.
Brown’s excitement since the days when he helped KCPR get on it its feet hasn’t dwindled.
Now, he is more excited about how far the station has come.
“That station was put together by a bunch of engineers who got together and made it happen. They put the backbone into KCPR,” Brown said. “But the people since have put on the flesh.”
With many radio stations now run by large companies, KCPR remains one of the only local independent stations. This remains one of its greatest strengths, Brown said.
“(KCPR) doesn’t get caught up in what the record companies want. Stations that do have to play it safe and stick to what they know works,” he said, “but what KCPR is best at is breaking ground. It busts out new formats, music and personalities all the time.”
In staying ahead of popular culture, however, the station has encountered obstacles. For one, a huge chunk of the community still doesn’t know about the station or has a hard time giving it a chance.
“I think the community overlooks the value of the station,” Brown said. “Everyone should listen in so that they can broaden their horizons. People should find a way to support this because lower power, independent stations are so hard to find.”
More than a station, it’s a lifestyle
For Neal Losey, KCPR was more than just a college hobby. It helped him realize his love of music could turn into something he would enjoy doing for the rest of his life.
Starting at Cal Poly in 1985 as a history major, it was four years before he learned KCPR DJs didn’t have to be journalism majors. Losey quickly immersed himself. While most DJs start with one show their first quarter on air, he did seven.
“I almost switched majors just so I could do it,” Losey said. “It ended up being the best part of college for me by a long shot.”
One of his favorite parts of being involved with the station was the friendships he gained.
One of the closest friendships Losey formed was with Patty Mena, who is now his wife. When he started as a DJ, Losey said, she was his trainer and day by day they formed a tight bond.
“We just had a connection. We clicked,” Mena said. “It was good because we didn’t have to date to get to know each other. I was assigned to him, so it pretty much let us skip all the awkwardness.”
Losey later proposed to Mena on top of the World Trade Center in front of their DJ friends at a music convention in 1993. Mena also was a DJ this summer on KCPR.
Now the music director for KCBX 90.1 FM, Losey recently realized that his love for KCPR was no shock. As a child, he would bring in record albums for show-and-tell. In high school, he would constantly try to find new music that his friends might like and play it for them.
“And it just felt so natural for me to get involved,” Losey said. “I didn’t come to Cal Poly for the degree. I came because I wanted to learn, and at some point I realized what I was doing at KCPR is what I always want to do.”
The station, however, was not just a way for Losey to get from one point in life to the next. The station, which is all student and volunteer-run, is something he feels is rare and valuable.
“I love that station so much and what it stands for. It’s student-run by volunteers who are passionate,” he said. “No other stations that are as local and as live as they are.”
And Losey’s devotion has never ceased. After graduating in 1993, he stayed on to DJ until 1996 and has since continued to offer his service each year for voice training and other behind-the-scene positions.
For details on how to become a DJ, visit www.kcpr.org or call 756-5277.