Fans of rock, soul, reggae, blues and R& B can now turn their radio dial to 100.5 FM KZRJ-LP Gulch Radio, broadcasting from the mountain village of Jerome AZ. The 100-watt stereo signal covers the Verde Valley, and listeners report getting the station from as far away as Flagstaff and the Blue Ridge Mountains in eastern Arizona. Gulch Radio.com streams the same music on the internet, as it has done since 2004.
The romance of music on the radio sparked KZRJ co-founder Richard Martin’s soul when he first tuned in to The Mighty 690, a Tijuana/San Diego border blaster beaming such rock greats as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley across the American west. “How do all those people get in there to play music?” Richard asked his dad, referring to the shiny chrome, push button radio while sitting on the front seat of the family’s two tone green 1950 DeSoto sedan.
In 2002, Richard Martin and Chuck Runyon, who loved music as much as Richard, co-founded Gulch Radio. Both are long-term residents that arrived during the 1970’s, raised their families and built their businesses. Now they had time to make dreams that started so long ago come true.
KZRJ Gulch Radio is the only commercial-free station broadcasting live in the Verde Valley. The founders describe it as “free form” radio—free from the bonds of playing corporate-prescribed, listener tested-to-death songs. Free from having to push current and potential ‘hits’ from major record labels. Free from advertising and corporate sponsors to answer to. No begging for bucks either.
“Gulch Radio is a haven from over-amped and over-repeated news that is available over so many other radio and television stations,” Richard Martin said. The station’s only news is a daily weather report and hazardous weather reports. The station will also provide news that affects the local population, such as fire or smoke pollution, emergency highway conditions and Emergency Alerts.
“It’s all about the music,” Gulch Radio station co-founders Richard and Chuck said. The station is a throwback to old-fashioned radio at its best.
“Nothing presents music better than radio,” says Richard Martin. “Sure you can pack your pod with picks, but after awhile, the ‘random shuffle’ just doesn’t do it. Listeners want programs with live DJs who are passionate about the music they play. The best rivet the listener, shaping mood and memory. It’s like magic when a DJ seems to pluck just the song someone has been yearning for, even when they didn’t know it, maybe one that echoes their most furtive desires or sparks a forgotten memory. But when a DJ gets it wrong, the listener’s attention drifts to other stations. In the radio biz, it’s called a train wreck.”
Programming that Stirs Memories
Richard Martin DJs his “Ric ‘N Roll Show—The Morning Groove” from 5-8 AM weekdays and his “Geezer Rock Show” on Sunday afternoons from 4-6, pulling on his memory of thousands of songs. Richard calls them ‘the good ol’ good ones.’ He has the generous and magnetic personality that grabs listeners right away. They feel as though Richard is talking right to them.
Other locally produced shows, include ‘Gulch Fun’ with Mr. Carsos every other Saturday from 6 until 8 PM. “The Frank Zappa Hour” on Saturday evenings at 8 PM is hosted by local radio pro Jeff Demand. Thursday nights at 7 and Saturday mornings at 5, The Hermit picks the platters on “Stuck In the Psychedelic Era.”
On weekday evenings after 9, listeners can tune into “UnderCurrents” with Gregg McVicar and hear an eclectic mix of Americana mixed with Native American tunes.
Saturday nights also feature “The Grateful Dead Hour,” “Beale Street Caravan,” and “Mountain Stage Live”—quality National Public Radio productions. (Complete program listings can be found in the music pages of the stations colorful website at www.gulchradio.com.
“The music brings back great memories from when I was young and the world was wide-open and full of promise,” said Susan Dowling, a former resident of Jerome who now lives in Kingman and listens to Gulch Radio on her computer.“ Now, as an old hippy, the music still resonates. Back in the psychedelic era, it’s where I live.”
Gulch Radio’s Slow Build to Success
In 2002, Gulch Radio started up with a very low power AM radio signal that only could be heard in Deception Gulch. The deep canyon blocks most other radio signals. The little transmitter provided music for the artisans that lived and worked there.
But as avid music lovers, Richard and Chuck dreamed for a ‘real’ radio station that could play high fidelity stereo. An AM or FM license was the only way to accomplish that.
In 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened applications for AM licenses. Richard and Chuck filed an application, but because they weren’t radio pros, fatal mistakes were made in filings and the application was denied.
Instead, Gulch Radio became Gulchradio.com, an Internet station that an avid following from Brazil to Japan. More importantly it provided a great learning experience for acquiring technical and production skills and the opportunity to build a vast music library. Today the station has 24,000— most of them purchased from i-Tunes.
In October 2013, Gulch Radio applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a license for a low power FM radio station that had become available for Northern Arizona. The owners hired an engineer and lawyer to make sure the station would be compliance with all the legalities the FCC required and that the complex application was filled out correctly. In early 2014, The FCC awarded Gulch Radio one of its coveted FM licenses.
A station that started small is now the Verde Valley’s newest giant. It can be heard live over 100.5 FM KZRJ-LP and all over the world on Gulchradio.com.
Most of this post is written by my ex-neighbor, Jane Moore. She lives two houses down from our previous home at the top of Deception Gulch. She wrote me a few emails commenting on the last two wall posts. She pointed out that she was one of the few women who built hand-stacked rock walls in Jerome. I always looked at her driveway and corral walls when I drove up to Richard’s house and assumed Chuck Runyon, her partner, built them. I am very embarrassed to find I’m just another male chauvinist.
Here’s what Jane wrote and the photos that accompanied her emails.
“Gig Stearman [Jane’s neighbor down Gulch Road] is another absolutely fabulous wall builder, who uses rocks far larger than anyone else I know! And, perhaps you didn’t know that I’m the person who has done most of the dry stack walls on this property, with Chuck’s help with the bigger rocks. Not too many people have ever seen them. I’m sending you a few pictures. I don’t know of too many other women who do dry stack walls!
“John Walsh is the person who I got started doing them with—he was in his eighties at the time, I worked for him doing yard work in the early eighties and was helping him rebuild his walls at Villa Contenta. (He was such a fun person to work for! I learned a lot about his life, as well.) Wall building in my yard is still something I am doing 30 years later—holding the hillside back, doing new walls and repairing old ones. Mine may not be as pretty as some of the other fabulous wall builders’ in town, but they last!
“And yes, I became a wall builder out of necessity myself. The day I signed the papers from Jill, the woman who sold me the house, was the day I was underneath the house cleaning some of her stuff out and the rock wall under there completely fell over! There were SO many old walls all over this property in various states of disrepair, that it seems it’s a never ending project! But never mind… it’s a job I enjoy, as long as my back holds out!
“I love doing winding steps, and just funky, organic looking walls. I try to re-use good rocks, but end up having to go hunt for them a lot of times, and I really like to mix rocks—Tapeats sandstone, local limestone, flagstone, volcanic rock, etc.
“Here’s my latest project—a “pony” wall for a ramp that connects one corral to the other. It’s about halfway done. Another wall on the other side of ramp needs to be redone (the one along Richard’s driveway)
“When I first started building walls out of the odd shaped native rocks here, a strange feeling came over me that I had done this before (I don’t really question when that happens, I just accept!), and when the rocks just seem to fit perfectly together like a jigsaw puzzle, it goes so fast and is so much fun. With the native rocks, I like what I jokingly call “turd” rocks—long skinny ones that might only look like the size of a hand or two on the face of wall, but will go back in the wall a couple of feet. I spend a lot of time carefully fitting together other less useful rocks in as backfill, so the wall is actually quite thick, keeping in mind that backfill material and drainage is all important. I always joked that Chuck did the inside work/carpentry, and I did the outside work/”grunt” labor! I know I’ve done a hell of a lot of the pick and shovel work on this property!
“Next is a wall that’s taken 30 years to finish! Will finally be done this year, and i have been out working on it all day today.
Jane is a potter and painter who has worked in Made In Jerome Pottery—www.madeinjerome.com/ since 1980.
Like many artists that settled in Jerome in the seventies, Jane participated in town politics. Jane, Peggy Tovrea and Debbie Hall started the fireman’s auxiliary in 1976, after Phil Tovrea, one of Jerome’s renegade hippie newcomers was elected fire chief. Jane was head of Planning and Zoning in the 1980s. She was vice mayor from 1982–84, elected to the Town Council from 1998–2008 and was appointed mayor 2004–06.
One of the comments from Part 1 of the wall builder stories was from Doyle Vines, a Jeroman that worked for the town of Jerome in many capacities in the eighties. Doyle wrote how much he loved the Holly Street wall. It’s one of my favorites as well. The head of the crew that rebuilt that wall was Paul Nonnast, who is among my favorite of the modern hand-stacked build wall builders, along with Bob Hall, Richard Martin, Chuck Runyon, and my husband Walter.
“I became a wall-builder of necessity,” Nonnast told me in 1990. “With the little money I came here with, I bought an old truck and 3 empty lots out the lonesome edge of town. My house was built with stones I gathered from out on Perkinsville Road, pick-axes, shovels, plumb bob, and a wheelbarrow.
I intercepted Jerome at the end of an era and have a perspective that I wouldn’t have if I turned up in town today. In 1975, many of us were considered bums. We struggled for a living. There were real outlaws living among us. We all tried to get along. Everyone asked ‘how are you doing’ and cared about the answer. Today, the town bores me. All the talk is money.”
Built into the hillside, Nonnast sometimes described his home as a ‘perforated cave’—a compact L-shaped building of three rooms: kitchen, bedroom, drafting/fabrication room. Adjacent are smaller rooms for storing tools and materials and a self-composting toilet. The interior rooms open onto a stone terrace with round, cold pool and serve as an extension of the home’s internal spaces. Inside and out, graceful sweeping curves, flat planes, numerous levels, angles, delicate patterning and tight joints identify Nonnast as a master stonemason.
Nonnast follows an ancient tradition of wall building among the ancient Anasazi (early Pueblo peoples of Utah and Arizona).
Paul is right at the top of my list of favorite artists, a visionary that was adept at sculpture, painting and architecture. He also was an industrial designer and designed the instrument case for Jerome Instrument Corporation’s mercury detector.
Only a few people in Jerome know that Nonnast received one of four honorable mentions in the prestigious Vietnam War Memorial Design Competition sponsored in Washington D.C. in l981. His memorial was conceived as a 22-foot cast bronze obelisk, counter-weighted and set into a fulcrum to allow motion. The obelisk was centered within a semi-circular polished granite surface textured with graceful spiral forms.
His work was perfectly meticulous, even in what we might think of as ordinary objects. Once while staying at his house on a visit to Jerome, there was an old lunch box out on the dresser. I had to look inside. There were 12 dried maple leaves of beautiful colors arranged in an elegant pattern. That was the essence of Paul.
Paul Nonnast passed away in November 2005.
To view images of his art and rare collectibles, including the obelisk, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulnonnast/