KSUP marks 20 years on the air

Station has preserved local DJs, live shows and rock mix from 'Melissa to Metallica'

Posted: Friday, November 19, 2004

Long after Danny and the Juniors proclaimed "rock'n'roll is here to stay," the veteran local DJs at KSUP-FM hope live local radio will live on at their Juneau station.

The rock station went on the air 20 years ago this month, running satellite programming, recalled Kelly Peres, its current operations manager, who has been there from the start. He came to Juneau 30 years ago this month to work at sister station KINY.

Plans at KSUP changed when the orbit of the satellite providing the service fell below Juneau's horizon late in the year, he said.

The scramble that followed turned out to be great for the station, morning man Peres and afternoon announcer Rockin' Ron Davis agreed. Davis, the current program director, came to the station 17½ years ago.

"Local radio should always be local and live," Davis said. "Fortunately, we've been able to maintain that."

"Radio is intended to be part of the community," Peres said, explaining that his listeners share the city with the tramway, tourism and the Legislature. "We live here. We work here. We play here."

Saturday the station, which still plays rock at 106.3 FM, will honor Peres and Davis at its 20th birthday party, beginning at 8 p.m. at Marlintini's Lounge, 9121 Glacier Highway. People 21 and over are invited.

Peres arrived in Juneau two days after Alaska voted to move the capital from Juneau, he said. It was probably raining, he said. The capital stayed, and he doesn't regret coming here instead of Blythe, Calif., a desert city on the Arizona border that offered him a job at the same time.

Davis said he came to Juneau in 1984 to work for KTKU-FM before moving to KSUP. "There weren't a heck of a lot of stations in town."

"We've always done a rock format," Davis said, although the sort of rock music featured on the station has changed.

Peres said that has enabled KSUP to have rock pretty well covered from Bruce Springsteen on.

"Now there are seven or eight different kinds of rock, but the later Beatles and forward is what KSUP is all about," he said.

The station plays a broader swath of music than stations in the Lower 48 might offer - "Melissa to Metallica," Davis said, describing the range of music from the acoustic stylings of Melissa Etheridge to a heavy metal band.

In most of the country, stations are more specific about the sort of music the DJs play. And satellite services and syndicated announcers are displacing a lot of the local radio jobs that used to be available.

Peres said the "DJ" label isn't technically correct anymore because they don't spin records. Vinyl discs and even open-reel tapes and compact discs have given way to computer files. The station has about 5,000 to 6,000 songs readily available and 8,000 to 10,00 that can be found.

He said request shows used to require searching for songs in the library. Now he finds them fun.

"They generate phone calls," he said.

Peres said he got into radio for the music after playing in bands, but it's the community that makes the job fun. Although he gets into work at 3 a.m., he said he likes to be there for people in the morning as they face a 10- to 12-mile commute on Egan Drive.

"That's what local radio does," he said.

When motorists skid through ice patches on their way to work, they can punch star-106 on their cell phones to let him know, he said.

"It serves the community," Davis said. Satellite and pre-recorded radio announcers are good enough that many people can't tell they're not in Juneau. But they can't sound like they're part of Juneau.

"Kelly and I try to keep a local focus," he said. When people talk to him about his job, it's often not about the music, but about trivia and his contests. He has given away a Bullwinkle's pizza just about every weekday afternoon for almost 17 years.

"It's absolutely a lot of fun to be in a town this size and still do what I do," he said.

Peres said that with satellite radio services going directly to the listener, more broadcast stations might be returning to what radio does best, and what KSUP has been doing for almost two decades.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.

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