In the age of streaming services, community radio is often overlooked. However, radio host and videographer Bill DeBlonk has spent nearly 25 years on the air at KZFR and recognizes the value of local stations to communities.
Since 1996, DeBlonk has contributed to the community station as a DJ and host of the Creol Stomp and Playing Dead shows. He thought being a full-time DJ would be a great job, but didn’t like the restrictions on commercial radio. KZFR allowed DeBlonk to share music with the community without having to follow a pre-programmed set.
Creol Stomp airs Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and features jazz, zydeco and Cajun style music from Louisiana. Playing Dead airs Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and features live hits from rock band Grateful Dead. He also hosted the music and talk show Lunchtime Spotlight until the early 2000s.
In addition to hosting radio shows, DeBlonk is the creator and chief producer of the KIXE-TV program Banana Grape Stomp. Since 2014, DeBlonk and a small team have archived and recorded live footage from music festivals, performances, and other shows in the Northern California area. It has produced 75 episodes and recently documented the 65th annual “For the Funk of It” festival.
” I saved [shows] my whole life, ”DeBlonk said. “Record concerts on audio, start doing them on video. Over time, I have become more and more professional. “
DeBlonk has produced an extensive archive of concerts and performances from over 200 different bands. Most notably, he produced “This is the Sound,” an official compilation of footage from Bay Area band The Mother Hips in 2004.
While collecting videos that other people had taken of the band, DeBlonk produced a lot of his own footage from the band’s entire career for DVD release.
“I was really lucky to have done it then because that was before there was YouTube,” DeBlonk said. “That was before I could watch so many videos on the Internet. If people wanted to watch a video of The Mother Hips, there was no place to do it unless they brought a camera themselves.
In recent years, radio as a means of entertainment has seen a decline in audiences. Many believe that the industry will cease to exist. The Pew Research Center released a study that showed a loss of nearly 3.4 million listeners as of 2020. However, DeBlonk said that while commercial radio is in decline, community radio is on the rise.
“KZFR is still booming. … Even though listening to the radio as a whole has been declining for several years now, ”said DeBlonk,“ listening to community stations in general has increased.
The attractiveness of community radio is due to the links forged between listeners and the station. Commercial radio relies heavily on commercials for revenue which often disrupts the music and talk shows that are presented. Local stations like KZFR have fewer music restrictions and focus on exposing listeners to various programs and hosts in their community.
“It’s like a glorified iPod,” DeBlonk said. “It’s just preprogrammed into a computer and you’re in luck if there’s a disk jockey on commercial stations. I think that’s one of the reasons people are so drawn to community radio.
The next Banana Grape Stomp episodes air on October 30 and November 6 at 10 p.m. ET. They will feature live sets from the bands Chico GravyBrain and Blü Egyptian.
KZFR broadcasts daily programs on 90.1 FM and on the KZFR website.
Michaela Harris can be reached at [email protected] and @ MichaelaRH21 on Twitter.