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KVRX celebrates 20 years on FM dial with a concert

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com

“None of the hits, all of the time.”

That doesn’t sound like a winning radio slogan, but it’s worked just fine for student-run 91.7 KVRX-FM for the past two decades.

The station is celebrating its 20th birthday this weekend with a number of special events, including an alumni reunion and a Saturday night benefit concert featuring Hickoids, Daniel Francis Doyle & the Dreams and Pure X at the old “Austin City Limits” studio on the University of Texas campus.

The goal, organizers say, is to raise $20,000 for new equipment for KVRX. The station’s transmitter is on its last legs and has required significant repairs recently. Other gear reportedly isn’t far behind.

“To really compete technologically, we just need to upgrade,” said station manager Rodrigo Leal. “We’re running Windows ’98 on some of our computers.”

The fund-raising effort comes at a time when a number of universities nationwide have either eliminated student-run radio stations or are thinking of doing so. In Houston, for instance, Rice University pulled the plug on KTRU-FM in 2011 and sold the frequency the station had long occupied.

Before KVRX hit the FM dial in 1994, the station was available to cable TV subscribers through a unique arrangement with Time Warner Cable that started in 1988, according to Kevin Tuerff, one of its co-founders. Back then, the station was known as KTSB.

The goal from the very beginning was to give UT students an independent, uncensored outlet to hone their skills.

“In the 1980s in Austin, every radio station in town was just awful,” said Tuerff, who today serves as president of Austin-based marketing firm EnviroMedia. “All you heard was all the hits, all the time. We wanted our own station with our own news, music and sports.”

After some lobbying, that’s exactly what Tuerff and his pals got. “None of the hits, all of the time” was born.

“KVRX attracts people who are risk takers and not scared to jump in, people who want to do something great,” said Carol Ramsey, who served as station manager during KVRX’s 1994 sign-on.

The station got off to a humble start, largely using donated equipment. When there wasn’t enough money for sound insulation, co-founders resorted to covering studio walls with carpeting salvaged from a seedy motel, Tuerff said.

One of the rules back then was that Texas artists had to be played in heavy rotation. That’s still the case today, meaning local musicians often get their big break on KVRX.

“There’s so much musical talent in Austin, but no outlet was paying them the attention they deserved,” said Sara Beechner, another KVRX co-founder. “KVRX is such a great launch pad.”