MOUNT SHASTA (CBS SF) -- It's no secret that we live in a time when the media landscape is changing dramatically, and the world of radio is no expectation. San Francisco's KGO talk radio, for example, recently shut down with little warning. But Northern California can claim something of an antique: it's rock 'n' roll radio done the old fashioned way and, for one man, that means doing it the hard way.
"ZZ Top on Northern California's home of the classics, The Z Channel," KZRO 100 FM owner Dennis Michaels said into one of the microphones in the station's Mount Shasta studio.
For anyone who has ever made their way along Interstate 5 in the Shasta area and gone searching for some music on the radio, it's a station that, at first glance, may sound like normal classic rock radio. Only this isn't just a radio station. It's the work of one single person and it might be hard to find anyone else doing anything quite like it.
"I don't know. Nobody?" Michaels laughed. "Nobody else is stupid enough to do it."
By that, Michaels means running the whole show by himself. He picks the songs, records the jingles, even produces a lot of the commercials. He also does all of the maintenance and just about everything else.
"Music programming," he added. "Traffic. I don't do sales. I suck at sales. So basically, I program everything right here. Three or four software programs that kind of commingle. I send that over to the server which is down here. This is what's on there now. Chili Peppers. Styx up next."
Over the past 25 years he's built his own music library and runs the 24-hour-a-day schedule with the help of nine different computers.
"Every time I hear something I like," he explained, "I place it in the rotation. I think we do well. We're tracking about 22,000 cities on the Internet. Australia, Barbados, Germany, Canada. Russia I track it because I can see ... right where the server is and it's always right at the Kremlin."
All of those people, including the fans in Moscow, are listening to one man's playlist of 8,000 songs but it's really been a lifetime of music. Michales started as a teenager on AM radio in Chicago before his career took him to Los Angeles.
"Then I had children," Michaels said of his path to Shasta. "And I wanted a small town to go to, kind of like Mayberry. So I found this place and built it."
He thinks this famously eclectic area has probably contributed to his longevity in an era when many stations have fallen under corporate control or disappeared altogether.
As for what's next? Michaels promises more of the same. "Nothing better to do," he said. "Beats workin' a real job, buddy."
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