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The Return of Radio

Hello, Tacoma.
Are you listening?
Tacoma.FM is talking to you.

Good morning, Tacoma – and anywhere the sky touches the South Puget Sound – this is DJ Doug Deems at Tacoma.FM, streaming live through the galaxy for your personal enjoyment and playing some great local indie music, mixed in with those hits that we’ve come to know and love. My guest at noon will be Joel Lively. Back in the day, Lively and I used to drag our guitars all around the South Sound ... ”

It’s the first Monday in March, and City Arts is hanging out in the studio at Tacoma.FM, a new online radio station streaming from northeast Tacoma. Joining the conversation are DJ Deems, DJ Carlos Taylor-Swanson and station founder and “longtime radio guy” Ken Moultrie. Moultrie says he was motivated to create a truly local station because “it’s crazy for a city the size of Tacoma not to have one.” While he applauds Tacoma’s college-powered stations, he points out that a good portion of their programming is news with a national focus. The music on Tacoma.FM is broadly based (midday is heavy on hits from the ’60s through the ’90s), but the talk is 100 percent local.

“Great music is available from a lot of places,” says Moultrie. “What makes Tacoma.FM relevant for the community is what happens between the songs.” Where are the local bands playing tonight, and what’s the scoop around town? Those in-between moments are where the local factor comes in. 

Tacoma.FM launched in mid-February, and its programming is still evolving. Currently there are eight hosts. But even in its fledgling state, the station’s night and weekend shows are shaping up to be as diverse as the individual DJs and their personal music collections. The shelves in the Tacoma.FM studio, located in Moultrie’s home, are overflowing with vinyl records, a testament to his lifetime in the biz. His first broadcasting opportunity came in the summer of 1975 at KRRC-FM, a ten-watt station at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Though Moultrie was only thirteen, he hung around so much that the staff eventually gave him a key. He never looked back. “Radio is all I’ve ever done,” he says in his deep baritone. Moultrie’s afternoon program spans many genres and eras, from the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Nashville Cats” to Dire Straits’s “Heavy Fuel,” with Americana, R&B and local indie music for flavor. His background includes fifteen years as senior program director for Jones Radio Networks. Today, he’s an independent radio-programming consultant. 

Listeners may recognize Moultrie’s voice from Brown’s Point Radio, an earlier incarnation of his latest venture. It was through a talk show on BPR, hosted by Frank Jenkins, whose show now streams Sundays on Tacoma.FM, that Moultrie first met Deems and Taylor-Swanson. Both men were guests on Jenkins’ show. Taylor-Swanson’s passion for world music caught Moultrie’s attention and led to his gig as weekend DJ.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons Taylor-Swanson takes listeners to far-flung corners of the globe with his show Horizons. He doesn’t have a background in radio, but he grew up listening to Puerto Rican, Cuban, Latin and salsa music. Later, he became intrigued by the music of Africa. “I’m fascinated by the intermingling influences and connections in world music,” he explains. He plans to bring in South Sound musicians with a global sound.

“There was a great Brazilian group that performed at First Night, the Northwest Choro Collective,” he says. “I’d love to get them in here.”

“And where else can you hear Icelandic dirges but here at Tacoma.FM?” quips Deems. Deems, who hosts a midday show during the week and The Psychedelic Sixties on Sundays nights, is a singer/songwriter with deep roots around town. He grew up in White Center in the 1950s, with Tacoma as his hangout. In 2008, Deems hosted Underground Spring on another Moultrie radio venture, Tune-In Seattle, featuring popular local personalities like Voxxy Vallejo, Gina Belliveau, Kurt Lindsay and Allan Boothe for a mix of informal conversation and an exchange of tunes between the DJ and his guests. Deems plans to resurrect this format on Tacoma.FM. Excited about the possibilities for a synergistic relationship between the station and local talent, he believes it’s important for Tacoma to be a pop music epicenter. “Now that we’ve launched this new station, I’d love to hook up with clubs and capture open mics,” says Deems. Moultrie concurs: “Absolutely. We are open to ideas and evolving. I hope that people will drop me a line.”

See more in the April 2010 issue   →