For more than 25 years now, KRCC host Vicky Gregor has made her living by sharing her love for music.
Starting out in 1994 as a volunteer deejay working the night shift at KRCC, the East Coast transplant has gone on to establish herself as one of Colorado Springs’ most beloved media figures. A proponent of “hand-crafted, small-batch radio,” she’s provided listeners with an ever-changing mix of eclectic music, as well as on-air interviews with artists ranging from the Beach Boys’ Mike Love to Pueblo’s Haunted Windchimes. She also serves as KRCC’s Music Coordinator, mentoring aspiring deejays through the station’s volunteer training program.
Earlier this month, Gregor announced that she’ll be retiring from her nightly show this summer. While she’ll continue to be involved with the station — writing a weekly music newsletter and conducting occasional interviews — the next phase of her life will be primarily devoted to family, travel, and whatever else the future may hold for her.
“It still feels like a dream,” she says of her decision to step away from a medium she’s loved since she got her first transistor radio. “Maybe that’s what really inspired me, the way the deejays felt like they were talking directly to you. It was like ‘Brothers and sisters, get your tape decks ready, we’re gonna go some places tonight.’”
Gregor has felt that same kind of connection being on the other side of the broadcast. “You’re sitting behind two CD players, a microphone, a bunch of computer screens and a turntable,” she says, “but it feels like you’re right there with a group of listeners for that evening. It’s like somebody invited me into their house and said, ‘Hey, would you mind playing some music?’”
Last week, we caught up with Colorado Springs’ “friend and neighbor” Vicky Gregor to talk about all that and more.
Indy: It’s been more than two decades since you started out as a volunteer deejay at KRCC. That’s a long time in the radio business, especially these days.
Vicky Gregor: Yeah, I’ve basically done this for my whole adult life — and for my youngest daughter’s whole life. So it’s like, wow, there’s some gravitas to that!
Have you been on the air that whole time?
You know what? I have. The only time I took off was a year I spent with one of my daughters — you know, the first year of her life — but other than that, yes. First, I worked the overnight shift, then that turned into the morning show. And then the morning show turned into the evening show, which was from 7 to 10. And then that turned into 8 to 11. So yeah, I was just riding the wave.
I’m guessing that you spent a lot of time listening to the radio as a kid. What were the stations you listened to like, and what did you listen to them on?
Well, growing up in upstate New York, we had the basic AM Top 40 stations. But back in the days of yore, they offered up a very cool mix of genres. It was not unusual to hear psych-pop next to classic soul and rock, then merging into the hit singles of the day. I kept a Panasonic black plastic transistor radio under my pillow and, late at night, I could pick up WLS out of Chicago: bright lights, big city, mind-blowing music.
When I received my first component stereo system, I tuned in FM from Ithaca and Montour Falls in upstate New York. And there they were — quiet, intense and incredibly knowledgeable deejay hosts, beckoning us to dive deeper. One of my particular favorites was gracious enough to take my nightly requests, even though I had a strange obsession with the Beach Boys’ “Sail on Sailor,” a song I still adore.
And then, years later you would go on to interview Mike Love from the Beach Boys. What was that like?
Well, back then I was still doing the morning show, and I got a call from Colorado College professor Steven Hayward, who used to interview musicians when he still lived in Canada. He said, “Hey, I’ve got somebody who’s doing a book tour, and I want to bring him over. I think you’d like to talk to him on the air.” I’m like, “Oh, who are you talking about?” And he tells me it’s Mike Love from the Beach Boys. And I’m thinking, “Oh my God, Mike Love from the Beach Boys, oh my God!” I’d heard that he’s really tough, and that he’s kind of mean.
His onstage rant during the band’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony does give that impression.
Thank God I didn’t have that in my head. Because my nerves were sproinging, and meanwhile I’m still trying to do my music show. I mean, this is happening live. So in they came and I’m like, wow, that really is Mike Love of the Beach Boys, he really exists! So we were talking off-mic before the interview, and I happened to mention that my oldest daughter, who went to CC, was a sociology major. And he said that one of his kids was too, and all of a sudden, we just became two parents talking, you know what I mean? It just shifted in that moment. And it turned out to be one of my favorite interviews.
It wasn’t that we talked profoundly about anything — because what do you even ask Mike Love, especially without any preparation? I asked him about music production and how he came up with the lyrics for “Good Vibrations.” We also talked about meditation, which he’d been into long before everyone began walking around carrying yoga mats. I mean, he’d done a billion interviews and he knew that I was, you know, a music deejay at a small radio station. And I just felt like he tried to make it OK. So I remember that fondly about him.
So you’ll be retiring in June, is that right?
It’s kind of left open. It’ll either be the end of June or when the station makes its big move into the new building, whichever comes first. But if I had to guess, I suspect they’ll line up pretty closely.
Do you have any particular artists or songs that you’ll be making it a point to play between now and then?
I’ve actually thought about that a lot. And here’s the thing about me that any of the deejays who’ve trained with me as volunteers can confirm: I am the most unprepared deejay you’ve ever met.
In your first days as a deejay, you have endless songs that you’ve written down, you’ve got notebooks, maybe you’ve got your sets all worked out. You know, it’s very planned. But I usually just start with three or four CDs — usually something new, something that was an earworm, maybe a song that came in a dream or something. And that’s it. I spend the rest of my show, like some kind of maniac, pulling music, because I’m trying to listen to my own show as I go along. I’m trying to listen — this is gonna sound pompous, but it’s true — to The Muse, to whatever is happening in my head. That’s how I do my shows, almost without exception, which can be very hair-raising to watch, because sometimes I’m not making those decisions until the last 45 seconds.
So in terms of what I want to play over these next months, it’s hard to say. I’m a real sucker for that whole Verve Remixed series, those really resonate with me. There’s just something beautifully transitional about them, where not only do you get Nina Simone, but you get her remixed by a DJ who knows what they’re doing. And that can just lead you into a whole different realm of where you’re going to go with your set. So I endlessly love those. And I also love that we have such a great collection of CDs by Low, who are a band that I really admire. Bands like that are almost like comfort food, you know? And Radiohead. I mean, my God, I just love them so much. So there’s going to be lots of that kind of stuff.
How important are the segues between songs to you? Is that part of the reason why you’re frantically picking tracks in the last 45 seconds?
Yeah, that’s really important to me. I just want to get lost in the set. You know, you’ve got a lot of stuff that you’re attending to, but if you can get on top of that and just listen, you kind of will know where to go because you’re just feeling it, you can hear the notes in your head. And, you know, sometimes it crashes into a wall. But many times it can be the most Zen practice I have in my life. I mean, really, if there is such a thing, that’s mine right there.