A Genuine KOOP Original – Scott Gardner

Posted on: March 15, 2024
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Scott started at KOOP when the station first went on the air in 1994. Now, after almost 30 years, Scott remains vibrant with his own show and has received the 2024 Silver Mic award for best programmer. We spoke on March 12.

Michael A. Brown: When the station opened in 1994, how did y’all get the word out that KOOP was on the air?

Scott Gardner: The very first thing I did as a volunteer was deliver flyers for one of our first events, a money-raiser, at the Continental Club. We also did lots of word-of-mouth promotion.

MAB: Talk about some of the early shows, including your own.

SG: I was one of the three original KOOP broadcasters, along with Jay Robillard and Bob Coleman. My Saturday night show was called The Garage Show, with focus on the ‘90s garage rock scene and also ’60s era garage rock, because I grew up in the ‘60s. Bob was my co-host and mentor. I say mentor because I had no prior radio experience and KOOP was too new to have a training program, so Bob guided and coached me. We did that for about a year and a half and then Bob started his own show called Commercial Suicide, which still airs on Sunday evenings. I re-named my show Stronger Than Dirt. Jay’s Lounge Show was the third of the originals, and it’s still on every Saturday morning.   

MAB: Some other KOOP shows have been on the air for a decade or more … what are the keys to their endurance?

SG: First, the stamina of the programmer and, second, the willingness to stick with it. In fact, Jay and I talked recently about how we’re still ”feeling it” in the sense that we still enjoy doing our shows. I’m still bringing something new every week and don’t feel burned out. Of course, it’s nice to feel support from our listeners, too. 

MAB: Do you hear from listeners who have been tuning-in to your show for a really long time? 

SG: Absolutely! Some actually have become my friends. For example, in the late 1990s, a couple … long-time listeners … contacted me and asked if I would DJ at their wedding. I politely declined, as they reminded me when we happened to see each other some years later. But I have to tell you another KOOP story … in 1979, I met a woman named Pascale at a UT coop and we dated for quite a while. But then we went our separate ways and she moved away. Then, unbeknownst to me, she moved back to Austin in the early ‘90s and she heard me on KOOP! I happened to be doing an anti-Valentines Day show and from that she surmised that I was unattached. So she dropped a nice card for me in my mailbox at the high school where I was teaching and that’s how we got back together. Now Pascale and I are married, and we thank KOOP. 

MAB: The station suffered studio fires in a previous location and one at the present site. How did everyone stay focused, stay on the air, and eventually recover during those times?

SG: The first two fires happened in our downtown location on 5th Street. The first caused mostly smoke damage and we were off the air for 2 or 3 days. But a month later, there was a catastrophic fire that destroyed the building. We got through it because of a few things … the encouragement and leadership of our station manager at the time, Amy Wright Daley, the goodwill of KMFA for allowing us to broadcast temporarily from their studio while we searched for a new location, excellent technical support from KOOP’s late Andrew Dickens and other hard-working volunteers, and of course the generous support of our listeners.

MAB: What was it like broadcasting your show, Stronger Than Dirt, during the pandemic?

SG: I hated having to pre-record my show because there’s nothing like the excitement and spontaneity of a live show. Being able to interact with the music and share emotions about the music and maybe even speak live with a call-in listener … hooray for live radio! But that said, KOOP’s tech team really came through for us during Covid. I was thrilled that we could still put shows out there for our listeners. And listeners told us they appreciated that.

MAB: You’re on the KOOP social media team … how do you recommend that programmers use the social media in conjunction with their shows?

SG: The best and most important use is to promote your show. Our younger programmers who are very comfortable with social media do promote their shows under the KOOP banner and some have their own social media presence as well. A couple of our older programmers promote regularly on social media, and I wish more would do the same.

MAB: What would you like to hear and see at KOOP as we approach our 30th year and beyond?

SG: I love the new programmers and new programs we’re getting. I would like to see more young programmers, say 40 years or under, plus more diversity, more people of color, more quality news and information shows, and more Spanish-language programming. But even with that wish-list, I must say the current program schedule is looking and sounding great!

You can enjoy Stronger Than Dirt with Scott Gardner every Saturday night at 8pm.

Interview by Michael A. Brown