Celebrating 40 Years of Gus Mozart on KHSU

Feb 9, 2018

Russ Cole, aka Gus Mozart, on H Street in Arcata circa 1978
Credit Russ Cole

 [UPDATE: Show posted below] 

KHSU listeners first heard young Russ Cole in the pre-dawn haze of Nov. 11 1976 as a studio guest. Few have a longer relationship with KHSU than Russ Cole, now known on-air as Gus Mozart. 

He celebrated his 40th anniversary of his own KHSU airshift on Monday's Music Box featuring vintage recordings (listen below) and songs from his first years on KHSU.  

Russ/Gus is a meticulous archivist: in addition to hundreds of hours of KHSU recordings spanning five different decades, he says he has every single playlist from 1978 onward. 

After that guest-hosting that show with Peter Krakow in 1976, the radio bug bit. Hard. By 1977 he was taking radio production courses at Humboldt State.

Getting on the air in those days was more complicated than today: you had to study for an FCC test, then you had to drive to San Francisco and take it.

"The FCC offices were in the Federal Building, which was tall, gray, and imposing. I remember it was cold and raining that day, and I barely passed. The old guy who went over the test said, "I think you've got it. I won't double-check your answers." It was tough. You had to have a good grasp of math and calculate things based on meter readings and whatnot. I received my pale orange license in the mail at the beginning of February. It was issued on Feb. 2nd. I was excited - because now I could have my own shift."

Russ Cole (left) with Allen Toussaint

His first KHSU program was called "Bamboo Episode," and he used his real name. Gus Mozart emerged in 1980. 

Access to music to music was much more limited than in today's era of torrented downloads and Spotify playlists. Being involved with a radio station opened huge musical doors. From that first year, he says: 

There were several songs that I seemed to favor over the span of that year. I can see the evolution of my expanding musical tastes, as I was exposed to more music. I remember spending a lot of time going through the entire LP library, looking for albums and artists that I was unfamiliar with. We still have many of those treasures!

His love of music doesn't stop at the studio door. Cole is highly regarded as a live sound engineer, having toured extensively with musicians such as Richard Thompson & Wilco's Nels Cline. 

Russ's radio endurance is matched only by Tom Cairns, who started on KHSU in 1972. The pair can be heard back to back Monday nights here on KHSU. 

Halimah the Dreamah, another KHSU veteran, says of Russ: 

Russ is a DJ's DJ. He loves music, all kinds of music from blues and folk to rock and jazz and even world. Russ has an incredible ear, so he glides along with perfect segues from one song to another As a sound engineer, he has traveled with the best. He's had opportunities few of us have had and doors have opened to him because he in engaged. And Russ is a great person. I learn so much from him, especially when we find ourselves in the hallway at KHSU. An hour later we bid adieu. 

So as we salute a person who's contributed so much to the musical fabric of our community, let's listen to [warning: radio jargon ahead] an aircheck from DJ Russ Cole, circa 1978. 

In the words of Halimah the Dreamah, "Congratulations, Russ, for bringing us your voice, your uniqueness and your love for the past 40 years!"