Henry Urick may have made his living in television and digital communications, but his heart has always belonged to radio.
Growing up in Middletown, Penn., Urick listened to stations like WLAC in Nashville, which played rhythm and blues at night. He was so blown away by the song “Stormy Monday Blues” by Bobby Blue Bland that he hitchhiked 20 miles to a record store to purchase it.
The record store clerk took one look at the 15-year-old Urick and shook her head. “What’s a boy like you doing, asking for a record by Bobby Blue?”
As it turns out, Urick was starting to build a collection of records that make up the incredible musical library aired daily on KHUG 97.5, which is available on radio and online.
The station, which is commercial-free, is broadcast from Urick’s 80-acre property in Castaic. Stationed on a ridgeline, 1,000 feet of transmission line connects the tower with a room converted in Urick’s home to house the rest of the equipment.
With Urick in semi-retirement from three decades in television broadcasting and syndication in Los Angeles and stations across the country, it’s a perfect time for him to focus on his original passion again.
The FCC license was a gift from his son, giving Urick the inspiration and the ability to launch KHUG in 2014. Urick’s early catalog formed the basis for KHUG’s rotation. Over the years, Urick has added to it to form a 2,600-song collection that rotates 24/7.
Genres range from blues to rock to funk to jazz to pop to country, with classic hits and deep cuts from artists like The Eagles, Steely Dan, Lynyrd Skynrd and Allman Brothers.
Urick selects each song individually. “If I like it, I play it,” he said. “It’s like building a collection of art. It’s just not on a wall, it’s rock and roll, so it’s a very funky art.”
Urick should know. He formed and played organ for The Intentions, a band that released “Don’t Forget That I Love You” on the Phillips label in 1967. The song made the “Bubbling 101” and put the Intentions on tour with popular acts, such as The Impressions and the O’Jays.
“There is an intoxication that develops about being on stage. I’ll never forget the power I felt,” he said.
He even got to know Curtis Mayfield on a first-name basis.
“The fact that he remembered my name was fascinating to me,” Urick said.
When Urick chose to go to college for business, with broadcasting as an elective, he chose the University of Mississippi because it was the in the middle of the Delta.
“That’s the home of the blues,” Urick said.
To this day, the blues scale of minor keys that Urick fell in love with as a teenager influences every song he chooses.
“Every time I get to a point where I think, ‘Gee, there aren’t any more songs,’ I find another source or treasure trove of material,” he said. “That’s one of the satisfying things about KHUG. Through the necessity of wanting to create a large library for my listeners, I’ve grown myself and learned more about music than I ever thought I would.”
KHUG started streaming online 11 months ago, and in the last 90 days, the station has been listened to by 10,000 unique listeners in 133 countries as far away as Russia, Australia, Indonesia, and the Netherlands.
“Rock and roll is about freedom and individuality, not about conformity, so let there be rock and roll in Russia,” Urick said.
That’s without any kind of marketing or promotion, which astonishes Urick.
“I have to say, I’m overwhelmed with emotion to see someone looking for this kind of music and finding it. I get emails every day from listeners and I’m like a little boy at Christmas every time I get an email,” he said. “I’m just so grateful.”
One of the things listeners love is that KHUG is commercial free. Urick underwrites all the programming.
“I’m adamant about that. We will never run commercials,” he said. “I know that streaming audio has very heavy competition and I just don’t think radio with commercials is a very good model anymore.”
Urick’s also passionate about promoting local bands, such as Theresa James and the Rhythm Tramps, and switching to all blues at 7 pm each evening.
“One person told me, ‘You certainly keep it interesting.’ That’s what I want to do. I don’t want it to become stale,” he said. “Music is something to get passionate about. It’s a wonderful way for people to feel emotion. It’s a fantastic gift to us all.”