The Real Sound of Rural Nevada
Radio Goldfield broadcasts its distinct voice to the world.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY JIM PRICE
“This is KGFN, Radio Goldfield, the Voice of the Old West!”
Chances are if you live in central Nevada or have driven through the area on U.S. Highway 95, you’ve probably heard, or at least heard of, Radio Goldfield. It’s about the only signal on the FM radio dial for many miles. And regardless of where you live, you can hear Radio Goldfield on the internet. How did it come to pass that there’s a broadcast radio station in Goldfield, of all places?
It all started in April 2005 when Goldfield resident and former broadcaster Rod Moyes decided to start a radio station. He put some equipment together and Radio Goldfield hit the airwaves on 106.3 FM.
Fast forward a bit, to Dusty Fender and Carl and Patty Brownfield. Dusty and his partner Lou ran Dusty Fender’s Grill & Fill gas station and restaurant in town, and he had a background in broadcast engineering. Carl and Patty lived in Las Vegas but had property in Goldfield where they spent most weekends. Carl—a taxi driver in Las Vegas with a thousand interesting stories—and Dusty hit it off.
“The Carl & Dusty Radio Boogie” was born in 2006. They did a live, two-hour show on Saturday evenings playing a variety of country, folk, and bluegrass music interspersed with local bits that featured Goldfield’s residents. The show ran for three years—almost 200 episodes in all.
CHANGING THE DIAL
All this time, however, Radio Goldfield was operating as an unlicensed “pirate” radio station. In March 2009, the Federal Communications Commission sent agents to the station and shut it down.
At this time, the FCC was not accepting applications for new radio stations, but Rod decided to appeal the shutdown notice and applied for a construction permit. His plight was heard up the chain of command within Nevada, and then-U.S. Senator Harry Reid intervened, and ordered the FCC to issue a construction permit to Radio Goldfield Broadcasting Inc., and to make Radio Goldfield a reality. By summer 2009, the station was back on the air.
In August 2010, Rod Moyes left Goldfield, with Dusty following soon thereafter. The radio station went dark once again. Carl and Patty, who by then were full-time residents of Goldfield, stepped up to the plate.
“We formed a board of directors for Radio Goldfield Broadcasting. We got a license from the FCC, and in March 2011, KGFN was officially on the air at 89.1 FM,” Carl says.
The studio was constructed in a building along Highway 95, across the street from the famous Goldfield Hotel. A 150-watt transmitter and antenna were installed atop Columbia Mountain which is the most obvious topographic feature near Goldfield. Initially all of the programming was done on a computer in town and brought up the mountain.
“That arrangement was impractical,” says Carl, “so all station operations are done in the studio and sent to the transmitter via a studio-to-transmitter Link.”
Local engineer Ron Payne has made all of this radio magic work and keeps the station on the air.
BROADCAST TO THE WORLD
The little station that could has expanded out of its Goldfield borders in recent years. In 2018, Carl and Patty were able to obtain use of a translator license in Hawthorne, broadcasting on 92.1 FM. In 2019, the station’s power was increased to 1000 watts, thus expanding the listening area considerably. The signal is solid in Tonopah and can easily be heard for miles to the west toward Coaldale Junction, and to the north toward Round Mountain, and in 2020, the KGFN signal came on the air in Beatty on 99.5 FM.
Carl programs the station with state-of-the-art broadcasting software, such that it can run unattended. The programming still focuses largely on folk, bluegrass, and country. But there are many themed programs, some done by locals (Madame Edie, Sherry Huffman, Chris Wagonseller, Dave and Patty Beth, and others). Some programs sent in by announcers from various parts of the country, featuring oldies-but-goodies, country, blues, and many other types of music.
“I still do a weekly live show—the “Carlshopshow”—every Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. We have now done nearly 400 episodes,” says Carl.
Patty emcees the weekly “Old Time Radio Theater” program that features the pre-television radio shows that were so popular in the 1930s and 1940s, such as “The Shadow,” “Sherlock Holmes,” and some that made it to TV like “Gunsmoke.”
One of the key features of KGFN’s programming is the community calendars presented throughout the day for Hawthorne, Tonopah, Goldfield, and Beatty. If you need to know when the town council is meeting, what’s for lunch at the senior center, or where to get vaccinated, you can find out with just a listen. Patty is the point person for the calendar.
“I’m proud we can provide this type of community service,” she says.
If you’re outside the listening areas mentioned, you can stream the programming on the KGFN website. KGFN.org includes a detailed list of all of the programs, and with one click on “Favorite Links” you can get acquainted with some of the singers who often appear on the station. Of note is Richard Elloyan who wrote the song “40 Miles of Famous.” His lyrics portend is that if he has a hit record on KGFN it will be possible to hear it for 40 miles along Highway 95. That song is definitely in the Radio Goldfield mix.
No article about Radio Goldfield is complete without mentioning Don Heath, also known as “Tumble B. Weed.” Don provides many hours of programming each week and intersperses it with considerable amounts of humor. If you know anything about Goldfield, you know that burros are all around, and sometimes, in town. KGFN does indeed have a burro logo, and a character named Leon the weather burro, Don’s brainchild.
BEHIND THE SCENES
KGFN is a licensed non-commercial FM broadcast station. All such stations have to raise funds in order to operate, and while commercials are not allowed, shoutouts to businesses and people who support the station are frequent. Carl and Patty also built and operate the Goldfield Opera House which just happens to be in the same building as the radio studio. A number of artists, many of whom are featured on the radio station, have performed live in this acoustically fine venue.
What makes this station almost singularly unique is that it is not just rebroadcasting a satellite feed from some mindless automated set of digital music files from who-knows-where. The variety of music speaks for itself, and it’s all carefully honed by Carl and his cadre of announcers. Radio Goldfield demonstrates that community service combined with an eclectic music mix is still a viable combination for a radio station.
When you pass through Goldfield, make sure to tune in, check what’s coming up at the Opera House, and by all means say hi to Leon the weather burro. He loves having his picture taken, with or without you in it!
Radio Goldfield KGFN 89.1
P.O. Box 57
Goldfield, NV 89013-0057
“Madame Edie” on Radio Goldfield
Edie and Richard Koepnick have been fulltime residents of Goldfield and listeners of KGFN for a number of years. They have always enjoyed having a radio station in town, and Edie got an idea for a radio show and pitched it to Carl Brownfield, the station program director.
Owning a large personal CD collection, her idea was to feature the early days of country music in the U.S. for an hour each week. Some names that come to mind are Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Snow, and Kitty Wells. She would call her program “Madame Edie’s Early Country Music Show.” Carl took her up on it.
Why “Madame Edie?” Well, she and Richard own and are restoring a historic building in Goldfield that was a brothel back in the day. And, of course, the lady who ran the business was the madame.
Edie records her show in her a corner of a bedroom at their home. Mastering the programming software provided by Carl, Edie weaves together early country songs and commentary, passing along her considerable knowledge of the music. Her program airs at 8 a.m. local time on Fridays and is repeated a few times the following week.
“Carl had only three ground rules for me: no gossip, no politics, and no cussin’. I must admit that I have stage fright sometimes,” Edie says. “But I get a lot of nice comments from listeners, so it’s all worth the effort.”