VALLEJO – One day in 2007, Ozcat radio founder David Martin and a dozen DJs were setting up the station’s new Georgia Street building in central Vallejo when they heard a knock at the door.
“I opened the door and a guy walks in, holds his badge up and says ‘FCC,’” Martin said, laughing. “Every one of those DJs - out the back door. It was just so funny to see them scatter like it was a drug bust.”
Ozcat was launched as a pirate station on June 6, 2006, by Martin and his then-wife Katie Martinelli. They were inspired to take command of the airwaves after Martin was denied airplay for his 2004 single, “Anyway,” from every Bay Area station he contacted, despite that the song made R&R Magazine’s Top 40. The couple wanted to make it easier for other musicians to get local exposure and support.
Martin told the Federal Communications Commission agent, “We are at war,” citing an exemption of FCC rules allowed during a state of emergency. No other station was covering Vallejo events. The Fairfield station announced it was “broadcasting to Napa,” during station breaks, and named every place in its range except Vallejo.
“That infuriated me,” Martin said. “I told that to the FCC and they said ‘You can broadcast, you just can’t broadcast on 104.9’.”
Ozcat switched to an Internet-only format during their three-and-a-half-year wait for an FCC license, which was finally approved in late 2009.
Now broadcasting with full FCC approval as KZCT, 89.5 FM, the eclectic, all-volunteer nonprofit station plays music styles as diverse as the Vallejo community. Ozcat DJs are never told what to play. Live event broadcasts range from the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, to Vallejo Symphony concerts and Vallejo minor league baseball games.
True to its mission, Ozcat has helped launch the careers of many local artists. The station’s first interview was with Grammy Award-winning star and Vallejo native H.E.R., then known as Gabi Wilson, when she was eight years old.
Vallejo natives Nef the Pharaoh, Yhung T.O. of SOB x RBE and Symba, who hails from Oakland, were guests of Marcel “DJ Flashback” Jones on his “Underground Slapz” show at the dawn of their musical careers.
“It's always so humbling when artists come in and get their music played for the first time,” Jones said. “Those those are the ones that you remember because it's something big for them.” “Underground Slapz” airs on Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Ozcat plays much more than music. Laura “DJ La La” Mullet’s “Art Beat” show on Thursday mornings features interviews with local artists, authors and poets. Vallejo author Nina Serrano interviews local writers and Benicia Poet Laureate Emeritus Tom Stanton co-hosts readings by local poets like Jeff Kingman and Vallejo Poet Laureate Emeritus D. L. Lang. Famed Beat poet Q.R. Hand Jr. was a regular on the show prior to his death in 2020.
Actor and comedian Angela Marie first became aware of Ozcat when she appeared as a guest of Ozcat DJ Erika Blue a decade ago and now hosts two shows of her own. Marie kicks off Wednesday mornings with “The A.M. Hustle,” featuring upbeat jams, lively conversation and interviews. She interviewed Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn in 2021 about their kidnapping ordeal and the botched Vallejo police investigation.
When Marie contacted Quinn, she assured him she wouldn’t ask the same questions that all the news stations asked, but only wanted to give the couple an opportunity to tell their story. “It was a great interview,” Marie said.
Other notable guests Marie has hosted are the Baylor Project, a Grammy-nominated husband-wife team she describes as “Jazz with a Christian spin,” and her friend Erik "Blu2th" Griggs, a music producer who works with Dr. Dre.
Throughout its history, Ozcat has tried to foster a culture of inclusiveness. DJ Billy “I and I” Innes has been at Ozcat for about 11 years. He said the diverse Ozcat crew represents a microcosm of America, with musical tastes that embrace everything: jug bands, hip-hop, electronic dance music, jazz and classical. The crew’s political spectrum ranges from far-left Marxists to MAGA flag-wavers.
“The amazing thing about it,” Innes says, “you can still have a barbecue at that place for the entire crew and everybody gets along. It’s what America could be like if we had music as our common denominator.”
Innes credits Martin and Martinelli for creating an atmosphere that welcomes a wide spectrum of personalities and beliefs. “Actions are as important as whatever belief somebody carries in his or her head, and the actions that come through down at that station pretty much embody kindness and respect for one another.”
Martin said that his and his wife’s experience as an interracial couple led them to emphasize inclusiveness. “That’s the way me and her rolled as a mixed couple,” Martin said. “We were tuned in to people having the rights to say certain things. We had guidelines, but we let people be who they wanted to be.”
Martin and Martinelli are now amicably divorced. Martin has relocated to Yuma, Arizona, where he’s starting up another community radio station, KIZY.
Ozcat radio broadcasts as KZCT, 89.5, FM, streaming on TuneIn Radio, and at its website ozcatradio.com.
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Ozcat Radio
- David Martin
- Katie Martinelli
- Federal Communications Commission
- Nef the Pharoah
- Yhung T.O.
- SOB x RBE
- Marcel Jones
- Laura Mullet
- Nina Serrano
- Tom Stanton
- Jeff Kingman
- D.L. Lang
- Q.R. Hand Jr.
- Angela Marie
- Erika Blue
- Denise Huskins
- Aaron Quinn
- The Baylor Project
- Erik Griggs
- William Innes
Gretchen Zimmermann started volunteering with Vallejo Open Studios in 2010, launched the Vallejo Arts and Entertainment website in 2014 and creates mixed media sculpture at Mare Island Art Studios.
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