Morgan Ragan and Dave “Deuce” Mason are the hosts of the popular “The Deuce & Mo Podcast,” which goes live after every Sacramento Kings game and major NBA events. It has 15,600 subscribers and can get more than 10,000 listeners an episode. (Photos by Terence Duffy)

The Power of Podcasting

Podcasts have become a popular media option in the Capital Region

Back Longreads May 20, 2024 By Scott Thomas Anderson

This story is part of our May 2024 issue. To subscribe, click here.

It’s a winter night as the NBA champions Denver Nuggets step into Golden 1 Center, ready to stomp the Sacramento Kings and extend a red-hot winning streak. And the game starts that way — until the Nuggets run into Malik Monk. The fiery shooting guard starts hitting baskets all over the paint. Then, with seconds on the first-quarter clock, Monk intercepts a pass and sinks a three-pointer from way beyond the arc. 

The crowd erupts.

Monk spurs the Kings into a game-long clinic on pick-pocketing and assassin-like shooting. As fans celebrate the win, a purple lance of light signals through the clouds, and many Kings fans know exactly where they’re going next — to the “Deuce & Mo” livestream. 

For weeks, hosts Dave “Deuce” Mason and Morgan Ragan have been arguing that Monk needs more playing time. Now, like-minded die-hards for the team are ready for a victory lap. 

“Monk gave them some juice tonight,” Mason stressed after the game. 

“Malik Monk, my goodness,” Ragan agrees, “can he just keep doing that?” 

Mason and Ragan have created a marquee sports podcast in the Capital Region. Ironically, they find themselves winning within independent media after coming up in traditional radio and television. They both got their starts as interns at Sports 1140 KHTK before proving their way up to various commentary jobs on GoodDay Sacramento and NBC Sports California.

But it wasn’t until the darkest days of the pandemic that the pair began to channel their lively personalities and extensive sports experience into something genuinely unique for Sacramento. Given the isolation back then, Mason and Ragan believed a Kings’ instant-reaction podcast could have a broad bonding effect.

“We thought, ‘Why not go live after every Kings game and see how it goes?’” Mason recalls. “It was a fun way to engage the audience at a time when everybody was at home.”

Ragan agrees. “I was hoping it was going to create a space for people to escape,” she adds. 

The show began launching after every game on YouTube, which allowed Kings fans to interact with the hosts, and each other, in real time via the platform’s live chat feed. Once that live show was recorded, Mason and Ragan would release it as an audio podcast.  

“I call our studio the confessional booth. Sometimes we’re getting the Kleenexes out. Podcasting really connects people in a unique way.”Jeff Holden, Owner, Hear Me Now Studios and Principal, MultiPoint Content Strategies

The Deuce & Mo show brings an online community of hundreds of listeners together, with Sacramentans discussing Kings action with fans as far afield as Australia and Thailand. As the team’s fortunes improved, the podcast really took off.

What had started as a dialogue recorded on a Macbook webcam in an apartment kitchen soon morphed into a highly produced endeavor that is recorded in a full-home studio with cameras, mixing boards, high-powered mics and stacks of Kings memorabilia. 

“The greatest part about it is that they’re choosing to come to us, but that means they’re also choosing to be together as a community,” Ragan says. “We’re just basketball junkies who enjoy talking to other basketball junkies.”

While Mason and Ragan are operating one of the most sleekly crafted podcasts in the region, the anything-goes medium also encompasses all kinds of local practitioners, from storytellers recording in their home offices to laughing exchanges recorded in band rehearsal rooms. 

Capturing the tales 

As Jeff Holden strolls by some cherry vintage radios lining his state-of-the-art studio, he knows that he’s lucky to be alive. 

A 35-year veteran of AM/FM radio stations, Holden wrangled talent for some of the most notable talk shows airing in Sacramento, all the while carrying a hidden, ticking time bomb inside his chest. In 2021, Holden’s rare and difficult-to-diagnose heart condition caused a near-fatal medical event.

Since then, he’s been hosting a podcast that focuses on awareness for his condition, a show he calls “Imperfect Heart.” For Holden, it’s a labor of love, but the main feature associated with his Hear Me Now Studios in Citrus Heights is crafting business and nonprofit-related podcasts that carry targeted messages far and wide. 

“If you want to start a podcast that’s your source of income, we’re not going to be the production studio for you,” Holden admits. “But if you’re a business, that can be a great alignment. The podcast can allow people to learn more about what you are, how you sound and how you deliver. It’s usually a personal thing — it’s usually people with a passion for something they want to get out there.”

The key to Hear Me Now’s success is raw storytelling: Holden’s team has proven that time and again. A powerful example is its work with the Capital Region Family Business Center. The studio produces a podcast for the trade organization called “Seat at the Table,” which captures the vivid and sometimes riveting oral histories of local business families.

The show has recorded in-depth conversations with everyone from Kevin Fat of the Frank Fat’s restaurant to Chris Benziger of Benziger Wines — though it’s one particular interview that has especially captured the public’s imagination. 

Last June, host Natalie Mariani Kling recorded a conversation with Stan Van Vleck, whose family has owned the massive Van Vleck Ranch, which sprawls Sacramento and Amador counties, for five generations. Stan found himself — sometimes reflectively, sometimes tearfully — recounting a drawn-out battle between him and his father about the future of the cattle operation. 

Holden’s team captured a similarly revealing account in a different podcast it produces called “Bite Sized Finance.” Hosted by Kelly Brothers, former KCRA and KFBK news anchor who is now a financial advisor for CAPTRUST, the show recorded the longform memories of restaurant trailblazer Randy Paragary in 2020. The Sacramento iconoclast passed away unexpectedly seven months later, making Holden thankful that Paragary’s story had been saved in his own words and voice. 

Even a Capital City culinary podcast that Holden’s studio puts out, “Dine One Six,” often features intimate discussions with local chefs. 

“I call our studio the confessional booth,” Holden says. “Sometimes we’re getting the Kleenexes out. Podcasting really connects people in a unique way.” 

Exploring lore 

Sporting his lucky Irish ball cap, Bobby Waller reaches for a pint inside Father Paddy’s Public House, a traditional Dublin-style pub that’s anchored in a 120-year-old Woodland bank. Waller, lead singer for the Celtic band Stout Rebellion, has been playing Thursday nights in this pub since 2021. 

 The venue is also directly connected to the storytelling Waller has been conjuring with his podcast, also called “Stout Rebellion.” The singer first envisioned the show as an appreciation for traditional folk songs, though it rapidly evolved into diving down historic rabbit holes that link American art to The Land of Saints and Scholars.

“These songs have such incredible histories,” Waller reflects. “And the further you dig, the truth gets so bizarre.”

Former broadcast executive Jeff Holden runs the Hear Me Now podcast studio in Citrus Heights with help from producer and sound designer Sawyer Milam.

These days, Waller is almost obsessed with researching the legacies of Celtic songs that Stout Rebellion often performs. The podcast is bolstered by Waller’s vibrant narrative abilities, along with recordings of his band playing whichever song is featured in the episode live at Father Paddy’s.  

One of Waller’s early outings revealed how the famed pub song “Whiskey in the Jar” was born from the same folkloric DNA as the sinister early jazz standard “Mac the Knife.” An unexpected tie-in Waller unpeeled in another episode involves how the Dropkick Murphys’ hit “Shipping Up to Boston” takes its lyrics from scribblings that a dying Woody Guthrie made some three decades before it became the theme to Martin Scorsese’s Irish gangster saga “The Departed.”         

“Hopefully the biggest takeaway is that Irish music is very diverse,” notes Waller, who records the podcast in a Sasquatch-themed studio on his Rio Linda farm. “It’s not monolithic.”

Waller is now focused on evolving the show.  

“The last three episodes were exploring the Irish pub and the purpose it serves in Ireland and all over the world,” Waller explains. “And the very last episode was about three bands who all play here at Father Paddy’s — all of whom have also written songs about Father Paddy’s.”     

Politics for real people 

Nick Brunner has a well-known voice in the City of Trees. It’s so recognizable, in fact, that as he orders coffee in a downtown cafe, he’s immediately approached by Terra Lopez and Nicholas Suhr of the hybrid R&B-electronic band Rituals of Mine, formerly called Sister Crayon. They want to talk Sacramento music — and Brunner knows Sacramento music.  

After spending 16 years elevating regional performers through shows at Capital Public Radio, Brunner has earned a great deal of trust from artists and art patrons alike. Now, he’s bringing that trust to a new frontier via podcasting. Brunner just completed a six-part exploratory podcast series on what is arguably the most dire political topic in Sacramento: the housing crisis.  

“I’ve always resisted the title of journalist,” Brunner acknowledges. “I feel like I didn’t have any business being one, but I’ve always been journalism-adjacent.”

Despite his modesty, Brunner is known by peers for his strong media literacy and great communication instincts. That’s why the nonprofit Solving Sacramento journalism collaborative tapped him to act as host and producer for its “Housing in the Capital” podcast series. The offer came weeks after financial turmoil at Capital Public Radio caused Brunner to be laid off, much to the bewilderment of fans and donors. 

Each “Housing in the Capital” episode brings together two individuals working on the front line of Sacramento’s affordability meltdown. Some of the guests are elected officials, while others are developers, tenant experts or nonprofit specialists. Brunner, who has a deep understanding of audio storytelling but isn’t overly steeped in policy jargon, strives to keep the conversation from going too far into the bureaucratic weeds.    

“Sometimes the exchanges start going into a direction where, if I’m not a state worker and I’m tangentially interested in the idea of housing, I’m not going to know what that is they just mentioned,” Brunner explains. “I’ll start asking questions from the audience and the listeners’ perspective to keep it from becoming too insider.”  

Brunner is currently in production on a new Solving Sacramento political podcast series called “Equity in the Capital.”

Hometown kids 

Sam Fabila and Keith White love driving a pickup through the reaching ranchlands of Amador County. They’re both country boys through and through — and that is why they’re celebrating rural living with their podcast “Never Too Late.” 

The pair are deeply entwined in the ranch land experience. White, who grew up in Amador, is part owner of a local business, Safeguard Pest Control; a long-time 4H parent and a member of the Plymouth City Council. Fabila, who spent years working as a correctional officer at Ione’s historic Preston Youth Authority, is now the main horse-shoer, or farrier, for the county’s many stables and corrals. And both men play rock music together in a band called The Phamily.

They started their podcast in October of 2022 because there wasn’t a conversational show about the everyday struggles, friendships, developments and community triumphs of Amador. 

“We wanted to just start talking about things like a new restaurant that’s popped up or a new music venue that’s opened, or tell people, ‘Hey, there’s a new band out there,’” recalls Fabila. “We’re starting to have guests on sometimes, but I think the episodes that have been really interesting are the ones where Keith and I are just BS-ing. The friendship is there — and the podcast has really gone off of that.” 

“Never Too Late” is recorded in an upstairs band rehearsal room in White’s house. Each episode is filled with loose, hyper-local dialog, stories, anecdotes, memories and plenty of downhome name-dropping. White has been surprised about who’s been downloading the show, which includes everyone from supporters of his political career to his daughters’ peer group, Amadorians who are all in their early 20s.

“My part in this podcast involves being born and raised here, and living here my whole life,” White reflects, “and how I still love the fact that I’ve been able to raise my kids here.”

That’s a sentiment Fabila agrees with. “I don’t think you will find a better group of people anywhere,” he says. 

Here Are Some Other Notable Podcasts Around the Capital Region

Scott Hanson and Pat McClain’s “Money Matters” podcast is the granddaddy of all podcasts in the Capital Region. It started more than 25 years ago and is one of the longest-running financial talk radio programs in the U.S. Headquartered in Folsom, the financial duo launched it as part of Hanson McClain, an investment advisory firm, before switching the name of their company to Allworth Financial in 2019. It’s a weekly call-in format with Hanson and McClain having answered thousands of financial questions over the years. You can hear it locally on KFBK at 10 a.m. on Saturday and also Apple, Google and Spotify.

“The Mark Haney Show” began in 2015 in Rocklin. Haney says it’s a “business leadership platform focused on lighting the entrepreneurial revolution.” Haney interviews Northern California’s most notable millionaires, billionaires and startup founders from his studio in Rocklin. Hear it on Apple, iHeart and Spotify.

“The Connection Point,” hosted on Comstock’s website and YouTube, features host Charley Ansbach interviewing entrepreneurs and investors in the Capital Region.

“Comstock’s Talks” is our podcast that features an in-depth interview with a person or persons featured in one of our print stories each month. The March Women in Leadership podcast recorded live at the new Jacquelyn private club during Comstock’s Women in Leadership event has an interesting collection of women leaders talking about their fears, successes, apprehensions and what they do in their free time. Plus, it has insight on what went on behind the scenes in our fun photo shoot. Find it on our website.

“SacTown Talks” goes in depth on issues going on at the state Capitol and in our region. Host Jarhett Blonien, an attorney, talks to lawmakers, community leaders and policy makers to get insight into what goes on Under the Dome. On YouTube and Apple podcasts.

True crime podcasts fueled a revolution in the medium. “Serial” debuted in 2014 and was downloaded a stunning 340 million times, while “Dirty John” launched in 2017 and had 10 million downloads in six weeks. Locally, Scott Thomas Anderson, the writer of our podcast story, recently completed a year-long project called “Trace of the Devastation.” The podcast, in chilling detail, follows not one but two serial murder crime sprees in Calaveras County. Charles Ng and Leonard Lake killed between 11-25 people at a remote cabin in the 1980s while the so-called “Speed Freak Killers,” Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine, were convicted of four murders and suspected of 72 more in the late 1990s. Anderson, a crime reporter, grew up in Calaveras County and talks to the homicide detective and other locals who lived through the terror of that time.

To find out more about what’s going on around our region, Sacramento County has an eponymous podcast on Apple, as does Visit Sacramento on Apple and Spotify.

–Judy Farah, editor

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