KCSB’s graveyard shift can be dark and lonely. But when the usually dead phone starts flashing, begging to be picked up, the KCSB control room isn’t so lonely anymore. A nasally voice, a diabolical laugh and a few words are on the other end of the line. All signs point to The Graveman.
The KCSB control room is a small, seemingly boring room — yet is the center of the eclectic music you can tune into at all hours of the day, the epicenter of the array of DJs that call KCSB “home.” In the middle of the night, it’s quiet besides the sound of a DJ’s voice or the songs they are playing. And, in the middle of the night, they might be their only listener.
The Graveman, Dave from the Grave, David Schoof was an avid KCSB fan and is part of the reason why the nighttime DJs continued. A music fan through and through, he passed away in early 2023, but his KCSB legacy (as a true radio listener) lives on. This story is a collection of memories of Dave from the Grave from his sister Nancy Pludé, KCSB advisor Ted Coe, DJ Bryan D. Brown, DJ Hobart, DJ Darla Bea, DJ Colin Marshall and DJ Carlotta.
You’re a first-time KCSB DJ and have been given the “graveyard shift,” like every other DJ that has preceded you. You’ve heard it’s a rite of passage, so you drag yourself out of bed (or maybe you haven’t even slept yet) and get yourself over to Storke Tower. There you are, planted in front of a microphone from 4 a.m.-6 a.m., looking down at a very daunting control panel just waiting to trip you up.
Don’t mess up, don’t mess up, don’t mess up. And, if all of this wasn’t enough to make you rethink being a radio DJ, the black phone behind you begins flashing a red light, almost like an SOS signal. Who is calling at 5 a.m.? Alone in the station, a red flash has to trigger some sense of fear within you. You pick up the phone, hope it’s not a creepy old man from who-knows-where and take a breath …
A diabolical laugh, accompanied by “Hey hey! It’s Dave from the Grave!” greets you on the other line. A short word of encouragement or constructive criticism heads your way and then, “Laters!” and a click. Just like the red light, he is gone in a flash, and you are back alone in the dark radio room. Except, with the new knowledge that somebody is listening, the middle of the night under Storke Tower doesn’t seem quite as lonely anymore.
Before The Graveman
Dave from the Grave, known to non-KCSB folks as David Schoof, listened to KCSB more than anybody else did. If you were on the radio, there was a good chance you would get a call from him. If your show was in the middle of the night, even better. If it involved head-banging, face-melting playlists, the best.
“It wasn’t just background noise to him. David was really paying attention … He could interact with the programmers and students,” Pludé said.
He was a child of the ‘70s and a teenager of the ‘80s, an avid punk-rock fan, animal lover, black coffee drinker, pool shark, air guitar connoisseur and TV jingle finisher.
Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Slayer, Whitesnake, Journey and Judas Priest were the bands that shaped Schoof’s music taste, one that undoubtedly led him to find KCSB. But Schoof never had a “favorite” song. Or, at least, never let anybody know which song was his true favorite. Music was a driving force in his life, and he once became a security guard with his friends just to see Pink Floyd perform in L.A. He loved Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy,” and even attempted to get it tattooed. Except, much to Schoof’s dismay, his friend had tattooed “Gyspy” forever onto him.
He loved horror movies, created models of scary creatures and loved black. His nice outfits consisted of a black shirt, pants, hat and tie — complete with a skull ring and a dragon bracelet.
Despite this seemingly intense “Prince of Darkness” appearance, Schoof was incredibly caring and sweet and found a calling in homecare. Homecare is what brought him to his discovery of KCSB.
Being a caregiver, Schoof’s life quickly turned into an isolated one. So, during the times when whoever he was caring for was asleep, Schoof could turn to the radio to keep him company and fill in quiet lulls at night. The timeline of finding KCSB matched up with his beginning to care for his mom, hence the middle-of-the-night calls. It is unclear how he came across KCSB but, once he did find it, it had a pull on him.
“He had a very active, quick mind, so he wasn’t one to listen to the same songs over and over again …” Pludé said. “He wasn’t one for many words, but he knew how to be there for people on the station and he liked getting his songs played.”
Sometimes he would even request songs for other people — once he requested one for his brother-in-law and advised him to turn on KCSB to catch it. He was KCSB’s personal advertiser.
Schoof drove through the night in a car with blue, neon mood lights, tapping along and listening to the music (hopefully something head-thrashing or featuring that of the great Ozzy Osbourne).
Inventing The Graveman
Now that Schoof had discovered KCSB, there was still a period between just listening and being an active radio personality — except on the other side of the call. He was the inverse of a DJ, but still a central figure to KCSB. This was the birth of The Graveman as the KCSB community knows him to be.
The origins of The Graveman trace back years before KCSB ever became a part of Schoof’s life. He would send stick figure drawings with a pitchfork to Pludé, had dragon and skull tattoos all over and even went so far as to name his baby Halen (after Van Halen). Everybody knew him as The Graveman.
The Graveman eventually became “Dave from the Grave,” a name so familiar to the KCSB community that every DJ who contributed to this story said the same thing about him: he embodied what KCSB is.
“It occurred to me — he was the inverse of a radio personality. He’s the listener, but he had a radio name — Dave from the Grave. He had a secret identity,” Coe said.
“For somebody with a creepy nickname, he was the least creepy person,” Bea said.
The Graveman digging up KCSB
Schoof would call the station so frequently that just his nasally voice would be an immediate clue who was calling in the middle of the night. DJs eventually could tell that a 5 a.m. phone call must mean Dave from the Grave was on the other end. He began to create an inner circle in UC Santa Barbara’s radio community: DJs who regularly got calls from him were the lucky ones and those who didn’t desperately wanted to have their own story of Dave from the Grave. As years passed, more and more DJs had something to share about Schoof. He had established his own radio personality, despite never actually being on air.
“If he didn’t call when you were programming, you were like ‘Wait what’s going on? Is he okay?’” Carlotta said.
“I think he really reminded us that the community of KCSB isn’t always about what’s behind the microphone. That it often is about who’s listening to you, and that community is always really, really important. Dave really took to that, man. He had his own nickname. What listener goes by ‘Dave from the Grave’ except somebody who’s really embracing that?” Brown said.
Hobart remembers that Schoof would call him on almost every single one of his shows, even after he moved to a morning slot. It would start with small positive feedback but then move to advice, song requests, upcoming concert dates that Hobart could announce. Schoof had stakes in all the shows he called in to.
“Towards the end of my show, he would call up and he would give me dates of concerts that I could announce. And then I would always announce those on my show, which was helpful,” Hobart said.
As for Bea, who has made being a radio personality her full-time job, she did not know if she could have continued through the middle of the night without Schoof.
“I said to Ted [Coe], I don’t think I would have continued if I didn’t have that encouragement and listenership knowing that one person was listening.”
Being in a dark room in the middle of the night, seemingly doing the show not for others, but for the love of being part of the radio, all of the DJs recalled what it felt like when Schoof called.
“Just from the beginning, Dave from the Grave would call all DJs. They felt heard because you have no idea who’s listening during that time” Carlotta said.
Pursuing The Graveman
One DJ chased Dave from the Grave, desperately trying to unveil his mysterious image, but failed. Marshall chronicled his pursuit of Schoof in three articles published in the Santa Barbara Independent in 2010: “Listening Through the Graveyard.”
“If you wanted to call him, it was a real production … I had to call him a bunch of times just to get material to quote from him … I had to wait for him to call me and then propose to do an article about him. I’d have to wait to talk to him a few times … Eventually, I had a few good minutes with him on the phone where he could explain his story listening to KCSB … It probably would have just been one piece if I had an easier time wrangling him onto the phone.”
Carlotta had been taking an art class during the time she would receive calls from Schoof. She had an assignment to make a video project and chose Schoof as her topic.
“I just thought he was unique and special and brought the community together. We all knew this person, but nobody ever saw him,” Carlotta said.
Her video is a tribute to Schoof, bringing together KCSB DJs at the time to share their own Dave from the Grave stories. And, even amidst the wide array of DJs, Carlotta noticed one intertwining thing: Dave from the Grave called everybody, and made everybody feel special.
As radio personalities are only distinguishable by their voices, these DJs had never seen what Schoof looked like, nor did they particularly want to. With the exception of DJ Jeff Matson, who managed to meet him while delivering a T-shirt, Dave from the Grave remained a faceless voice and a maniacal “muahaha” laugh.
“It may have been part of his mystique as a listener that he didn’t want to blow it,” Brown said.
“I don’t know what he looks like and I don’t ever want to know what he looks like. He was the guy that was on the phone that was calling me,” Hobart said.
Remembering The Graveman
Some of the DJs mentioned finally seeing what he looked like after he had passed away, or when he friended them on Facebook. Dave from the Grave was of Latin American descent, with long hair dyed blue at the ends. He sprouted a beard and mustache. Some expected him to look like that and others did not. The faceless graveyard ghost finally had a face.
The last story is the story of the wind chime. Outside the KCSB office, under Storke Tower, is a tree, and a wind chime with fairies once hung on it. Around 20 years ago, Schoof had sent someone to hand deliver a card (with a donation inside) and the wind chime. Coe still has the broken wind chime, a lasting concrete piece of Schoof’s legacy on KCSB.
“When we would do our general staff meetings, we would look out on the 100-200 people who were part of the program and I’d be like, ‘Man this is like the island of lost toys.’ Where else besides KCSB would these people be gathered together? I think Dave personified that in the listenership as well,” Brown said.
And, as Dave from the Grave knew well, a call-in could never be a long conversation. He understood how the radio worked, and what the DJs wanted.
“I liked talking to him. It was never a long conversation, you can never have a long conversation when you were on the air, but I was happy when he called every time,” Hobart said.
Despite his shadowy and mysterious nature, Coe managed to get The Graveman to record a station ID for KCSB. Although the ID has since been lost, the mere fact that it existed solidifies Schoof’s membership in KCSB’s history and community. There seems to be no better person to call into the “graveyard” shift than Dave from the Grave, KCSB super-listener and the epitome of the eclectic station.