The Message

It's Alive

As the rest of us adapt to a relatively new century, Da Boogieman is holding tight to the previous one.

When Boog, who prefers to keep his given name under wraps, started in radio during the late '70s, he spun the black circle -- generally seven-inch 45s, but occasionally twelve-inch long-players as well. Today, during his evening turns at KOOL 105, Denver's most popular purveyor of rock oldies, he launches pre-selected, digitally stored songs using a touch-screen computer that tracks their progress to the second. Yet his exuberantly nasal delivery evokes the sound of decades past, and so does his fast-paced blather. "Coming up is Little Peggy March, and I mean little. She was only three inches high!" he declares one mid-June evening, illuminated in the black-and-white glow of a muted television airing the 1948 Cary Grant comedy Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.

Boog knows all about dream houses. He lost his own perfect pad at the dawn of the '90s, after being shown the door at another Denver station, KIMN, a year or two earlier. Unemployment also prompted a bankruptcy filing and a fiscal crisis so severe that he was forced to peddle his incredible collection of vintage vinyl. "I owned probably close to 3,000 albums and about 5,000 or 6,000 singles," Boog estimates. "The whole upstairs of my townhome in Littleton was lined with oak shelves, and I filled them to the brim with my music. Then the bottom fell out. It killed me to let them go, but I had to have some money, and it was the only thing I could do. It was just like selling a relative."

Da Boogieman stays upbeat.
Mark Manger
Da Boogieman stays upbeat.

His inability to land another radio post hurt even worse. For the better part of ten years, Boog made ends meet driving buses or tracking them as a supervisor for RTD. All the while, he fantasized about getting into the broadcasting booth again, even though he knew that jock jobs were drying up faster than Colorado reservoirs during the current drought. Corporations acquired thousands of stations around the country when he was out of radio, and in pursuit of more black ink, managers used technological advances such as voicetracking -- prerecorded segments that sound live but aren't -- to shear staff and shrink expenditures.

Under these circumstances, Da Boogieman had a better chance of winning American Idol than getting paid a decent sum to play "American Pie." Even so, he eventually executed the unlikeliest of comebacks. After toiling at two lower-profile outlets beginning in the late '90s, he signed up at KOOL in early 2002, and of late, he's revitalized the 7 p.m.-to-midnight weeknight slot. According to the latest Arbitron report, an interim update known in the industry as a "trend," Da Boogieman attracted more listeners between 25 and 54 -- KOOL's target demographic -- than any other personality or show in the city over the late-spring test period. In the age of Britney and Xtina, this balding, seriously rotund 56-year-old is the ratings equivalent of a love magnet.

Not that he's taking his renewed success for granted. "I think I'm part of a dying breed in a lot of respects -- still able to get by with my chitchat and pitter-patter," Boog says in a rare moment of melancholy. "I'm in a great place, so I shouldn't bitch. But the business has changed so much that part of me wonders how much longer there'll be room for me and what I do."

A Denver native, Boog was in elementary school when he first heard Little Richard's rendition of "Tutti-Frutti" -- an epochal moment for him. As pop music changed, he didn't. "I listened to Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul & Mary, but I liked songs that were more fun," he concedes. In 1965, the year Dylan went electric, Boog and another kid got into a fight at the Littleton Platter Parlor over the last copy of "Action," by Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon. "The lady at the store came over and said, 'Enough! Neither of you can have it!'" he recalls.

If this scrap sounds like a scene from director George Lucas's American Graffiti, so do Boog's teen years as a whole. While attending Englewood High School, for instance, he spent the money he earned as a sacker at Bi-Lo Groceries to soup up his dad's old Studebaker, which he used at area drag races. It's only appropriate, then, that following a stateside stint in the Army, he turned himself into Denver's version of Wolfman Jack, the raucous radio host who makes a cameo in Graffiti. In 1974, shortly after the movie's release, he started a mobile-DJ operation built upon what he calls "a Wolfman Jack shtick." This side project supplemented income he earned working at a plumbing company, a pizza parlor and a slew of other modestly salaried gigs.

Five years later, Boog was spending his nights howling at the moon and his days stringing cable for HBO when a friend suggested that he audition at long-gone KWBZ, which played oldies. Just prior to his on-air tryout, he saw a KC and the Sunshine Band album that included the hit single "I'm Your Boogie Man" and decided on the spur of the moment to appropriate the handle for himself. Within hours, Da Boogieman was hired, but he remained with HBO for another six months anyhow, convinced his good luck couldn't hold.

Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help