Even though DJ George McFly has been on Colorado radio stations for more than a decade, he knows how fickle the industry is, even in good times -- which these most certainly aren't. As a result, he always resisted the urge to put down roots. But after being hired to work at KPTT/95.7 FM, a Clear Channel Denver outlet known as the Party, he finally gave in to temptation. "I bought a house in August," he says. "My first purchase after 25 years in radio. That's how confident I was. And then this happens."
"This" was becoming one of the more than twenty staffers at Clear Channel Denver outlets to be laid off on April 28. And while the latest dismissals represent the second significant bloodletting at the San Antonio-based firm's local cluster this year, McFly concedes that he didn't see it coming.
"Here's how arrogant I am in my talent," McFly says. "When I got called in at about 12:30 that day, I thought everyone was done getting fired. I thought I was being told I was safe.
"Remember Joe Pesci in Goodfellas?" he goes on. "Remember when he thought he was going to get made, and instead they killed him? It was just like that... My poor boss, Joe Bevilacqua [Clear Channel Denver's director of FM programming] was between a rock and a hard place. When he said there was nothing he could do, that's true. He didn't take any pleasure in it whatsoever."
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Not that McFly lets Clear Channel off the hook entirely. He feels the corporation as a whole is moving away from the sort of locally oriented, personality-driven radio in which he's specialized throughout his career in favor of syndication and voicetracking. "Wilks doesn't believe in voicetrackers; they hired on a fulltime staff," he notes, referencing Wilks Broadcasting, new owner of KOOL 105, The Wolf and The Mix. (The company's head, Jeff Wilks, was profiled in this January More Messages blog.) "Lincoln Financial [owner of KS-107.5, among other properties] still has personalities. Entercom [which owns Alice, The Mountain, KOSI and KEZW] still has personalities. But Clear Channel has another mindset" -- one he thinks will backfire. "My Denver listers, they're loyal and giving and smart -- smart enough to see through any bullshit, that's for sure, and smart enough to know when somebody's voicetracked. When somebody gives out the telephone number and there's no one there to answer it, my listeners know what's going on. They're not stupid."
Since the layoffs, rumors have swirled about the Party potentially flipping formats to a contemporary-hits-radio style like the one previously played on the 95.7 frequency under the KISS-FM banner. McFly doesn't know anything about that, but he doesn't believe the Party approach is long for this world. "It's a dirge," he maintains. "When I was in the office being let go, I said to Joe, 'How did we do in the [most-recent ratings] book?' And he said, 'Awful, George. Awful.' And how do you sell a station like that?"
McFly has made a habit of moving from one signal to another over the years. As he recalls, "I was at KS-107.5 for two years, '96 to '98. I was at KOOL 105 in 2002 and 2003. I was at Alice from 2003 to 2005. Then I went to the Springs for two years [his outlet was KVUU-FM]. And I came to the Party last May -- May 12. It hasn't even been a year."
Given his investment in the house, he'd like to stick around this market unless "someone blows me out of the water with an offer" -- and he thinks good things will happen. "When one door closes, another one opens," he says. Until then, he encourages fans to stay in touch with him at his personal e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org. "Everything's going to be all right," he stresses. "I'll make them smile again soon."