This week marks the return to Denver radio of Kendall B, who's now helming the morning show for old-school R&B station JAMMIN 101.5. And while he's very excited about the new opportunity and upbeat about being back on the airwaves in the Mile High City, he wants to make sure his history at KS-107.5, where he teamed with Larry and Kathie J on a mega-successful morning show for fifteen years, isn't overlooked, as he makes clear in the following conservation.
In a June interview, Larry Ulibarri said Kendall had left KS-107.5 this past January because of a desire to relocate to his native California; he's originally from Los Angeles. Kendall disputes that account, and he also feels his contributions should have been mentioned in the context of a subsequent post about Blazin' Hit Radio, Larry and Kathie J's online radio station, sponsored by the Green Solution dispensary chain, and a profile of new KS-107.5 morning team Tony V, Cedes and DJ Chonz.
Below, Kendall sets the record straight in addition to revealing the details of his latest gig, which will find him broadcasting for JAMMIN 101.5 from Denver, Cali and points unknown. Here's what he had to say:
Westword: I understand that you were a bit frustrated by some of our recent posts about the old and new KS-107.5 morning shows.
Kendall B: I think the first article mentioned me, and the second one did. But after that, it was just mentioning two people, Larry and Kathie J. And I thought to myself, I'm definitely an important part of the legacy of what that show was. It wasn't just two people. There were three main people on the show. A couple of producers came in and out, but mainly, it was us three.
We're probably going to be tied together as far as Denver radio listeners are concerned, like Mark and Brian in L.A. But I don't want the legacy of that to be missed on me, because I feel I was a very important part of that particular show.
How did you first get interested in radio?
I actually started liking radio when I was five years old. My mom and dad bought me an old, red Radio Shack tape recorder, and I started recording my voice. That started my radio bug. I used to listen to Rick Dees in L.A. and shows like that. They really kind of gave me my inspiration to be on the radio. Then, as I got older, I started recording announcements for my high school in the mornings — little playback announcements. That kind of got my juices going, and when I looked at doing this professionally, I looked for a good school to do it. And I chose Syracuse, or they chose me. They let me in, which I'm very happy about.
They have a very good journalism school, and they also have some radio stations — and when I went hunting for them, I went to the wrong one. The one where all the big sportscasters like Mike Tirico were on is WAER, but I went to WJPZ, which was the student-run music station. And when I walked in there, I thought, This is home. I started there and worked my way up the ranks and was there all four years I was at Syracuse.
After I graduated, it took me about a year to get my first full-time radio gig, in Greensboro, North Carolina. I got a job at 102 Jamz. The program director called me and said, 'Hey, I've got an opening for someone doing overnights. Do you want to come?' And I flew from L.A. to Greensboro by myself. I had never been to North Carolina. And I started doing midnight to 5:30 a.m., making $12,000 a year. Then, after six months of doing that, I got moved up to being the morning-show producer. That was kind of on the strength of me interning for Jay Thomas when I was in L.A. and he had a morning show — and I also did a morning show at Syracuse.
So I did that for a minute and went through three of four different morning shows for various reasons, and I kind of got tired of it. I wanted to do my own thing, and that's when the night show opened up. The night guy was moving to Detroit — the Bushman, who's still there, doing afternoons — and I started my own show, Kendall B's Night Train, from seven to midnight. It was a hip-hop station, and it was between ’95 and ’99, when hip-hop was exploding. It was the time of Biggie and Tupac and Juvenile and Jay Z. We played all those songs, sometimes before big stations in L.A. and New York had them. It was a fun time, and it's one of the things people don't know about me — that even though I'm so associated with being on a team, I've done my own show, and I think I did it pretty well.
What brought you to Denver?
After working in Greensboro, I was looking to move up, so I sent tapes all across the country — and one tape wound up getting into the hands of Kat Collins at KS in Denver. He had a night opening, and I wanted to do nights. But he didn't want me to do nights, and I was kind of disappointed. He said he'd get back in touch with me, though.
In the meantime, Columbine happened, and for six months, I didn't hear from Kat. But then, out of the blue, one October afternoon, he said, 'I've got mid-days open. Would you like to do mid-days 10 to 2?' I had never seen myself doing mid-days, but I wanted to move up and I wanted to get closer to home, which was L.A. So I flew in and talked to him, and they hired me — and I started doing mid-days in Denver.
How did you wind up moving to the morning show?
The same experience I had doing mornings in college and interning and producing a morning show got me in the loop to fill in for Rick Stacy when he was doing mornings and he had the day off. That happened every now and again. But then all of a sudden, as radio goes, Rick and Jennifer Wild, who were doing the show together, were let go, and Kat called me into the office and said, "I want you to fill in on the mornings.' That was August 1, 2001, and what was supposed to be a temporary thing lasted fifteen years, because I teamed up with Larry, who remained over from the old show, and they brought in Kathie, who was friends with Larry. We just started doing the show together, and we got traction, got great feedback. The ratings were great, too, and one thing led to another — and we did the morning show together for fifteen years.
Why do you think the combination worked so well for so long?
We had good on-air chemistry, and we related to each other in a lot of different aspects. I think being close in age helped, because even though I grew up in L.A. and they grew up here, there were a lot of things we could relate to, and something clicked. That's the toughest thing in radio, in my opinion — to put together a good team. Even if you're good friends off the air, if you don't click together on the air, it's not going to sound good. But we clicked well on the air and fell into our roles nicely, and it worked out for a good amount of time.
What were the circumstances of you leaving KS-107.5?
Well, that's the funny part, because there's a misconception that I left. But I was let go on January 3. I had done a show, and the program director called me into his office and said, 'Today's your last show.' And I said, 'Okay.' I wasn't that surprised, because I knew there were potentially some changes coming. Contracts were up for all three of us — but I didn't think it would happen like that. Essentially, I never got the chance to negotiate a new deal or even see if they wanted to do a new deal. I was just let go. So I packed up my stuff and left.
I stayed here in Colorado for about four or five months, until my wife and I sold our house, and then we made our way back to California. Now, the legend has it that I'd been wanting to go to California for years, and part of that is true. Who doesn't want to get back close to their family? Who doesn't want to be on the air in their home town? At one point, I was hoping our old show could make it in L.A., but that wasn't the case — and I also knew we had a good thing in Denver. I wanted to see if the company would keep it going. But they didn't, and there was nothing I could do about that.
Did you move out to California for a new job?
I was looking for one, and I found one that blossomed into something even bigger. I was hired by Futuri Media, and I started working for their news service, TopicPulse. They were looking for people who'd been in radio and could talk to other radio people by writing about the news of the day. Essentially, we took big, complicated stories and whittled them down for radio and TV stations to use. I started doing that, and it's gone so well that they wanted me to do more for them. So I'm also on their partner-integration team, which means I go to different radio stations and train them how to use Futuri radio products.
You're still doing that?
I am. I write for them, I'm on that team, and now there's also The Kendall B show on JAMMIN 101.5. I had gotten a call from Jeff Norman, their general manager, literally the day after I got let go from KS. He said he wanted to have lunch with me, and he said whenever you're free from your contract, I'd love to talk to you about maybe doing something on one of my stations. So we kept in touch, and finally, as we got toward the end of my non-compete, which ran out at the end of September, we started hammering out some things — and we both concluded that JAMMIN 101.5 would probably be the best fit for me to do my own show. And that brings us to right now. I've kept it under wraps, because I wanted it to be a surprise to the listeners and others, and just kind of let it build from there.
Were you worried about doing the show on your own, as opposed to being part of a team?
I haven't done my own show for a while, but I fell back into it pretty easily. When I was at KS, I did a lot of backstage interviews on my own, and I did a lot of hosting things on my own from time to time. It's really like falling off a bicycle. You just hop back on and ride again. It feels natural. It's not going to be the same kind of show as on KS, because instead of having other people talking, it'll just be me. I'll rely on the audience to react, and rely on my training and experience to help me put together a good show.
How do you describe it?
My approach is fresh, friend and fun. I want to be a friend to people in the mornings. There's so much divisiveness and drama in the world, and the same can be said about radio and the radio business. When I first got into radio, my goal was, if I could make at least one person smile with whatever I say, I've done my job — whether it's a joke or something smart alecky or just some good news. And that's what I want to do here. It's a different show, a different station, and we'll have more music than what I was doing with the KS show. But that's fine. I think I can blend my talents well within the music that's on the air: get in, say what I have to say and get out — and hopefully it'll brighten somebody's day.
Was it good to get back to Denver?
Denver is a second home to me, considering that I spent seventeen years here. The streets are familiar, the people are familiar, the neighborhoods, the restaurants are familiar. It was surreal coming in from the airport and having to get a rental car this past weekend, and going to stay in a hotel, because my wife and I have lifelong friends here. They're people who've helped us through the highs and the bottom-out lows. We will love them forever, and it's been good to be able to see them. It's just a good vibe here, and it's good to have the support of people who've listened to me for so long — to have them say, 'It's good to hear your voice again.' And I want to do right by them, do a good show for Denver radio.
Will you be based in Denver?
That's the tricky part. Because of family, and because of what I do for Futuri, it'll be kind of a mishmash of where I'm doing the show from. Sometimes I'll be in Denver, sometimes I'll be in L.A., and sometimes I'll be on the road for Futuri. That's kind of the way radio is trending these days. As long as you're providing good content, you can do a show from anywhere. I mean, Ryan Seacrest does a show for L.A. in New York City. If he can do it, I can do it. And it's not like I won't be back in Denver. I'll be in Denver some, I'll be in L.A. some, and I'll be on the road some. My frequent flier miles will be up tremendously — but every morning, the show will be on. I'll be able to do the show from wherever I am. That's the miracle of technology, and I'm glad to be a part of it.
And no matter where you are, you'll be able to talk about the Denver you know.
Right. That's the problem with a lot of syndicated shows: The personalities don't know about that city. But I had seventeen years here. I've seen Denver grow from where it was in ’99 all the way up to 2017. So it's not like I don't know what's going on in the city or what the trends are. I can still talk to people, and they still tell me what's going on. I'll be driving the streets and seeing where the new toll lanes are open or where the potholes are. I'll be able to relate to what's going on, and I'll definitely read what the audience is saying and get their vibes when I'm on the road.
What's your schedule for the first week?
I'm here for a few days, and then I'm going back to L.A., and then I'm going to the East Coast for a thing for Futuri. It's going to be crazy — but I'm definitely going to be coming back here regularly. I'll come back for big events at the station, but I'm also going to pop in whenever I can to do the show from here. It'll just depend on how the schedule works out....
I want to say to all my listeners, thanks for all the support while I've been off the air. It's been a long time. And to new listeners, I just hope to do a really good, upbeat, positive show for you every day. I want to bring you really good music, really good content, and just have some fun as you're trying to wake up in the morning and head to work. And I'm really appreciative of people who've stuck by me the whole time I wasn't on the air. I got a lot of Denver love, and I'm really appreciative of that.