The Larry and Kathie J morning show, which was recently canceled by KS 107.5 after a contract dispute despite being one of Denver's most popular radio programs for a decade-plus, is coming back to the Mile High City, and the world, next month as part of a new Internet radio station funded by The Green Solution, one of Colorado's largest marijuana dispensary chains. Co-host Larry Ulibarri, who admits to being frustrated by the duo's exit from KS 107.5, provides a preview of the new concept, which he sees as unusual in all the right ways.
"It's experimental, to a certain degree," Ulibarri says, "but we're really bent on making sure it works."
During Larry and Kathie J's successful run at KS 107.5, the station has had several owners, including Jefferson-Pilot Communications and Lincoln Financial Media. It's currently held by Entercom, which also owns four other Denver outlets: Alice, The Mountain, Cruisin' 1430 and Comedy 103.1. But Ulibarri says the firm has been in belt-tightening mode of late.
"They started chipping away, and their initial thing was to get the costs to come down," he notes. "They got rid of some of the talent and started changing the music. And unbeknownst to us, they were looking at our show as being very expensive. We were number one for fifteen years, and we were definitely compensated for that."
The changes struck closer to home earlier this year, when the pair's longtime partner, Kendall B, split. "He made it known to management, without telling Kathie and I, that he was interested in getting back to California," Ulibarri says. "We always knew that was a possibility, and we didn't hold it against him. We weren't like, 'You have to work with us for the rest of your life.' And the station was probably ecstatic, since I'm sure it saved them some money off the top."
Shortly thereafter, contract negotiations for Larry and Kathie J got under way. Ulibarri recalls that "they wanted us to take drastic pay cuts, and we started hearing about nightmare scenarios, like taking our top five endorsements for free — and if the ratings fell, they could renegotiate our whole deal. That really worried us, because they were altering the recipe, and the numbers were going down. KS was getting the lowest numbers in its history, and we felt like our hard work was being taken for granted. We even wondered if they were tanking the station on purpose" to get them to accept a smaller salary.
Ulibarri portrays the broadcaster's offer as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, and he and Kathie J left it. But while they explored prospects at other stations, including ones outside Denver, they had another option thanks to a Ulibarri side job.
"I was doing a webstream for The Green Solution," he notes. "We built a studio together at I-25 and Speer, and for the past two years, I've been doing a podcast and live stream every Friday. And when they became aware we were available, they wanted to put their hat in the ring as far as possibly doing something with Kathie and me."
The idea struck a chord with Ulibarri in part because of the relationship he'd developed with the Green Solution's brain trust. "It's owned by four brothers [the Speidells] who started right when the marijuana industry was getting going. They're brilliant — good people, but also amazing businesspeople. And they're branching out: They've got five locations opening in Florida and three locations opening up in Canada. They're one of the leading legal-marijuana teams in the country, as far as I'm concerned."
As a bonus, the Green Solution also allowed Ulibarri to introduce his own strain of cannabis — called, naturally, Uli-Berry. The company's website describes the Bubblegum/Blueberry blend as "an Indica-dominant strain that grows short and bushy with heavy and thick resin-covered buds. The strain touts a unique smell, with hints of chocolate and coffee undertones. Uli-Berry is cerebral and provides a very nice 'couch-lock' body high." Ulibarri considers it "a real bucket-list moment for me."
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Before long, the Green Solution reached an agreement with Larry and Kathie J (supplemented by producer Jay Wignz) to create a thus-far-unnamed Internet station. The radio team will appear live from 5 to 10 a.m. weekdays, as usual, and music programming during other periods will be interspersed with "clips from the show, parody spots and interviews," Ulibarri reveals. "Kathie does the Everyday show on Fox31 and does a lot of interviews with celebrities when she's on junkets."
The station "will basically be going national," he adds, "because we'll be repping for the Green Solution — and it will be promoted in other markets they're in. We'll probably be going to ribbon-cuttings at dispensaries across the country."
Fans here and elsewhere will be able to listen in "by using an app that's going to be available for free in all the big app stores," Ulibarri stresses. "It's one of the best streaming apps out there. Some radio apps will cut off and you have to reset, but this is one of the best."
Other details will be released prior to the station's launch, currently planned for July 17. In the meantime, Ulibarri says, "we look at the combination of us and where people are with marijuana — the popularity of it — as a good, sexy combo. We're super-excited to get back on and make Denver laugh again."