After a marijuana-fueled online adventure, Larry and Kathie J, one of Denver's favorite radio teams, are back on the airwaves after an incredibly tumultuous year, and they're ready to double your pleasure. Today they're debuting at not one, but two stations, with a morning show on FLO 107.1 and a rebroadcast of the program during the afternoon at Jammin' 101.5. They describe their wild ride below.
Things started to get crazy in March 2017, when the duo's longtime hit morning show at KS-107.5 was canceled over a contract dispute. They laid low until June, when they announced that they would pair up again at Blazin' Hit Radio, an online station sponsored by the Green Solution, a dispensary chain run by the Speidell brothers, Kyle, Eric, Brad and Nick.
Blazin' went live in August and continued into late April. Then, in the middle of May, the show's Facebook page began teasing "big news" — which turned out to be the FLO/Jammin' combo move, made possible because both outlets are owned by the same company, Max Media. Larry and Kathie J credit Max Media president and CEO Jeff Norman with conceiving the two-station strategy, and they say the idea was a big reason that they agreed to come aboard.
In the following Q&A, Larry uses a radio term — cume — that sounds dirty but isn't; cume, derived from "cumulative," is a rating that measures the total number of different people who listen to a radio station for at least five minutes in a given day. He also mentions "meters," a reference to portable people meters, used by ratings services such as Arbitron to measure listenership.
Don't worry, though: The conversation isn't all about technical terms. For the most part, Larry and Kathie J talk about their stoney stint with Blazin' Hit Radio and how this unique project led them back to old-fashioned, terrestrial radio.
Here's the latest chapter in their radio story.
Westword: How did the Blazin' Hit Radio opportunity come to you after your departure from KS-107.5?
Larry: I had a podcast I was doing with the Green Solution already. I was doing that on the side. So when our contract came open, we were looking for different options, and the Speidell brothers found out we were available. That's when the whole conversation came up about creating an online radio station. We signed a year contract with them. That expired, and we wanted to see what else was out there.
Blazin' Hit Radio was really an experiment in a lot of ways. What were the biggest challenges when it came to trying to get something that no one had tried before off the ground?
Kathie J: The fact that there were five of us doing the job of twenty [laughs].
Larry: That was a challenge, for sure. But we were up to the task. We were very excited about the possibility, so we didn't mind everyone wearing multiple hats. We had a really great run with them. We had great cume and great listenership. Our contract ended, but we still have a great relationship with them. We really like them.
You mentioned listenership, and you guys had such a big one at KS-107.5. Was it difficult to try and grow that audience in a new way?
Larry: It wasn't that difficult. We had a cume that was beating other relevant radio stations. We had a cume that was bigger than KOSI and KYGO. The difference was getting people out of their routines. They used to be able to get in their car and push a button and there we were. At Blazin' Hit Radio, there was an extra step as far as downloading the app, and that was easy for some people, but for other people, it wasn't. I guess it was hard for them to download the app and get it to play through their car. But we still had success with it.
Kathie J: On the talent side, on the DJ side, it was so exciting and riveting and awesome to be able to talk and flow with whatever conversation you wanted to. Having been in terrestrial radio for fifteen years, it was a really great experience for me. It was really nice for Larry and I to have the freedom to open the mic and go. It was fun, and it's something I'm so grateful I got a chance to do on the radio, or on an app. It was great for the format to be so different. It was a great feeling.
Are there things you'll be able to bring from your experiences over the past year to terrestrial radio?
Larry: Absolutely. We've talked to our new GM, Jeff Norman, and our new program director, Geronimo, about the success that we had with doing longer breaks. Sometimes in radio, you'll get to talk for five minutes, and then ten minutes later, you'll have another four minutes. But now we know that the audience will stay around longer the longer we talk. We've gotten into that with them, and we're still going to play music, but it will definitely be balanced with a lot of entertainment from us.
You're actually going to be on twice a day on different signals.....
Kathie J: We are — and how cool is that? That's awesome.
Larry: We're going to do mornings on Flo and afternoons on Jammin'. They'll replay the morning show from that day, so we'll be getting exposure on two stations. We believe the audiences from both stations will be familiar with us because we've been in the market for so long. But the response we're getting is pretty exciting. In some respects, it rivals when we launched Blazin', because people's habit of being able to get into their car and just listen is really important. The demise of terrestrial radio wasn't as fast as Blockbuster.
People have been ready to bury terrestrial radio for years, but it continues to have a lot more strength than pretty much anyone expected. Does your return to the terrestrial side of things prove that?
Larry: I think so. I guess in a couple of years, the whole front of cars is going to be different, and they'll be really reliant on apps and people remembering your app as opposed to an FM, up-and-down dial. But people still want to be entertained. I'm a native, and Kathie moved here when she was five. And we're going to be giving you entertainment and talking about things in the city you can't find on XM. You can't find that on anything but your local station. That's what we're happy and excited about.
Kathie J: But don't be fooled. We're also going to be on an app. We gained listeners in Montana, in Ireland, when we were on the Blazin' Hit app. That was one of our things. We wanted for those people to still be able to hear us. So we're going to be on both stations, but also on the app. And being on both stations is great. A lot of people over the years have said, "I wish I had a DVR, because I'd love to hear what Larry said again [laughs]." This way they can hear it again in the afternoon or tell their friends to listen. But we wanted to make sure all of our listeners at Blazin' Hits Radio could still stay with us, which is why we're also going to be on the Flo 107 app.
Larry: Also, every day after the show, we put the show up in podcast form without music or commercials. We've been doing that for years and years, and we've definitely been one of Denver's top podcasts. A lot of people don't listen in real time, and they've become dependent on the podcast. A lot of people who've been communicating with us since we started talking about making this move have said, "Please say you'll still have the podcast." And we're like, "Yes."
The two stations you'll be on don't have the footprint of KS-107.5. Do you think you'll be able to boost their profile by being on both stations?
Larry: Absolutely. This company has done a really good job, and they're very successful with the ratings they have. But I think we're definitely going to take things to the next level. It's a meter world, and we had the meters before. We still feel like we're the best show in the market, and the excitement we're hearing online has been really huge. We're looking to replicate what we were doing at the other station.
You've spent the last year or so talking a lot about cannabis. Is that a subject you'll be able to talk about on the new stations?
Larry: Yes. Max Media does work with dispensaries. They're one of the few radio companies that will. So there is an opportunity to continue our relationship with The Green Solution, and they have a couple of other dispensaries on the air. We'll keep it to a certain number, but there's definitely openness with Max Media and cannabis, which is kind of cool. I think if we ended up going to some other stations that were expressing interest, it wouldn't be as easy to do.
Kathie J: And we talked about cannabis long before it was even legal on the other station (laughs).
Larry: We were on the cutting edge.
Kathie J: We're the ones who made it legal!
Tell me about the other stations that you spoke with. Were there multiple ones that were interested in signing you?
Larry: I don't want to get specific on the actual companies, but it was all the name players, and there was definitely interest. The interest that was there was great, but Jeff from Max Media really wanted us, and he went to corporate and made it happen. He was the one who really stood out. The first meeting I had with the guy, I could tell he was so familiar with what we'd done. I felt really comfortable right off the bat, because he really got us. Sometimes with these bigger companies — like when we were at one big company and it was acquired by another — we were shell-shocked a little bit, seeing how big corporate radio works. So I think Max Media, being not as huge and a little more open, is the perfect fit for us. We have friends who work at all the companies, but I think we picked the right partners.
Kathie J: It was also enticing when he said, "I can run your show twice." That's never been done in Denver before. The fact that he was so familiar with us that he could say, "I can run your show on both stations, because you guys are so mass-appeal," Larry's and my ears lifted up like little bunnies. We were like, 'What?"
Larry: Also, we've got a syndication deal worked into it. We've always wanted to be syndicated...
Kathie J: Always.
Larry: ...so now we can have the opportunity to be on stations everywhere. We've always felt like we were good enough to be on stations everywhere. So once we get a little more comfortable with Max Media and what we're doing, we're definitely looking at venturing out and helping the show to grow, so we can be on multiple stations around the country.
What's most exciting about being back on terrestrial radio for you guys?
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Larry: I'm excited because of Jeff's excitement. For a long time, we were kind of like a machine. We knew exactly what to do. When we went to Blazin', we were kind of steering our own ship. But I think I'm most comfortable delivering for a boss, if that makes sense. I've been spending hours making production for our show — intros, outros. And getting a vibe from those guys when they get those pieces and us getting so excited about this launch is huge for me.
There were times when we were doing Blazin' where people would say, "Where are you guys?," because people would see us every day on the streets. We'd have to say, "Download the app. It's Blazin' Hits." And they never did any marketing, so we were doing everything totally on social media and word of mouth. We were telling a lot of people what was going on, and by the time the contract was running out at Blazin', we were running into people who already had the app. In the back of our minds, we thought, "We have to tell them we're going back to radio" [laughs]. But this is a bigger studio for us, and there's a huge vibe on social media. So I'm excited to do what we do and entertain people and hopefully get all the meters back.
Kathie J: To me, it's truly about the people, the worker bees who need a little laugh before they go to a job they hate. That's been my drive every morning — being part of their family and their world. I'm looking forward to talking about all the celebrity news again in real time. I'm looking forward to the connection coming back to waking up Denver. I love people, and I do so much in the community. To me, I can't wait. They energize Larry and I just as much as we energize them. So I'm excited to have my boyfriend back.
Larry: When we went off KS, we had a non-compete, so we couldn't say what we were doing. And people were so thrown off — like, "We listened to you guys every morning." Couples would listen together and families would sing the parodies together. It was like a real bonding thing. So when we were stripped out of the market, people were like, "What the hell are we going to do?" Slowly people started to find us — and now we're going to be doing that all over again. But in a bigger way.