More Messages: The Don of Denver Radio

As noted in this week's Message column, Don Howe could be the most aggressive radio executive in recent Denver broadcasting history -- and as a result, he's made plenty of enemies over the years. Among them is radio longtimer J.J. McKay, who co-hosted the morning show on rock-oldies outlet KOOL 105 alongside partner Rick "The Coach" Marshall until March 2006, when Howe axed them. McKay reacted to the publication of the Howe profile by venting his spleen on the popular site. His essay begins: "Wow. Sounds like Howe is a real Bad Ass. Of course when Rick & I were fired, Howe couldn't even look us in the eyes."

McKay and Marshall generated consistently strong ratings for years at KOOL. But after Howe was named Denver market manager for CBS Radio, whose local properties include KOOL, he concluded that the pair was attracting a demographic too old to impress advertisers. Replacements Dan Mitchell, Kenny Campbell and Melanie Garrett skew younger, and so does KOOL's music these days; the signal has dropped virtually all of its playlist from the Fifties and early Sixties in favor of a mostly late-Sixties/Seventies mix. McKay feels this move was extremely short-sighted. "Glad they decided to cut the richest of listeners, Baby Boomers, from enjoying their Oldies Station," he writes.

Later in his screed, McKay decries another current radio trend -- more music, less talk. Here's his take:

The ONLY way for radio to successfully fend off the new generation of competition is to give listeners LOCAL content with personalities that have something to say. Quit playing "45 minutes of non stop music" or "10 in a row with no talk" when the listeners could care less about that. Of course radio research shows that they do care about all this music in a row with no talk, but it's all in the way the question is phrased.

I suppose my point is, you can steal all of the talent in the world from the top rated stations, but if you hire them and then tell them to shut up and play ten in a row with no talk, you're not going to win. The sooner corporate radio figures out a way to entertain the LOCAL listener and quit hiring $5 an hour kids or save money with voice-tracking using jocks from outside the market, the sooner radio will become more relevent than an IPOD.

For the rest of McKay's thoughts, click here. He and Marshall can also be heard mornings on their new Internet-radio show, accessible at -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts