Last month, Orange & Blue 760, a radio station that pledged to be "all-Broncos, all the time," stopped broadcasting its regular programming in anticipation of a format switch to conservative talk featuring syndicated star Rush Limbaugh — a move made to accommodate an afternoon-drive show on KOA with ex-Bronco Alfred Williams, who was lured away from 104.3 The Fan in late February but is contractually precluded from hitting the airwaves at his new station until August.
These machinations also led to the end of 93.7 The Rock, a classic-hits purveyor that was purchased by iHeartMedia, owner of 760 and KOA, so that it could be paired with the AM signal under the brand Freedom 93.7.
But if the death of 93.7 The Rock seems parenthetical to the high-profile drama, its demise resulted in a major benchmark: the retirement of Hal Moore, who is widely acknowledged to have been the most popular host in the history of Denver radio.
For newcomers to Denver or listeners of a certain age, Moore is hardly a household name. But he spent more than half a century as a local radio personality, and his stint with the late Charley Martin as morning co-hosts on KHOW dominated ratings in the late 1970s and 1980s to a degree that's absolutely inconceivable today. As Moore recalls, Hal and Charley regularly scored a 25 share, meaning that one in four people within earshot of a radio in the Mile High City was tuned to them.
"Now, a 1.3 share gets you in the top five," Moore notes with a laugh. "So it really was amazing" — though not his high-water mark. He recalls that a nighttime show he did at KIMN before he made the leap to KHOW racked up a 43 share.
A pop-culture reference indicates how ubiquitous the Hal and Charley show was in its heyday: As Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall are driving toward the fictional Overlook Hotel in the 1980 classic film The Shining, Moore and Martin are on their radio.
Moore, 79, knows exactly when his radio career began. "I started February 15, 1958, at KXGI in my home town, Fort Madison, Iowa," he says. "I was a senior in high school. So I was on the radio for 61 years. I'd call that a pretty good run."
After receiving his high school diploma, Moore enrolled at Drake University in Des Moines, and naturally, he landed a gig at a local station, KSO. Then, in 1964, he got an offer to join the staff at KIMN — or, as it was known back then, "95 Fabulous KIMN." As Moore points out, "It was probably one of the top five stations in the country, so it was the greatest opportunity anybody could have. I was really lucky to have the chance to go from Des Moines to Denver, and to go to such a big station. That was when AM radio was really hot; iIt was before FM became popular, so the ratings were crazy. My wife, Linda, and I had just gotten married, and we had the best time of our lives."
In 1969, Moore moved to KHOW and stayed there for 27 years, "through two or three ownerships. I was also the program director, and I knew Charley from Des Moines; he and I worked together when we were in college. I started him doing nine to midnight while I was doing afternoons, but eventually we put him on in the morning with Rosemary Barnwell. The show was called Charley and Barney, and it did very well. But then Rosemary got married and left in 1976, and so Charley and I started doing mornings — and we did even better. That was really the highlight of my career. It was just a glorious time."
Current KNUS morning host Peter Boyles agrees. Boyles was a KHOW host during this period, and in a 2017 Westword interview, he singled out Moore and Martin, calling them "legendary."
The format was simple: The duo would spin what Moore refers to as "adult contemporary, middle-of-the-road music — no hard-rock songs, but popular music that wasn't too hard, and some album cuts." But between tunes, often for extended periods, they talked, and their chemistry was funny and infectious.
Despite the rise of FM, the combination worked for the better part of two decades. But in 1995, KHOW switched to the all-talk format it continues to employ to this day. Martin subsequently relocated to Arizona, where he taught radio and television at Scottsdale Community College. He passed away in 2012.
As for Moore, he kept the radio flame burning at a slew of area stations and projects: KEZW, KOOL 105, Cruisin' Oldies/KRWZ, Jones/Dial-Global Net and KCKK/1510 AM during its late 1990s incarnation. And in 2016, his association with KCKK was renewed when he was hired by Hunt Broadcasting LLC to helm a show heard on both that dial position and 93.7 FM.
"I was the only employee they had," Moore reveals. "Everybody else was in the Hunt family. Janice Hunt was the manager, and Jimmy Rock, who did afternoons, is really Jim Hunt, one of the owners — and at night, Brian J, who's their son, did voice-tracking out of Chicago. So I was like a member of the Hunt family, too!"
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As its lineup suggests, 93.7 The Rock was an ultra-low-budget operation — so much so that the stations didn't pay for the ratings book that would have revealed how many people were actually listening. But Moore feels the audience was substantial: "We would do email contests and we'd get a huge response. I'd think, 'God, it's too bad they don't buy the ratings, because I think we're doing pretty well.'"
Nonetheless, the advertising load was far from heavy, and "they were losing money like crazy," he divulges. "So they sold the FM to iHeartMedia." The AM station at 1510 is still in business, but, says Moore, "I think they'd like to sell it as soon as they can — and I didn't have any interest in working just at the AM. So when the sale went through, I thought the timing was right to retire. I was thinking I would try to go until I was eighty, which would be in January, but I thought, you know, they aren't making any money, so maybe it would be good for them, too, if I retired. They're great people, very good to work for."
Since signing off for the last time, Moore has been enjoying sleeping in (he had been getting up at 4 a.m.), playing golf, riding his bike and spending time with Linda. But old habits are hard to break. "It's so weird: I'll be in the car, and a song will end and I'll be ready to talk. I'll think, 'I have to say something.' And then I'll think, 'God, what's wrong with me?'"
More seriously, Moore says, "I've had so much success and so much good fortune — much more than I deserved. And we were able to raise our family in Denver, unlike so many people in radio, who have to move from station to station in different markets. I've been very, very lucky."