"I'm just a budget cut," says Steve "Mudflap" McGrew, co-star of KYGO's perennially popular morning show. "We just won the CMA station-of-the-year award, and the station's been doing okay as far as listeners are concerned. But things have been rough in radio lately. I guess it's finally getting to everybody."
If any outlet seemed immune from such realities, it was KYGO, a hit-country purveyor that's been among the most popular outlets in the market for decades -- and that remains true. According to the latest ratings info, the station is number three in the city among listeners twelve and above, and its numbers are better than they've been in any major survey conducted over the past year. The morning-show digits registered by Mudflap and co-host Kelly Ford have held up just as well, which helps explain the explosion of comments on his Facebook page when word leaked out about his dismissal. "Yeah, that blew up," Mudflap says. "Everybody was like, 'We're going to miss you. Come back. Don't do this.' But I didn't do anything."
Reportedly, Ford will now be teamed with Mark Newman (air name: Mark Ryder), who'll serve as both banter partner and station engineer, thus saving the station a salary. Not that KYGO program director Joel Burke seems eager to talk about the switch; he hasn't replied to numerous interview requests dating back to Wednesday. And Mudflap can't go into much detail, either, owing to the fact that his contract runs through February -- and he says he's received a letter warning him that the tap may be turned off if he talks too freely.
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This warning seems unnecessary. Mudflap has nothing but praise for the station, co-workers like Ford, and the eight years he spent behind the microphone. Besides, he's not going to starve. Before coming to KYGO, he made his living as a standup comic -- "I actually made more doing that then being on the radio" -- and he continues to be in-demand on the comedy-club circuit. As such, he's taking advantage of his current situation by scheduling extra gigs and considering pitches. "A friend of mine who books entertainment on cruise ships said, 'Hey, I see you're available.' But I can't imagine how much fun that would be for more than one trip," he notes, laughing.
Maybe that's why he'd love to find another radio perch. Too bad positions like the one he had at KYGO are few, and getting fewer. "It's happening all around the country," he says. "A DJ-friend of mine from Birmingham, who's been in the industry for almost two decades, just was told, 'You've got to take a pay cut or we're going to have to let you go.'"
Mudflap wasn't given that option, but he's not bitter. He'd love to stay in Denver: "This has been my home for years," he says. "My family's here, and after you've been in the market for as long as I have, you know the place, you know the people." And if KYGO called on him again in the future, he'd definitely pick up the phone. In his words, "They're a great station, a heritage station, and they do so much for Denver. So if they said, 'Come on back,' I'd say, 'Sure.'"
Right now, though, that possibility doesn't seem to be in the budget.