KFML AM-FM  Colorado Free Form Radio

I'm Ron Katz and I was in sales; actually I held the title as sales manager for parts of 1971 and 1972. Recounting my memories of KFML would mean I would have to write a book. If I were a better writer, I would: someone should! Suffice it to say that being part of the most relevant radio station of the era was both thrilling and educational. I'm proud to say I was part of it. This was a rich, full blooded experience for me, working with talented artists who called themselves DJs. From our Production Manager, Thom Trunnell, who forgot more about music than I'll ever know, to the first impression our clients heard when they called the station, our receptionist Susan Gassaway, KFML was a media happening. I hired the first female sales person in the history of Colorado radio, Janie Steinberg: she was a great sales person and absolutely knocked out the marketplace. 

The Sixties had just turned America upside-down and and shook it. A large part of what fell out was brilliant music and our station not only turned on the Denver area with the best of all of it, we presented it in a way that was never before known in this, or any other market. Even though there were a hand full of stations around the country who were "underground" or "free-form", the product we put out was totally unique: nothing like it ever before, or maybe after, as well.

Selling commercials on KFML was both very difficult and rewarding. The established business community were scared to death of us and looked down at us as a bunch of dope smoking lunatic-hippies. The businesses who understood us were risky at best and often difficult to collect from. But one thing was for absolute certain: our product was so good and our listening audience so devoted to us, whoever bought airtime from us was instantly rewarded with new customers. We were believable because we identified with our audience: we were the "sign" and they were the "times" ("I am you and you are me and we are all together, ooo-koo-kachoo").

As KFML became more successful, the established community started to realize our validity and we began to get the attention of Corporate Denver ("Something's happening here but you just don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones"). It was a joy for me to tell companies like Public Service that we wouldn't run their commercials because of their Human Rights and hiring practices. Or telling Tom Shane that "his" voice would never be heard on our airwaves. And many more. It just infuriated them. The more we refused the more they wanted us. While this made our air staff happy, my boss, Joe McGoy had me on the carpet nearly every day (one of the "bummers" of my job). I can't tell you how many times I gave Joe my speech on how if we stayed true to our vision, we would be even more successful: it was a tough sell.

My tenure came to an end in June of 1972. I realized I was never going to get paid the thousands of dollars owed to me in commissions, any more than each of the other employees wouldn't get the money owed to them. Somehow, no matter how much our sales staff billed, there was never enough money. Barry Fey (the great concert promoter of the day) was going to have a party for the Rolling Stones when they came to town and I knew many of the people I worked with wouldn't be on the guest list. So I collaborated with our air staff as well as my sales staff and planned an incredible party for the Rolling Stones, the record company reps and the working stiffs of KFML. Of course, we really couldn't afford to purchase the shrimp, lobster, caviar, booze and all the rest of the goodies it took to have a GREAT party in 1972, so we did some "creative" sales and marketing. We went to the customers we knew would help us out and proposed the old barter method of trading advertising for goods: thousands of dollars worth. The party was a smash hit, even though it was cut short by the Denver Police. I will never forget it, but there are undoubtedly a few who would never remember it. KFML AM & FM: one of the High points of my life.


April 21, 2010