KFML AM-FM  Colorado Free Form Radio

I was KFML's first newsman. I was hired in Spring 1971 because I mixed music with the news. What I didn't know was my so-called innovation wasn't unique. A fellow named Shadow Morton had tried it the previous year in San Francisco, but it was a hell of a hit in Denver.

Like any radio job, the way to get it was to submit a demo tape. I asked for and got studio time, albeit late in the evening. Lucky for me, I brought along a splicing block, white grease pencil and single edge razor blades. For those of you who live in the digital age, this is how we put stuff together on tape in the old days.

I put together two or three five minute spots using news stories I'd written for a Denver community newspaper called "Chinook," which was published by Patrick Dolan and occasionally illustrated by Phil Normand. Mixing music, sound effects, and voice together, I figured the station would either love it or hate it. The next morning I met my future boss Thom Trunnell, who looked up from his coffee and said, "you're hired. You're the only one who used music."

KFML was so new, and so strapped for cash, the UPI wire was taken out. I had to develop all the news from scratch. Since "rip & read" was gone, I produced a series of news reports first thing each morning and put them on carts (like old 8 tracks) in a rack with descriptive titles for the DJs to use with their shows. I'd get in about 6 AM and have the day's material produced by mid-morning. Then I'd start working on material for the next day.

Our youth oriented audience with an age range 18-34 had a distinct "alternative" flavor, and was not interested in the usual news about car crashes, blood-and-guts crime, and national events. What was popular was what we would call today "lifestyle" news, and our listeners loved it. I would listen to the music the DJs used on their shows and then take the current play list material and mix it into the news spots. I recall King Crimson, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Dan Fogelberg, among others, as being popular.

In addition to lifestyle news, there were also the issues of the day including a number of things left over from the 60s. These were the war in Viet-Nam, drugs, and so on. Frankly, some of this stuff didn't fit in with lifestyle news, but some of the other radio stations didn't have the staff, or the nerve, to cover them.

For instance, a series of reports that put us on the map were revelations of racially motivated beatings of black inmates by white guards that took place at the Lowry AFB stockade. An Air Force officer walked into the radio station one day with a secret tape recording of one of these incidents. Needless to say, the lid blew off at Lowry with newspaper headlines in the Rocky Mountain News. The Air Force later conceded the problem and commented that while the news coverage was fair, they also felt it was "overplayed." For this series of stories, the station was nominated for a George Foster Peabody Award, the "Pulitzer" of radio news.

However, life style news and the real world sometimes collided, and if I had it to do over again, I would have tried to develop more balance between the two. Unfortunately, I was only 24 at the time, and lacked the wisdom of 54 which is where I am today (2002). After one of these reports DJ Bill Ashford was so astonished he grabbed an Emerson, Lake, and Palmer album and played one side all the way through.

A saving grace was that some of the more popular pieces we aired were not only news, they were also satire after the tradition of Paul Krassner. I think I had more fun with these types of original material than almost anything else.

That's what made working at KFML worthwhile. It was just great fun! Where else could you go, every day, and blow the minds of 100,000 people with whatever came into you head that morning? I think that's why the DJs were into it because they got to put together music sets that were second to none compared to the rest of the radio universe. For these reasons, I enjoyed working with the entire KFML staff.

Like all good things, my time at KFML eventually came to an end. After that I worked as a freelance journalist for the Straight Creek Journal and several other publications. I helped organize the first two Capital Hill Peoples Fairs with Denver Police Officer Dick Alligood. The fair endures today more than 30 years later and is a signature event in Denver.

In closing I recall that being the newsman at a top-rated radio station had great social benefits. I got invited to a lot of parties, and people who didn't know my name would recognize my voice. This "celebrity" status was mind blowing.

When I saw recently found Dan Fong's famous KFML publicity photo, I sent it to my family and friends. I'm not sure what they think of all this, but I know what I think. KFML was a blast.

This is KFML news.