I got to relive a part of my youth this past week. They don’t come often enough, but when they do, I embrace them with everything I’ve got.
I was invited to attend a KING Radio reunion earlier this week, across from the new location of KING-TV, at Henry’s Tavern, in the shadow of Safeco Field.
I’m wondering where to start this tale, where to begin setting up this story. Let’s head to my senior year of college at the University of Washington.
Crap, I’ve got to go back a little further. You see, when I arrived in Seattle to attend college, I was doing it because that’s what you’re supposed to do. I wasn’t sure what I was going to study or what my major would be. All I knew is that I had a girl back home that, once I finished college, I was going to marry and then grab a job somewhere doing something. Maybe work for the airlines.
However, late my sophomore year, I got a phone call from that girl, who let me know she had a sign from God to break up with me. Funny, God hadn’t said a thing to me about it. Anyway, two months later, she married the minister that helped her realize that sign from God and I had a clean slate as to where my future would take me.
Thanks to a fellow down the hall in the dorms, I found out that you could actually major in Communications and study radio & TV. Awesome! So, off I went. While I gained experience in both, I was attracted to the control you had over the entire project on the radio side, and headed excitedly down that path.
During my final two quarters at the UW, I grabbed an internship at a Top 40 radio station in town called KING. My first quarter there, I interned under the Public Affairs Director and primarily wrote PSA’s for the jocks to read. While not the most exciting work, it did give me the opportunity to see the inside of a real radio station–how it worked, what the people were like, and connecting me with some real radio pro’s. I got to know the air talent of that time–Rob Conrad, Dan Foley, Andy Barber, Rick Scott, Joe Cooper and Big Jim Martin. Eventually, Bruce Murdock came up from Portland and took over the morning show. I met a weekender named Dave Christianson. The sales staff included the likes of Dana Horner, Ralph Heyward, Don Cannon and others.
The second quarter I interned there, I was under the direction of Steve Lawson. Steve was the production director at KING radio and the voice of KING-TV. Believe me, you’ve heard his voice. After KING, he went on to buy the Kaye-Smith studio and launched Bad Animal, where Heart, Steve Miller and so many other legendary Northwest bands recorded their hits.
All of the people didn’t need to take the time to mentor me, but they did. And over the next several years, most played a part in the direction my radio career took me.
Of course, Bruce Murdock and I were paired together at KLSY. In the early days of my time at Classy, Rob Conrad and Ralph Heyward wanted me to come and work for them at a new station called, “Magic”, but I stuck with KLSY. When I arrived at KLSY, Dana Horner was the General Manager. Don Cannon was a good friend of Larry Nelson’s, so during my KOMO tenure, our paths would cross often.
My KING experience taught me a lot and forced me to cut my radio teeth. After I graduated from college, I hung around working for minimum wage, hoping a job opening would eventually pop up. I did odd jobs like music surveys over the phone, running mail, answering request lines, going to promotional events. I remember standing on the stage at the Seattle Center’s Center House at a KING Teen Dance, watching a flood of high schoolers moving away to “Dancing Queen” by Abba. This was the big time.
The KING Broadcasting empire was run by Dorothy Bullitt, one of the most powerful women in Seattle. One week, when her regular driver went on vacation, they trusted me to be her personal driver. I would arrive at KING in the morning, get the keys to her Volvo, drive to her Capitol Hill mansion, pick her up, and then take her where ever she wanted. Lunch at the club, down to inspect how the work was coming along on her boat, whatever Mrs. Bullitt wanted, her wish was my command.
But even though they liked me, they just couldn’t justify hiring someone so green. When I lost out on a radio copywriting job to someone who had been a writer for Planned Parenthood with zero radio experience, I hit the road and headed east to Yakima. The rest is the beginning of my radio history.
On Monday, for two hours at a bar in downtown Seattle, I reconnected with some much-older, yet still familiar faces. Some of them I hadn’t seen in 40 years. People I had gotten to know early in my career, in a building that has since been torn down. I bounced from conversation to conversation, getting caught up on what we were all up to these days. While I was pretty much “just the intern” during my time there, you could feel the camaraderie of this group of people and how thrilled everyone was to get together one more time.
Our lives are a series of phases and special moments. We all get them. It’s up to us to recognize them, appreciate them and cherish them when they’re gone. I went through more than a half-dozen call letters during my radio career, but on this particular day, the others had to take a back seat for a few hours.
Monday, I was KING for a day. Thanks for including me.