For Fred’s Sake

You’re thinking, “Wait, Tim. You mean Pete’s Sake, right?”

No. I’m going with the insanity happening in the Seattle media market this week and randomly tossing away the name everybody knows for another one.

The change I’m referring to is the call letter change happening at KOMO radio, where after almost a hundred years as KOMO, this week the station will be renamed KNWN.

Originally, I was ticked off at the current ownership, Lotus. But broadcast buddy Gregg Hersholt informs me that Lotus actually wanted to keep the KOMO call letters. However, the evil Sinclair empire decided to spread salt around the Seattle radio landscape and take the call letters with them. According to Gregg:  “The new owners spent months trying to convince Sinclair to sell the call letters. They wouldn’t budge, and it’s their loss because our affiliation was a benefit to them.”

Here’s the news story.

Apparently, one of the things that comes with growing older is you get to see the things you know get new names–Ernst to Lowe’s, the Bon Marche to Macy’s, Payless to Rite Aid, Weight Watchers is now WW, and on and on.

I’ve already blogged about the specialness that came with being a part of the KOMO family for almost five years. You can catch up here.

So, Sinclair gets the credit for taking the call letters and going home. KNWN is supposed to mean K-Northwest News, a phrase that KIRO has already tagged to their top of the hour I.D. as part of the radio wars.

But the bottom line–we’re saying goodby to call letters the area has known since 1926. Yeah, another 100th birthday we’re not going to see.

Back in the day, you wanted to make radio stations easy to remember. So, instead of four letters that all started with a K, you went with names that you could pronounce, like “KOMO” and “KIRO.” That would help them remember what to write down if they had to fill out one of those ratings diaries from years gone by.

These days, it’s all done digitally. People carry around something that logs who they listen to, so they don’t need to fill anything out. 

It saddens me to think of all that history that’s being tossed out. I haven’t been bummed out like this since I found out they were going to tear down the old KOMO radio building, that I haunted from 1980-1984. I remember my little office that I shared with Larry Nelson, the morning guy. Just outside of that office was a wall with a mural of radio stars who had been featured on KOMO over the years. The greats of the 30s and 40s. I believe in the remodeling, that wall was torn down.

With Rip Taylor in front of “The Wall”

It saddens me to watch a place so full of personal memories and that for decades, was a part of the daily life of people in the Puget Sound area. be relinquished to the history books. During my tenure, there was Brian Johnson’s 7:45 Morning Report (when Larry Nelson would head to the bathroom and shave); Bob Rondeau, the voice of the Huskies for so many years, was the “sports guy” who did the morning sports report; KOMO was the on-air home of Paul Harvey, with an abbreviated 5-minute early report at 5:30 and 8am, and then the full “Paul Harvey News and Comment” at high noon. I can still recall when we moved to the new technology, from a phone-line report to a satellite feed. It was like he was in the studio.

That was back in the days of “Destination Radio”, where people came for personalities and other things they just couldn’t get anywhere else on the dial.

KOMO was, of course, your Husky Station, which allowed me to meet so many of the Dawgs of that time, including head coach Don James. He knew me as Larry’s producer but would always greet me like an old friend whenever our paths crossed.

Another big phase was the arrival of AM-Stereo. It was going to change the industry. The announcers were told to start calling the station, KOMO, AM-Stereo-1000. I remember the big AM-Stereo kickoff event we did at some fancy estate up on Capitol Hill.

During my brief tour of duty in the building, I got to know so many people in the radio biz, as well as some of those fancy TV folks down the hall.

On the radio side, (and apologies if I forget you), Larry Nelson, Bob Rondeau, Gary Johnson, Brian Johnson (no relation), Dale Good, Bob Gillespie, Harmon Shay, Jim Reed, Monte Grau, Wanda Hutton, Pat Eisner, Shirley Thom, Kathy Cozu, Leslie Soule, Karen Heric, Rita Carrier, Bob Adkins, Keith Shipman, Eric McKaig, Gina Tuttle, Stan Orchard, Bill Swartz, Michael Hamilton, Roger Nelson, Jim Reed, Keith Johansson, Norm Gregory, Don Chapman, Joe Coburn, Jaynie Dillon, Kirk Lawrence, Rich Osbourne, Melody Tucker, Ted Garlatz, Jr. & Sr., and a host of others whose faces popped up in my head, but whose names escape me. Cut me some slack—that was 40ish years ago.

On the TV side, I got to know Ruth Walsh, Ray Ramsey, Bruce King, Kathi Goertzen, Dan Lewis, Dan Ibabao, Dick Foley, Steve Pool and others.

And two great engineer types–Stu Hitchner and Lloyd Jones, a classic character and brother of Seattle’s own Quincy Jones.

In just under 5 years, I packed in a lifetime of memories, not to mention all the life changes that took place while I was in the building. I was hired a week before my wedding and started after we returned from the honeymoon and moving over from Yakima. My daughter was born during my KOMO days, and I found out that my son was on the way the same day I was told I was being laid off.

If you want to read the adventures of KOMO in Seattle radio history, Wikipedia has a nice write-up here.

Management didn’t always make the best choices for the future of the station. It was the original flagship station of the Seattle Supersonics, until they let KIRO swipe them away. I had also heard a rumor while I was there that, at one time KOMO had an FM frequency but gave it away to UW, which became KUOW. I don’t have any verification of that story, but it’s a good rumor.

A radio station isn’t a building, it’s a frequency. It’s that place on the dial that you go to out of habit, so really, changing its name doesn’t really impact anything. When I go to AM-1000, I’ll be reminded of those years, of people who were and some, still are, a big part of my life and my history.

KOMO, I’m sorry to see you go.

Now, I no longer want to live forever. I just want to live long enough to see some company to buy out the Sinclair folks and re-name it “Evil Broadcasting.”

For Fred’s sake.

Tim Hunter