Preserving Some Seattle Radio History

This past week, radio folks who spent part of their careers with Seattle’s “The Mountain” had a reunion on Zoom and shared it with the world. It was pretty cool and makes me think we should be doing one of those with the KLSY staff while most of us are still around.

The program director that hired me at KLSY, Chris Mays, posted a nice history of The Mountain on Facebook and all that she accomplished there. That reminded me that its her story that  connected two amazing Seattle radio stations. So, I thought I would share her post and then chase it with a few more nuggets about my radio experience.

103.7 The Mountain celebrated our 30th birthday Saturday. It was a very special station, which I created. One of the questions listeners asked was about the history. This is a bit long, but it tells the tale!  A lot of people have asked me how I came to create The Mountain. The true story reads like a fairytale! I’ll try to save the details for my book; even so, it’s bit of a long journey. Once upon a time, there was a teenager growing up in the 60’s in Columbus, Ohio. It was the Vietnam and Richard Nixon era. Her parents were liberal and her brothers were draft age. She was very into music. From Carol King’s Tapestry to Grand Funk. FM radio was developing into a freeform rock. She read Rolling Stone and dreamed of moving to the West Coast to work in radio, preferably the legendary KSAN, San Francisco. She graduated from high school in 1970, the spring of Kent State, 2 hours away. Off I went to college to pursue a degree in communications. My stated career goal on graduation was to be a Program Director of a Progressive Rock Station in a major market, (preferably on the West Coast). After graduation I looked at a map of the West Coast and picked Eugene, Oregon. It was between Seattle and San Francisco, and had a college. I moved there, with everything I owned in the back of a pickup truck. I went to graduate school at the University of Oregon until I got a radio job. First was a cool little station, KFMY, then the bigger rock station KZEL. It was a freeform progressive rock station with 50,000 albums. Everyone played what they wanted. I was on the air at night as Chris Kovarik. It was rock and roll heaven! There was this guy who was a Yale graduate, spending his summer fighting forest fires in Bend. He would sit in the forests up in those lookouts, and listen to KZEL. One day he applied for a job. His name was Peyton Mays! He got hired. Ultimately, I became the Program Director and he was the Music Director. We fell in love. We both wanted to move to a larger market. I finally got my interview at KSAN, San Francisco and interviewed at KZAM in Seattle for a position as Promotion Director. I got the job and moved to Seattle. KZAM was in a struggle to retain the format and by the time I joined the staff, they had a consultant and the format was pretty tight. Within a month of my arrival, the guy who hired me (Paul Sullivan) was fired, then the General Manager. I applied for the Program Director job and got it! I worked with Marion Seymour, Kerry Lowen, Matt Reidy, and a ton of other talented people. Meanwhile, Peyton had moved to Seattle and was programming KEZX, a ‘beautiful music’ station. We had worked with his boss in Eugene. David Littrell went from KEZX to ultimately be the guy who booked the zoo, Marymoor Park and Chateau Ste. Michelle shows. This was 1981, a decade before the Mountain. So, in 1983, the owners of KZAM decided to change the format to KLSY, ‘classy’, a soft pop station targeted to women. They invited me to stay. On July 10, 1983, KZAM signed off with The Beatles ‘Golden Slumbers’. KLSY signed on with Eddie Rabbit’s Driving My Life Away. The audience was furious. I went home and cried. Next up, Peyton Mays changes the format at KEZX to a cool softer rock format with David Littrell. I hired Bruce Murdock, Tim Hunter and Delilah Rene, among others, and the station was very successful. It was the first time I had ever had a budget that included marketing, personalities and BIG promotions. I learned a lot about real radio basics from George Johns and Dana Horner. Prior to that, it had all been about the music for me. The final chapter. I left KLSY in February 1990 and was working for Broadcast Programming when KEZX changed their format back to ‘easy listening/beautiful music’. Now there were TWO of these formats. Entercom brought a man in from Chicago to do something with KBRD. G Michael Donovan interviewed me and asked what I would do with 103.7. They were thinking hip hop. I told him if that was their choice, I wasn’t their girl. Then I wrote a proposal and made a cassette tape of what MY station would sound like. Ultimately, they agreed! We had a dinner where we decided on the name “The Mountain” (The Needle didn’t have positive images). It started out more mellow than I wanted, but eventually I won the trust of Entercom and they let me morph it to what it became. There was an indisputable hole in the market for a high profile, liberal leaning rock station with incredible personalities. Or so I thought! And there you have it. From hippie teenager with a dream to ‘successful Program Director of a Major Market Progressive Rock Station’. And what a long, strange, wonderful trip it’s been!

P.S. I should note that between us, Peyton Mays and I programmed progressive rock in Seattle for 25 years. David Littrell still programs some of the best shows in the market.

Chris Mays

Thanks, Chris. This is where I thank you for hiring me and giving me that break I needed to go where I went, where ever that was. 

How did I end up knocking on KLSY’s door back in the days when they were “Classy-FM”?

Due to downsizing at KOMO radio where I had been Larry Nelson’s producer for 4-1/2 years, they let me know on the same day my wife and I found out we were pregnant with our second child that I was losing my job. In fact, I remember not telling her until after the weekend that I was now unemployed, so as not to harsh the buzz about the pregnancy.

After a few months of collecting unemployment and wondering what the heck was going to happen next, I managed to get an interview with Chris Mays and eventually the G.M., “Mr. Classy”, Dana Horner. I impressed them enough take me for a test hire, helping out production guy Jeff Bach with copywriting and production during the work week, and pulling a weekend airshift.  At this point, I had been off the air since I had left Yakima in late 1979. 
Over time, Chris like what I brought to the party on weekends, enough that she wanted to stick me into afternoon drive. I remember going to a station holiday event, where I met the woman I was going to be paired up with to report on traffic and banter with, Alice Porter. She was being brought over from KEZX–yes, the radio station being run by Chris’ husband at the time, Peyton Mays. I had a lot of fun doing afternoons with Alice and it sounded like it. The station wanted that fun to move to the mornings with Bruce Murdock, aka “Murdock in the Morning” but initially I just didn’t want to partner up with him on the air. I liked where I was. So, they hired a co-host from Chicago named John Thomas and it was a morning show nightmare. The two didn’t get along, had completely different styles and it was such a caustic environment, I remember Bruce, Alice, Dave Sloan and me doing a mock exorcism of his presence after they fired him. By this time, station management really wanted to move me to mornings. So much that I was told everything from, “Well, you know, we won’t really be able to raise your salary much if you stay in afternoons” to “Eventually, you’ll lose Alice and we’ll move her to mornings.” What else could I do but agree to start waking up early again and the team of Murdock & Hunter was born. In time, that became Murdock, Hunter & Alice. That continued until December 17th, 2003, when G.M. Marc Kaye came backstage at the Village Theater in Issaquah to tell us our services were no longer needed. We had just finished doing a live Christmas show. Ho friggin’ ho. That left me just shy of a 20-year run in one place. In radio, that’s like 147 regular job years.


We can all look back on our lives and say, “If only THIS hadn’t happened” or “If THAT hadn’t happened” but the bottom line is that everything occurs as a part of your story. Sure, I wish some of those more unpleasant events didn’t happen, but that’s not our call. The radio bug still is very much alive in me, but rather than depending on it for a livelihood, its now more of a hobby. It’s a part of what I do and my little KRKO morning show is the perfect outlet to satisfy my radio Jones. Chris mentioned of writing a book some day about her radio experiences. Having written 1,031 of these blogs since 2008, my story has seeped out a little at a time, much like a leak at a nuclear power plant. Ms. Mays’ retelling of The Mountain Story was just the inspiration I needed for me to put a bit of my story down while I still remember it.

You know, I’ve seen a lot of radio hearts broken over the years.  I have to say that its thanks to people like Chris and Dana that I got to spend 35 years (and counting) of my life doing something I really love to do. 

And that’s pretty lucky.

Tim Hunter

What a Friggin’ Coincidence

So, I started the week at the eye doctor for my annual check-up. Truth be told, this exam was scheduled a couple of Fridays ago and I just flat-out spaced and missed the appointment.

I set 126 reminders on my phone, on Alexa, I wrote notes, I was not going to let this happen again. I arrived 15-minutes early and was among their first patients of the day. Since they hadn’t seen me for over a year, they handed me a printout and asked me to verify that all of the information on the paper was correct.

I started with the phone number. Nope, that’s wrong. I checked the address, wrong again. Up and down the page, none of this information made sense and that’s when I headed for the name.

Right there, as plain as the nose on my face: Tom Hutyler.

That’s just down right freaky.

You see, three decades ago, Tom and I worked together at KLSY. Tom had been the afternoon guy, but the station decided to take me off weekends, put me in afternoons and shift Tom and those dulcet tones to the mid-day slot.

But you couldn’t have Tom Hutyler on the radio, followed by Tim Hunter and the station’s first suggestion was for me to change my name. I had never used an alias (or “radio name”) on the air in my career, so I offered an alternative. What about adding my middle initial as a differentiator? They bought it.

So, for a while on 92.5 KLSY, it was Murdock in the Morning, followed by Tom Hutyler, and then me, Tim J. Hunter.

Most of the disc jockeys I’ve known over the years arrange the shifts in this hierarchy: if you can’t have the morning show, grab afternoons. If afternoons are available, put your foot into mid-days and then wait. Well, Tom wasn’t about to wait and the next thing you know, he was off to a successful run at KUBE and then, he wound up over at KOMO radio, where he still anchors the news today. That is, when he’s not being the voice of T-Mobile Park for the Seattle Mariners. Yep, when you hear that stadium voice, that’s Tom.

Back to this bizarre coincidence. I shot Tom a quick Facebook message and let him know about what had happened. He let me know that he had an appointment later that same day.

What are the odds? We go to the same eye clinic and had booked appointments on the same day.

I figure when he got there for his appointment, they probably had him review my contact information. You know, come to think of it, I haven’t seen Tom in person for a long time. Maybe I better book another eye appointment?

Tim Hunter

Oh-Oh….

Those of you who subscribe to my Tim Hunter Creative Services weekly newsletter know that I keep pretty busy. If you’d like to be dragged into those adventures, please just let me know and I’ll add you to the email list.

The point being, I’m busy and fully embrace that lifestyle. The majority of what I do is stuff I love. I’m writing, producing videos, comedy bits, crafting jokes for a ventriloquist, a comic strip and a political cartoonist, blogging, producing a weekly podcast, emceeing events, the occasional auction, etc. It’s a montage of things that I would choose to do for nothing, but they are actually generating an income. Go figure.

Yet, while I could easily just continue doing what I’m doing with plenty on my To-Do List, I’m giving serious thought to adding one more item. It’s a guilty pleasure and something I did for over 30 years. Now, I don’t want to jump back into that arena again full-time, because I’ve spent the past four years creating my current dream situation. But if somehow, I could get back and play a little bit on the radio again, I’d have to take that opportunity. If nothing else, to get it out of my system. Although, I truly believe, there is no known cure for radio.

There have been meetings, there have been talks. It’s possible that I’ll have an answer for you next week. I just want to make sure it’s a perfect fit, something that I could continue doing for a while and not just an experiment for a couple of months. I also have some travel on the horizon, but they said they would accommodate that.

So, let’s see what happens. I promise to let you know when I know.

Thanks for the read.

Tim Hunter

Wacky Week Podcast EPISODE 144

Hang on, we’re going back to my early radio days. First, you’ll hear a comedy demo tape I sent to Ross Schafer with the hope of getting involved with “Almost Live” and, as you know, I didn’t. Then, we’ll go back even further to the first episode of my college radio comedy program, “Tim Hunter’s Return to Normalcy.” Damn, seems like just a few years ago….

THAT Matt Riedy

A couple of decades ago, a typical morning for me started with an alarm that went off at 2:17am. A random time I had embraced as the official starting point of my day, if I wanted to get in everything I hoped to accomplish. I’d shower, grab something to eat, sit down at the computer and do a little show prep for the next Murdock, Hunter & Alice Show on 92.5-KLSY and then climb in the car and head to the Bellevue Studios.  More often than not, I’d arrive in the garage and there, having his morning cigar, was Matt Riedy. (pronounced REE-dee)

Matt was the morning guy on Smooth Jazz, one of the five stations that lived inside the Sandusky cluster. Once you walked in the lobby, you’d head down a different hallway to each station, so most days, you didn’t really see the other folks. Then again, we were there from 4am-noon, spending the bulk of our time in a studio or our office, so most of our encounters with people from the other stations were just in passing.

But I do remember those cigar chats with Matt fondly. He was curious how we did things over on KLSY with our contracts and how our morning show worked. (people still wonder about that)  You could tell that Matt had a restlessness and that being a Smooth Jazz morning guy was just a stop on his way to something bigger. But it would involve risk. To make it happen, Matt would have to abandon the comfort of a secure job and head down to Los Angeles to pursue a dream along with thousands of others. Eventually, when he felt the time was right, Matt gave up his radio job in Seattle and headed south. He grabbed a part-time radio gig, went on countless auditions and eventually, the career he had envisioned began to happen. The acting opportunities, the voice-over work, the video game gigs. As I’ve watched him succeed, I’m proud to say I knew him back in the days when he was wondering, “What if?”

Twenty years later, we’re both living our dreams. He’s an actor and I’m emceeing Lutefisk Eating Contests.  OK, that wasn’t my dream, but I am. Congrats to Matt for showing everyone how to not only dare to dream but also that you can achieve it. I’d like to also pass along a huge thanks to him, as it was Matt who hooked me up with one of his stand-up comedy friends, Frank King. Frank, in turn, connected me with Jay Leno, which allowed me the opportunity to write one-liners for his monologues for 8 years.

Matt just shared his Theatrical Reel of just some of his work. I thought I’d share it with you, so the next time he pops up on the screen in front of you, you’ll be able to say, “Hey, look. It’s THAT Matt Riedy!” (which is what he called himself back in his KJR Radio Days)

I’ve sent a note to the Internet, apologizing for posting such a positive story. These days, they’re pretty rare.

Congrats, Matt!

Tim Hunter

The Evolution

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We’ve gone our entire lives, taking music along with us every step of the way. From the time we’re born and exposed to a singing nursery rhyme, to the comfort music we turn to when we want to feel good today.

Come along as I take you on a historical tour of my taste in music.

Of course, I was born back in the days before everything had a music bed. Now, you brace yourself to hear a song when you open a birthday card or someone’s ringtone goes off.

I spent my single digit years listening to an assortment of polkas, big bands and church music. But around the time I was 8 or so, the British Invasion began and mop-haired bands with names like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and such became all the rage.

I lived in a big Beatles neighborhood. I remember kids wearing “I like Paul” and “I like John” buttons. Funny, I don’t remember any Ringo buttons. The music I heard from my TV shows included “Let the sunshine in” by Pebbles & Bam Bam and later that decade, “The Monkees” had us tuning in every Monday to hear the latest songs.  All the while, rock was evolving, going from the pop to the psychedelic and soul music. I liked them all.

I basically am a music sponge and there are very few forms I don’t enjoy. Now, I do have an endurance limit on opera and reggae is fine as long as you let me know when the last song ended and the new one has started.

In high school, KHJ, the AM powerhouse in Los Angeles, kept the hits coming. Most were 3-minute songs, with the occasional breakthrough like “American Pie” that had to be played in it’s entirety. As high school became college, the songs got longer and rockier. One of the badges of honor in Terry Hall at the University of Washington was to have the most expensive speakers possible so that you could crank Pink Floyd’s “Dark side of the moon” or Aerosmith’s “Train kept a rollin'” at maximum level.

While I enjoy going to channel 25 on my satellite every now and then, I get restless. If I had to pick a category of music preference, I’d have to say “rocker.”  It reminds me of those college days. Robin Trower, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Foghat, you name it.

I managed to surround myself with rock, even after I graduated and went to work at a small radio station in Yakima, Washington. This was my first professional radio job. When I arrived, it was a daytime radio station (yep, we signed off at sunset) with a 1-point something rating.  By pushing the limits on the air, Brady Layman’s musical diversity and people like Skip Tucker messing with the minds of the listeners, we had us a radio station. Oh, we played the Bay City Rollers, but we also worked in album cuts of Foghat, or Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”  The younger listeners showed up and in some day-parts, we increased the ratings 9-fold!

But soon, I wandered across town and, shortly after that, over to Seattle, where I found myself at Middle of the Road KOMO-AM 1000. I remember sitting in a room with Larry Nelson as he interviewed Johnny Mathis and at the Paramount talking to Wayne Newton.  My rockin’ times were behind me.

After four years, I was cut loose and found myself at KLSY, which at the time was “Classy-FM.” We’re talking Carpenters, Anne Murray, Christopher Cross and others on the soft side.  Oh, I heard some of the big hits on the other station in town—KUBE. “Love Shack”, the Coolio hits, you know, fun stuff like that. But all I could do was sneak in a listen every now and then. For some reason, I felt a loyalty to the music we played, as I felt it would help me better connect to the audience.  So, I lost track of what was happening in rock.

Over my 19 years at KLSY, it progressed slowly and even for a brief while, gave Star 101.5 a run for their money. Program Director and friend Barry McKay pushed the envelope on music and was helping us gain ground. It was through the personal sabotage of another employee that Barry had the reigns taken away, the station returned to that no-man’s land of in-between what WARM played and what STAR played and the station slowly withered away.

When we were thrown a surprise going away party, I went away, thinking I was done with radio. But anyone who’s ever been there knows, it’s a disease.  Something keeps calling you back. So, I applied and was added to weekends and fill-duty at the brand new Wolf country station in Seattle. I had never, I mean EVER liked country music…but the stuff I found myself playing–Keith Urban, Trace Adkins, Kenny Chesney–won me over. After a year, I decided giving up sleep on a Sunday morning for $10 really wasn’t in my long-term interest and I let radio go.

Right now, I truly am all over the board. Give me Macklemore, Taylor Swift, Usher, Blake Shelton, Guns ‘n Roses and I’m a happy guy. This summer’s list of concerts included Boston, Don Henley, A blues festival at the winery, GNR last Friday night and next month, one more winery visit with Joe Walsh.

Bottom line–I love music, I appreciate music, and you have to admit–as you reflect back on your life, there’s a song connected to almost every important moment. The “Sweetheart’s Ball” theme of ‘Precious & Few’ my junior year of high school.  “They’re coming to take me away”, while listening to Dr. Demento in College.

These days, when I’m not listening to talk radio, it’s off to either my phone or the satellite and a nice little musical escape. I can choose a decade, rock my brains out, or even slip in a little Big Band song or two.

Music is such a powerful part of our lives. It resurfaces feelings and stimulates memories. Right now, I’m going to go back to last Friday night’s concert with the words, “Alexa, play Paradise City by Guns ‘n Roses.”

I love technology.

Tim Hunter

Here It Comes Again

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I’m writing on this topic as a way to light a fire under me to make a particular something happen.

Very soon, I’m going to begin a weekly podcast.

Oh, I’ve done it before. It was in 2006. I was in my post-radio reinvention, working at an advertising agency, honing some new skills, but missing those days of broadcasting. It’s really hard to explain how an industry that can toss you away without a care can be so addictive. Maybe it’s like the bronco rider, who just wants to see how long he can stay on. I managed to ride 30 years and only get bucked off twice, ending up in a better position each time.

But I’ve seen so many broadcasting brothers and sisters kicked around by the biz. I’ve told some of them I feel lucky that I was able to be a part of my generation’s “Golden Age” of radio in Seattle. There was inventiveness, competition, fresh ideas, big stunts—all things missing from today’s watered-down version of that medium. Or, is it a large? But, I digress…

I was part of the Larry Nelson break-out era at KOMO, when we went from a sleepy Middle-of-the-Road format to a little-more-awake Full Service format. Then, I went over to KLSY and spent the next 19 years of my broadcasting career in their 3 buildings. We started in the Main Place in downtown Bellevue…wandered over to the building next to the Bellevue School District, just about The Butcher…and ended up in the current facilities in Factoria.

The “competition” was Ichabod, Bob Rivers, Charlie & Ty, The I-Guys, Ryan & Ryan, Kent & Alan and lots more that escape my immediate memory.  There was some great radio in town.

When the Murdock, Hunter and Alice thing blew up in 2003, I snuck into The Wolf, doing weekends and fill-in for just under a year, which gave me the country music experience and to meet Fitz, Possom, Woj and Wingnut. Sure, I was able to take part in some fun events, occasionally hearing from a former listener…but talking over intro’s just wasn’t the same as being part of a morning show. So, I let go.

After a couple of years of writing and working my way into an advertising agency, I decided to launch a podcast. Hey, why not? So, in late 2006, I started putting together these various-length montages of bits from my KQOT, KMWX, KOMO and KLSY years, plus some new things I put together.

Then I met a girl. And my priorities shifted.

Almost 9 years after the initial episodes, I’ve decided it’s time to get back into it. I still have that radio itch, but the instability of the business has caused it to lose its appeal. I used to think, “Oh, podcasts are for raging ego’s who just need to hear themselves talk” and that may be true.  But I believe the formula I’ve put together acts like a time capsule, allowing me to share & preserve some of the fun from my radio past.

So, if you’d like to explore the first 11 podcasts, you’ll find them here on my SoundCloud page. I’ll do my best to keep them entertaining and surprise you with an occasional guest or two. It’s been a busy life lately, but I hope to get this back into a fun routine.  Soon.

Wish me luck and thanks for the read.

Tim Hunter

They Just Don’t Get It

It’s been almost 11 years since I was informed of my retirement from radio.  Since then, I’ve watch group ownerships get bigger, consolidations followed by layoffs and all this, while local radio has devolved into an efficient-as-possible money-making machine.  Phase out the big-name shows, hire green talent to step in, and slowly but surely become less relevant to the audience that grew up with you.

My latest frustration with the world of radio came during the major league baseball playoffs, when I had to be on the road during one of the games.  I surfed up and down my AM and FM dial, past 5 different sports stations and not one was carrying the game.  Or any baseball playoff game for that matter.  Now, I would expect that in a smaller market, but in Seattle–a market with a major league baseball team.  Oh, we want you to be a fan, but ONLY if it’s us.

Radio basically came at me with the question, “So what are you going to do about it?”  What they fail to realize is that today, there ARE options.  I can download an app and play the game on my phone.  Or, if nothing else, you’ve trained me to search for what else is out there.  And lookie-there….satellite!

For a $1.83 upgrade charge, I suddenly had all the games in my car, whenever I need to be on the road.

Yes, I already had satellite in the car.  Got one of those free 3-month trials and fell in love with the static-free, commercial-free offerings.

I had a lot of fun in my radio days, but this incident is another reminder of why it was probably a good thing I got out when I did.  I’m a big believer of “things happen for a reason.”  Sadly, the people running radio these days are doing nothing more than cashing out, and trying to make as much as they can while they can.

Just passing along my latest experience and further proof that they just don’t it.

Tim Hunter