by Alex Cosper
Alex: Ladies & gentlemen, today I'm with Dennis Constantine, who is the current Director of internet radio platform Live365. He has also programmed several amazing major market stations like KFOG in SF, KBCO and KBPI in Boulder/Denver and KINK in Portland, Oregon. He has been a master at programming the adult album alternative format and now helps people create their own internet stations. Dennis, thank you for joining me today.
Dennis: Hi Alex! It's good to be here with you today.
Alex: I'm honored to do this interview with you, Dennis, since I used to watch your playlist at KBCO in Denver while I programmed KWOD in Sacramento in the 90s. Congrats on programming so many winning stations.
Dennis: Thank you! And to you - KWOD was a wonderful station.
Alex: Yes, and you've hung with some wonderful people like Paul McCartney. When and where did that happen?
Dennis: It was back in the early 2000s. Paul was on tour coming to Portland, and we arranged an exclusive live interview with him. Our morning man Les Sarnoff did the interview and I was the producer. We were playing Paul's music on the air getting ready for the interview that was taking place backstage at the concert. Paul walked into the room and out of the speakers was the finale to Abbey Road. Paul said hello, sat down, put on the headphones that I handed him and starting singing along with the radio, "And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make." I was blown away, and I have that recorded for posterity! The interview was magnificent. Over twenty minutes, and Paul's full attention was on the interview.
Alex: Here you are at KTLK in 1974 pulling out a McCartney LP in the days when walls of vinyl albums could be found everywhere in radio. You actually started in radio in the late 60s. Tell us about how you got into radio.
Dennis: I first was invited to a radio station in Baltimore when I was in 5th grade to record PSAs. I saw what people we're doing for a living - listening to music and turning knobs and pushing buttons. I knew that's what I wanted to do! That very station, WCAO, gave me my first job in radio when I was 17. I miss the walls of records, by the way. Today's radio studios are so generic.
Alex: Some of your other earlier stations included WTTR in Westminster, MD (67-69), WMYQ in Miami (73) and Y100, Ft Lauderdale,FL, (74) .. What was your first programming job?
Dennis: WTTR was the first job where I developed my on air persona. I was on the air seven hours a day! Thankfully, they put up with me, cause it was rough. Plus, I was a kid who wanted to rock and roll and I was playing Percy Faith Records! From there, I was hired to do middays at WYRE in Annapolis. Soon after I arrived, the PD Ron Rondo was transferred to another station and they named me PD. I was 21.
After five years, Jack McCoy hired me to go to Miami to work with him at WMYQ. That lasted four months. Then, John Rook hired me at competitor Y100. After 3 months there, John asked me if I'd like to move to Denver and work with Big Ron O'Brien as music director at KTLK. I accepted, not knowing anything about Denver. I fell in love with Colorado and stayed close to 25 years!
Alex: John Rook has been a big name in the radio industry for a long time, so that says a lot right there. What did you learn at KTLK that prepared you for a nice long run at KBCO in Boulder?
Dennis: John was a great teacher. I was one of those DJs who would scream over the beginnings of records. If the song had an intro that was 40 seconds before the vocals started (think "Shaft"), then I would do everything I could to fill up that time with some kind of nonsense. I'd string together a bunch of different things. At KTLK, I started giving the night show I was doing a theme, and I'd put a bunch of content in-between each song. John said, "Give the listener what they want. They donSlow down. Just do one thing. Pick the best and use just that." That's the one-thought-per-break concept that I took with me for the rest of my radio career. I also learned the importance of being brief and to the point.
Alex: Before you landed at the legendary KBCO you were briefly at KBPI in the Denver market. What brought you to KBCO?
Dennis: I played top 40 music at KTLK, but the music I listened to at home was albums. So AOR radio was really where my head was. I was fired from KTLK for using some bathroom humor that the GM found distasteful, even though I was number one on my show in Denver. Frank Felix at KBPI wanted to take advantage of the huge audience I had and bring them over to KBPI, so he hired me for mornings. Finally, I got to play the music I loved. But within six months, the Superstars format showed up on our main competition KAZY. Frank overreacted and fired pretty much the entire veteran staff. I had heard about a man who just bought an FM station in Boulder. I met with him and told him there was a great opportunity in the market for a home grown album station. The name I came up with was Color Radio - spelled Coloradio. Music with a Colorado flavor.
After listening to it in my head for a few months, I realized that it would get old, like a novelty record. Bob Greenlee came up with a better name - BCO, for Boulder Colorado. KBCO was born on June 2, 1977.
Alex: And so what was the ratings battle like between KBCO, KBPI and KTLK back in that era?
Dennis: KTLK went disco, following that craze, and they did well for awhile. KBPI did incredibly well - they had a 10 share, which for an FM station in the 70s was rare. KAZY seemed to always be behind KBPI. And then, we had several other AOR competitors come to the market - 96 KX and K-Peak. KFML was a great radio station, but they were on AM, and a daytime only station. KTCL was also great; they were in Fort Collins at the time and had signal issues penetrating into all of Denver. So, they all struggled. KBCO had a slow start. We had only 250 watts when we started. Over the years, our owner Bob Greenlee worked with the FCC to get power increases. We went 100,000 watts in 1987 with the best signal in Denver from an 8,000 foot mountain. That's when KBCO went #1 in Denver.
Alex: That's quite an upgrade. Tell us about your airstaff at KBCO. I notice Judy McNutt worked for you. I know her from when she programmed KRXQ in Sacramento in the late 80s/early 90s ...
Dennis: John Bradley, Doug Clifton, Ginger, Dave Rahn, Jon Steele, John Hancock, Peter Finch, Jeremy, Peter Rodman, Kenny Weisberg, Tom Koetting, Paul Marszalak, Roxanne, Jim Sprinkle, Mike McCaleb, Scott Arbough, Annette Griswold, this could take all night. The point is, KBCO was about quality people. I probably just upset a bunch of people because I didn't mention them. We were a great team; a family.
Alex: imagine you allowed them to be humans instead of predictable industry jocks. Was that the case and what type of freedom did you allow the jocks to have?
Dennis: Everyone had the freedom to pick the songs for their shows. We had systems in place, but by allowing them to choose their own music, they could give their show its own personality within the overall framework of the station. It also allowed them to play rain songs when it rained, sunny songs, snow songs, or play depressing songs when the Broncos lost!
Alex: Dennis, I know you have to run right now, so we will pick up part 2 of this interview at a later time to further discuss your programming at KBCO, KINK and KFOG, as well as what you do at Live365. Thanks for part 1 of this interview, which can now be found and shared with the world on this page .. http://www.playlistresearch.com/interviews/dennisconstantine.htm
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