34 years ago today, I started my new job at KXIQ Radio in Bend, Oregon. If I’m counting correctly, this was my 8th radio job after KNAB, KCHK, KWKR, KKEZ, KRIT, KGLI, and KDOG. 8 jobs in just over 5 years! Now you know why the cardinal rules of working in radio are “never sign a lease” and “never buy furniture!”
Afternoon Drive and Music Director at Q94 was the best job that I never applied for. A few months earlier, I had sent a tape to Drake-Chenault for an opening at their client station in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I didn’t get the gig, but the Drake-Chenault people unknowingly passed my tape on to Bonnie Shields, General Manager of KXIQ and our sister station KGRL-AM 940. Bonnie called me in mid-November, asking if I would be interested in flying out to Bend and interviewing for their morning opening.
First question: Where the heck is Bend, Oregon? In 1988, it was a town of barely 18,000 population. In fact, the entire Central Oregon market was less than 100,000. Today, the population of Bend alone is 102,059 and growing rapidly! Was I interested? Sure, why not? I was playing country at a small AM station on the outskirts of Minneapolis-St. Paul and not making any money. A new adventure at age 24 was just what the doctor ordered!
Bonnie was fantastic. Hands down, the best General Manager I ever worked for. She flew me to Oregon and put me up for 3 nights at the top lodges in Bend: Inn of the Seventh Mountain, Mount Bachelor, and Sunriver Resort. Actually, it was supposed to be 4 nights, but I got delayed in Denver due to weather and missed my connection. The airline gave me a free hotel room and $50 food/drinks voucher, so it wasn’t all bad. It was obvious that Bonnie was really trying to sell me on the area and of course, the job. This in contrast to the usual “Here’s what you have to do, here’s what it pays. If you want the job, great. If not, we don’t care because there are 15 other guys who will take it for less money.” I was impressed. Even so, I really didn’t want to get up at 4:30AM and do mornings. Plus, I had a few other concerns. Initially, I turned the job down. Over the next few weeks, Bonnie and I worked these out without too much difficulty. On Monday, December 19, 1988, I became the new afternoon voice of “Central Oregon’s Hot FM, Q94.”
We were by far the dominant station with the biggest signal in the region. Unlike the other FMs which had transmitters on Awbrey Butte, we built ourselves a mountain tower! KXIQ broadcast with a full 100,000 watts from Jack Pine Ridge, on the edge of the Cascade Mountains. This gave us solid coverage of Bend, Redmond, Prineville, Madras, La Pine, and everywhere else in Central Oregon. We could be heard all the way east to Burns and north into Washington state! Our ratings were good also. Bend wasn’t big enough for Arbitron in those days, but the semi-annual Willhight survey ranked us #1 across the board. I think that KICE-FM 100.7 (the country station) beat us in a few dayparts with adults 35+. But other than that, we were on top. I pulled an unbelievable 41.6 share 12+ in afternoons!
Everything was going spectacularly well. I loved my job, loved my boss, was making good money, had a supportive girlfriend who actually “got” radio, and lived in a truly beautiful part of the world. I knew it was too good to last, and it was. In June, 1989, we got word that owner Bruce Engel and his right hand man Gary Capps had sold the stations. The new owners were Mike and Sarah Burnette of Phoenix, Arizona. Mike had managed KMEO-FM 96.9 during the “Cameo” era. Apparently, they would be taking over later that year. Mike would become General Manager of KGRL/KXIQ. This meant my boss would be getting the axe. Lots of uncertainty in the months to come.
What to do? After careful consideration, I decided my best course of action would be to begin searching for my next radio opportunity. Mike was a professional, no doubt about it. He obviously had large market experience and success at KMEO. But he was pretty tight-lipped about his plans for Q94. I was aware that I sat relatively high on the payroll and also that I enjoyed benefits not given to other airstaffers such as weekends off and use of food and beverage trade at local restaurants. Under new ownership, I was fairly certain these benefits would be eliminated as well as possible reduction in salary. I got an offer I was happy with, so I packed up my CD collection and hit the road. My final show on KXIQ aired from 3-8PM on Wednesday, August 16, 1989. Gregg Lenny arrived from KYRK-FM 97.1 (“Power 97”) to take my place.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of either the studios or the transmitter site. However, I do have audio of my final hour on Q94 where Gregg joins me and I hand off Q94’s afternoon show to him. In all, it was a damn fun gig which ended way too quickly. Which all too often is the case in radio.