A few years ago, Emmylou Harris declared KCUV one of the greatest radio stations in existence. And it was.
This was back when it was 1510 on the AM dial in Denver.
The early posters promoting the station bragged about playing everyone from Asleep at the Wheel and Los Lobos to the Subdudes and Doc Watson.
Since then, it made the jump to 102.3 FM and in the transition lost a little of its funky spirit.
Mainstream pop started to collect in the playlist like spider webs in an abandoned house.
But still, listeners remained loyal and forgave the occasional misstep and unfortunate lapse in judgment made in order to please the Radio-Powers-That-Be.
We took the bad with the great: the variety of music and it was the only place in Denver to hear the lesser-knowns like James McMutry and Todd Snider or even the slightly-more-knowns like Patty Griffin and John Prine.
Sure they played Led Zeppelin and Dylan, but it was usually something that you didn’t hear unless you pulled out your old vinyl. They even had a regular showcase of songs found only on vinyl and a concert series from the legendary Ebbet’s Field.
We took their mantra of “rock without rules” to heart. We treasured the stories from DJs who actually knew what they were talking about instead of reciting trivia from Wikipedia between songs.
Listeners who tried to find their beloved station today were disappointed. In place of the real KCUV they found a simulcast of JACK – a station classified as “Adult Hits” and that is found in over 40 markets. I got calls from half a dozen people, all distraught in their time of loss.
It seems for Denver, good radio has died. The last survivor in the fight against corporate stations and nationally prescribed playlists succumbed to the dreaded “low ratings.” We must now turn to internet broadcasts at work (Austin’s KGSR is pretty great) and return to our iPods and CDs in the car.
May our loss serve as a warning to others in areas with radio worth listening to. Support your stations, for you never know when they may disappear without warning.