Thursday, February 28, 2013

Answers At Last (David B. Treadway)

I don't know if it was a privilege or a curse, getting to watch from the inside as KAAY moved from 1425 West Seventh Street to the new building at 2400 Cottondale Lane in 1976. A few things troubled me from the moment Dave Montgomery unscrewed the white key from the microphone switch and told me to make sure it got onto the RCA console in the new control room. Now I think I've got 'em figured out--and I'm afraid they are the definition of Tragedy. That move across town was the beginning of the end.

It only took a few days in that wonderful new facility to convince me that something was Not Right. There were some intangibles that had not made the move with us. That old KAAY Spirit never set foot in the new building. The magic just did not transfer when the people did. For years, I wondered where it went, and now I see that it already had been killed off. It was dead before we tore out the last turntable in the old studio.

There were a couple of craters in the Promised Land. Operations Manager Wayne Moss was gone, along with General Manager Pat Walsh. They had both been replaced shortly after LIN Broadcasting sold the station to Multimedia, and if the new guys had a clue at all, it didn't show. Yeah, that's my opinion, but you'd have no trouble finding other insiders who'd be a bunch more blunt.

Replacing Pat Walsh was a huge and fatal mistake. You're getting rid of the only GM in LIN Broadcasting's radio division who once billed a million dollars in one year with a stand-alone AM station? "There ain't but one set of ratings that matters a damn, and that's how much money did you make." Pat told me that when I was 26 and I have yet to meet anyone who can counter it.

The image of Pat Walsh as a hardboiled, obnoxious, money-mad ogre is a fair one--and I believe he cultivated it. But there was a lot more to Pat. His genius was in his belief that you hire the best possible person for the job, then just let them do it. Reward them when they succeed, chew their hindquarters like a starving alligator when they fail--but leave them alone as much as possible and let them work!

Wayne Moss thought like Pat. If you were good enough to be on the air at KAAY, you didn’t need somebody hovering over you. If you screwed up beyond a certain point, Wayne would be on you like two coats of paint (ask me how I know this), but he mostly laid out the path and trusted you to follow it.

The new Multimedia Program Director seemed to take pride in being the exact opposite of Wayne. It was like he never trusted his staff. It seemed as if he was waiting for us to mess up so he could pounce. Very quickly, the perception was that we couldn't be counted on to do our jobs properly, that we needed constant correction. It was a rude slap that long-timers deeply resented, and I think it was a main reason that Sonny Martin III soon bailed out for a new gig at KSSN across town. It wouldn't be too long until Bob Robbins followed him.

You can't be trusted to do your job. Somebody's got to watch you at every moment. There's the difference between KAAY's glory days and the shell it soon became. It's an attitude that's been stifling and crippling Radio from that day to this. It's such a simple thing that it's taken me nearly forty years to figure it out: complete control destroys the soul.

I don't blame New PD 1 for the way he ran things, nor do I blame the ten or twelve who followed him for their methods. Likewise, New GM 1 was just doing things the Multimedia way--as were the half dozen or so who came after him (all of this turnover in well under ten years). The blame rightly belongs to Multimedia Radio, which could not stay out of its own way long enough to let KAAY function.

I look back now and am reminded of the day in April 2011 when I touched the ruins of that glorious RCA BTA 50-F transmitter in Wrightsville. All they had to do was leave it alone…

David B. Treadway
Doc Holiday VII
The Last PD


  1. Always great to hear a David B. KAAY history story. Not only was Multimedia clueless as to how to run the station, but once it actually started recovering some in 1984 (a more focused format under the guidance of Mr. Treadway), they turned around and sold it! And for less than a million! Then less than two and a half years later, Sudbrink sold it for 2.6 million. Thanks for the contribution, David B.!

  2. After reading this article, it seems that downward spiral it started taking in 1976 still plagues KAAY today.

  3. It is difficult for me to imagine Mr. Walsh working well with The Multimedia Weasels. I didn't come to know Pat (except by reputation) until he was running KLRA, but he was obviously a man of conviction and that would never work at Multimedia.

    Dave tells us that the New PD didn't understand KAAY. Multimedia didn't understand KAAY (or KEEL, for that matter)and never tried to learn. I never saw a newspaper company that could run radio and Multimedia was no exception.

    I heard an interesting story from Barry Wood about "The Spirit of KAAY" at 7th Street, but I probably shouldn't tell that one online.

    The problem with KAAY is that Pat Walsh made it look easy. People tried to imitate him and people failed. Pat inspired an extraordinary loyalty among his Staff and that alone shows me that he was a very special man.

  4. They took a 50,000 watt blowtorch...and turned it into a little oxygen starved flame with no soul.

    Truly, the good old days of AM are gone. I grew up loving KAAY and waiting for sundown so I could listen way up in Missouri. Loved every minute of it.