Joe Kenney: It’s A Lifestyle

First Radio Job: Weekend kid at KOVE. Fifteen years old.  I used to ride my bike out to the station, got to know everybody, and they finally just gave me a job. I signed the station on for Saturday mornings.

Current Job: Owner & GM for KOVE-AM and KLDY-FM, as well as an FM translator/Lander, WY

Your school? Casper College, and then to the University of Wyoming. When I came back to Lander, I again started at KOVE on weekends, and then went fulltime, and became the manager at age 23. I don’t know of too many people that have the opportunity to run somebody else’s business on their dime, and then be given the opportunity to buy in. I was very fortunate.

Typical work day: I’m at the station by 7. I do correspondence and copywriting then. I do a program every day called Coffee Time at 9:30. We’ve had everybody on that program from the guy running for mayor, the Chief of Police to celebrities like Chuck Yeager. After the show, I see clients, work on ad packages, record spots … the kind of stuff that goes with running a radio station.

My wife Andrea and I – we’ve been married 39 years – own the stations. She takes care of payroll and accounts payable. We’re a family-owned radio station, and we do our best for our town.

What are you reading? I’m a voracious reader. I’m a big fan of mysteries, intrigue and spy novels. For trade publications, we get those magazines through the door that features those wiz-bang studios that nobody in the world can afford. I keep track of what the Wyoming Broadcasters sends. I’m focused on the federal election rules right now.

Best vacation you ever had: What’s a vacation? We do take 4 or 5 days once in a while to do something, but we don’t get opportunities to just flat be gone.  Maybe I’m too controlling, but I just don’t get away.

But it’s working for you for how many years? I’ve been the manager since 1973. That’s … 41 years.

Favorite restaurant: I don’t know if you can have one here locally. If we’ve got a client on, that’s where we’re going to go eat. My favorite is the best client that’s on. Right now, that’s Taco John’s!

Favorite beverage: Iced tea.

Website: www.kdlykove.com

Contact Info: (307) 332-5683, radio1@wyoming.com

If it’s going on in the community, we try and be a part of it.”

 

What got you started in radio? I remember as a little kid, I was sitting in front of an old console-type radio, and I was trying to figure out where that guy was that was talking. They still had the Lone Ranger on, and programs that got your imagination involved. I was never a great athlete, but when my friends were playing Little League, I was the kid in the announcer booth.

Kenney, Joe 2Who have your radio heroes been? Dan Breece hired me, way back in the beginning … his father, Ed, was the one who put the AM station on in 1948. It was a big deal back then: the Governor came to town to flip the switch and officially turn the station on.

Dan gave me my first chance to be on the air, and my first chance to work full-time. One day when his manager had wandered away in the night, I told Dan that I could do the job, and he thought all of 5 seconds before he said, “All right. Let’s do it.” Dan and I built the FM in ’75.

You never worked at another radio station? I did in college, in Laramie. I signed the station on at 6am and off at 6pm, and then went to school in the daytime.  KLME/Laramie, WY. This was in 1968 and 1969.

When you came back to Lander, you had a non-radio job? I did, but that wasn’t my career goal. I worked there part-time, and did production at the station on the weekends until a full-time position at the station became available. It was always my intention to go back to the station when I could.

Small Market StoriesYou’ve really only lived in your hometown. What’s that like? We’ve got life-long friendships. There’s a group of people that I went to school with that gets together every day. We’re the Fox News All-stars, every morning for coffee.

We’re still the station that does lost and found dogs, birthdays and stuff like that. You just can’t out-local a local guy.

We have a relationship with law enforcement personnel, and they’ve called me in the middle of the night if they need help on-air talking about lost kids, or a flood warning where they need people to do sand bags, or whatever. I’ve come to the station at 2 or 3 in the morning to help them. When you accept the responsibility of an FCC license for your radio station, you owe that  to the community.

How big is Lander? About 8,000 people. The service area is about 40,000.

What are some of the community events you support? If it’s going on in the community, we try and be a part of it.

The 4th of July, my wife and I set up downtown and broadcast the parade on the radio.  It’s surprising how many people listen to us describe the parade. It’s a very important service to the community that we do. This year is the 125th anniversary of the first Pioneer Days celebration in Lander. Lander is also legendary for the fireworks display.

This weekend, there’s an annual Beerfest that we promote every year.

We provide the background and all of the advertising for an annual car show.

Another event is the One Shot Antelope Hunt, which brings people to town from all over the world. I have the best job: I get to tell the legend of the hunt, and give the hunters their Indian names and get to know them when they’re interviewed on-air.

What is a One Shot Antelope Hunt? It started back in the ‘30s, when a guy from Wyoming and a guy from Colorado got to talking about how they had it easy, with the ‘scopes and rifles they had. It was a lot easier than when the Indians were hunting with a bow and arrow … and the Indians only got one shot. So a challenge was born, to see who could do the best with just one shot. It’s grown from that beginning, and become the template for other hunts as well.

Dick Cheney was on the team for Wyoming last year. We bring people from all over. I get to poke fun at everybody; I have the best job. We work with the Shoshone Indians to give each hunter a name that’s usually tied to their job or whatever their claim to fame might be. That’s 8 teams with 3 on each team. The Shoshone are a part of everything related to the hunt. The hunters are made blood brothers in the Tribe. I get to work with some very special people from the Shoshone Tribe; it really adds to the color and the pageantry of the event.

The stations sponsor a western music show twice a year put on by the Bar J Wranglers. We do it for the community; it’s a G-rated event. They’re like the Sons of the Pioneers with their old western songs. They do some comedy. If you go to one of their shows and go away cranky, you’re just too full of yourself. We do a spring show and a Christmas show.

Money maker for the station? We’re still charging the same price for admission that we were 10 or 12 years ago. If I make any money on the shows, I donate it back to a community group.

Many corporate groups would regard an event like this as NTR … but you put the money back into the community? The Bar J guys would do that as well. They do another Christmas show as a charity event for their church. The Christmas show here is over in Riverton, and I’ve had people come up to me at that event and ask for the date of the spring concert. The fans are that loyal.

I brought Ian Tyson to town for a concert, and made money from that show. I got a lot of requests to bring Ian back, and I did … and absolutely lost my shirt. But the Bar J shows, we’ve done those for 25 years. Our Christmas show is December 12.

How many people work at the stations? Four full-timers: two sales people, and two on-air people. There are also two part-timers and some contract employees. We’d like to have more, but this size seems to work best for our operation at this number. Everybody has more than one job.  We don’t count my wife and I as part of the staff, and we don’t count the cat, either.

The sales people write their own copy, and they either produce their own spots, or get help from one of the on-air people. We’re just about as small as you can get. I may have missed some opportunities by not borrowing money, but I prefer to save up and have things paid for when we turn on the switch.

We just finished a $150,000 project for a new building and transmitter for the FM. The old transmitter was 25 years old, and we decided it was time to upgrade. That was our big project over the last 2 years … but it’s paid for.

Kenney, JoeTake us through the broadcast day. We’re live in both studios, 6a – 1p. At 1, we go to the satellite. The AM is hot country, and the FM is rock classics.

Local sports? We have the University of Wyoming and the Denver Broncos.

For our high school’s games, we have the guy that is the fire administrator for the city of Lander do play by play, and the father of one of the star players is his color man. They broadcast all of the games for football as well as boys and girls basketball.

Podcasting? Streaming? I’ve not done any. We’re in the talking stages at this point. One of the reasons I haven’t done it are the NFL and NCAA restrictions that don’t allow the streaming of their games.

How does your website do? I haven’t made a nickel on the website. We’re working right now with our website developer on a business directory for the website, and we’re hoping that will generate some new revenue.

We have local news, with an archive that goes back to 2010. Our news director is the webmaster, and he’s also the FM sign-on guy.

Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…? No. I don’t have time. That would be like having another job as far as I’m concerned. We have people that do keep up on that, but I don’t have time. We may be limiting ourselves there.

What do you do outside of the office? What’s fun? I’m a car guy. I enjoy old cars, and tinkering on them. We have a very small collection: a ’53 Ford pickup, a ’56 Ford Thunderbird, a ’64 Corvette, a ’67 Camaro. I also have a vintage airplane, a ’46 Aeronca Champ, that you have to hand start. I fly that. We also have a Jeep that we take out into the hills.

What would you tell someone who wants to get into the radio business? The fun part’s being on the air; the money part’s selling. It’s a career where every day is different, because you’re going to talk to different people. I never set out to be a person that’s out doing philanthropic things, and I don’t consider myself that. But, that’s the responsibility of a licensee from the FCC – so you do things for your community. It’s not a career, it’s a lifestyle when you own a radio station.

 

 

About Henry Mowry

Henry grew up listening to the World's Happiest Broadcasters on WHB/Kansas City. He found his way to Los Angeles, where he did radio promotions for Six Flags Magic Mountain. From there, he had a 22-year run with Radio & Records, doing everything from national radio buys to regional night club promotions to eventually becoming Director of Sales for R&R. After a couple of years working with Radio-Info.com, he became Director of Marketing for Smarts Broadcast Systems.
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