Ghost Radio

Who's behind Arizona's nonstop oddball rock time capsule?

Tindle does discover that Tucker did in fact live in Phoenix during the early days of KDKB and later worked in Tucson as an engineer at KWFM, "which was sort of the KDKB of Tucson," Tindle says. "The fact that he was an engineer would make it possible for him to operate that station pretty much by himself."

Tucker's engineering background -- and the geekiness that comes with that territory -- also hints at what may be Tucker's real reason for creating KCDX.

"There are engineers who work on equipment and do that exclusively," says Tindle. "And then there are engineers who get up in the morning, make a cup of coffee and sit down with plat maps, figuring out what they can do. Now, from what I saw on the FCC documents, he originally had two stations. And I don't know if he took the other station dark or moved the frequency of the other channel to boost the power on the KCDX channel. But something was done to boost the signal on KCDX. There's some reason he wants that station to reach all the way south from Phoenix."

Details

illustrations by Jo Tyler

In the end, Tucker may well have created KCDX just to give himself something to listen to on his frequent trips to his other stations around southern Arizona. It's the one theory he comes closest to confirming on the phone.

"It always fascinated me, the thought of being able to put music on the air and drive around and hear it," he says at one point. "The whole physics of radio and how it works. How it bounces off mountains and spreads across the landscape. So that's one of my loves. Music is the other. You marry the two, and this is what you get."

Certainly, what Tucker is doing is what every radio-alienated baby boomer busily burning CDs and loading up iPods to take in the car would do if he had the skills -- and the funds. "There are costs involved," he says. "But right now, I'm not too concerned about that."

It also explains why he hasn't glopped up his own portable CD collection with commercials. "I have some improvements in mind," he says. "But when I say improvements,' it's not in the classic radio sense of hiring a funny morning team and loading the day with commercials. I don't consider commercials an improvement."

Rather, Tucker says, his only plan -- for the moment, at least -- is to add a few more CDs to his on-air music collection. "There's more coming," he promises. "I'm trying to add more songs to it. I just haven't gotten around to it yet."

Inarguably, KCDX has the potential to become a serious commercial venture. "Take a look at the coverage he has," notes Tindle. "Ten years ago, Chandler, Gilbert, Ahwatukee -- that stuff wasn't even there. Today, that's a pretty hefty market. Especially as growth from the Valley continues south. So when you think of what the potential for this station is, it's really quite tremendous."

From the sounds of it, however, KCDX is really Ted Tucker's personal station. We're all just listening in.

"I hope everybody enjoys it," he says. "But really, I'm just doing what I want to do. There's so much great music that's been swept away, that no radio station cares about playing anymore. I don't know; maybe they're right.

"But it all depends on whether you're just in it for the money, or if you're in it for the love of music. Where I'm coming from and where most radio people are coming from is pretty different."

And with that, Tucker excuses himself to get back to his many projects, promising to be more accessible in the future. Two days later, the cell phone number that previously reached him directly has been rerouted to one of his other stations, where the receptionist promises to give him the message to call.

Tucker never surfaces again. But KCDX, loaded with even more selections, as promised, continues to play on. Still commercial-free. And still deliciously mysterious.

E-mail jimmy.megahern@newtimes.com or call 602-229-8478.

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