KDKB Alum Dennis McBroom Remembers When Radio Still Had Tubes and The Tubes Had Radio Airplay

This weekend, 93.3 KDKB, the "Sixth Longest-Running FM Rock Station in Nation," enters into its fourth decade of existence with a Saturday, August 13 celebratory performance by The Tubes at Foundry on First, one of the countless bands that got its first big radio boost on the heritage rock station (as we profiled in this week's music feature).

The show also doubles as a KDKB Alumni Reunion weekend, where many of the veteran jocks and on-air personalities are brought back to reminisce with the fans, something hard to imagine happening with post-millennium radio. Among those present will be Dennis McBroom, a 42-year on-air personality who has clocked over 20 years in three different stints at KDKB and still does traffic there with Sludge every morning.

We asked him about the halcyon days of freeform radio, when deejays were actually instructed to pick their own music and eclectic bands like The Tubes could cut across all formats and win airplay at the whim of a jock.

Up on The Sun: When you started at KDKB, could you seriously play any type of music? Were there ever any records you were encouraged not to play? Berlitz: Basic German for Travelers? Tibetan yak field recordings? Lothar and the Hand People?

Dennis McBroom: When Bill Compton, the station's first program director hired me, what he told me and repeated to everyone he hired, he said 'Your job was to do the best show you possibly can.' When I started, there was a 10,000-album library. When I left in '76, it was over 14,000. You went to the wall, you picked your music and did your show. Country, classic, soft rock, hard rock, bluegrass, comedy, everything. If it sounded good and worked well together in a set it was cool. Your job was to know all that so you didn't do the bad mix.

When did the marketing groups come in and KDKB and start bringing in playlists?

They brought in the Burkhart-Abrams Superstars format in 1977 and by the time you hit the mid-eighties, it didn't sound at all like it did in the day. In 1986, the Sandusky family hired Chuck Artigue to bring it back to the rock heritage station it should be and still is. I came back with him in 1987 and we've been rockin' ever since.

A band like The Tubes that could parody punk, country, disco, glam rock or Journey-style formulaic rock was hard for radio to categorize. The early incarnation of the band could seemingly only exist on a free form radio station.

Back then you had Top 40 stations, you didn't have any alternates. Freeform radio was fairly new; people who got into it loved it. So in the markets where stations like KDKB existed, The Tubes did well. [The band didn't do as well in] places that only had Top 40 stations...because there was nobody who would play their records in that kind of market. Whereas at KDKB you could get airplay, get help promoting concerts, and The Tubes just one of many bands who benefited. Charlie Daniels-- country stations didn't really dig his music cause he was too rock, Top 40 stations wouldn't play him because he wasn't Top 40. So again Charlie Daniels made his early success on KDKB and other stations like it across the country.

The Tubes got a ton of airplay and they did a bunch of shows with us. All the guys in The Tubes went to Camelback High except Vince Welnik the keyboard player. He and I went to West High together.

Sadly, Welnik left the band and became yet another of the many Grateful Dead keyboard players to die too soon, but it just shows you what versatile players they all were.

They're all phenomenal musicians.

Was Phoenix initially resistant to their over-the-top theatrics?

The Tubes went to the Bay Area in 1969 so when they came back here in 1975 they had already developed the theatrics. It was an established show, they already had a first album record out, they were getting solid airplay on KDKB and we promoted their first shows here. They were amazing and we had the good fortune to say they were a hometown band and we're going to play the hell out of them. They were a show band and really the only other show out there [like that] was Alice Cooper. KISS hadn't even come along yet. Alice had a very specific theatrical element and The Tubes wasn't the same but it was just as theatrical, just as show. What other local bands got a heavy push from KDKB?

Hans Olson, The Dusty Chaps, Chuck Wagon and the Wheels. Later on you got The Jetsonz, The Gin Blossoms. All of them got their first airplay at KDKB.

When The Tubes became a Top 40 group in the eighties, did KDKB tend to shy away from playing them?

You've got to remember that for every "She's a Beauty" there are 10 or 11 songs on that album which are just as good, Yeah, we'll play that song but were gonna play these songs, too. "White Punks on Dope" got airplay, but so did "Mondo Bondage" and "What Do You Want From Life." The A&M stuff was too early for any kind of radio station except what we were.

What were some of the most memorable show KDKB did with The Tubes?

They did a Celebrity Theater show in '76, they added one quarter of the theater and added it to the stage in the round. And they were right in you face. They did a show at Graham Central Station in the early eighties that just rocked. A lot of fun. And the Christmas Pudding Show at Alice Cooperstown, where all the guys got back together. That was nice to see.

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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic