COW-AM & FM (KOWN 92.1 FM & KOWN 1150 AM, Escondido/Vista, CA)
Yes that’s right …”The Cow”. OK, I’m going to start right here and say I fought, and fought hard, against calling this station “The Cow”, but clearly lost. I mean, if I had such a problem calling K-131 “The Kiote”, can you imagine … “The Cow”?! While at KIK-FM, the same owner purchased this AM/FM combo in north San Diego county. The call letters “KOWN” were initially meant to convey “own”, as in the community’s “own” radio stations. Why the owner insisted on calling it “The Cow” is well beyond me. My job was to change the format of both AM and FM to country music and try to bring success to the combo, so many a passionate discussion took place between the owner and his “people” on one side of “The Cow” issue, and myself on the other, because I was looking for something a little more condusive to hip and current. It was bad enough me being the programing consultant, and later program director, but I can’t imagine what the poor sales people felt like calling on a new client: “Hi, this is so-and-so … have you heard about the great new radio station, COW?” OY!
Country radio had become mainstream and we were having great success with KIK-FM. Changing the format here was a good call since there was only one real competitor in the San Diego metro. I began by changing the format from easy jazz to modern country on the FM and a more classic country feel on the AM, and acting as programming consultant to this combo while still programming KIK-FM. I had taken myself off the air at KIK by this time in order to devote all my time to programming, so this allowed me a day or two a week at either station. Things went smoothly, the staff took to the new format, we were making a presence in the community, and the numbers were up.
You have to understand that radio can be as cutthroat as they come, and KIK was no exception. There was always somebody trying to be the new King of the hill, which meant the sitting King (that’d be me) always had the potential of getting knocked down. For whatever reason, I had many people trying to take the crown and whisper in the owners’ ear that they could do better, and why not move me to KOW full time? Remember, we were riding high at KIK-FM, so how could you do better? Good numbers, positive relationships, and good sales. But one of the whisperers said the right thing at the right time to the owner. Ironically, I found out they had already made a deal to replace me and were going to offer me KOW before they had a chance to talk to me about it. Hey, the truth is radio is a small business! So the dye was cast and the cat was out of the bag.
Now please understand, I share the following only as a lesson in standing up for one’s self, and while it might sound a little bitter, believe me, it’s not meant to. It was in fact a very important professional transition for me and I’m very happy with the final outcome. I’m proud of what I accomplished at “The Cow”, but I never did get over the “name thing”. It was a “bigger picture” issue that I had to sit myself down and be honest with myself about: either I was proven and qualified or I was an order taker. I decided I was hardly going to go from prominent success and notoriety as a programmer and personality at KIK-FM (also by the way viewed as an L.A. success) to being the afternoon DJ and program director at “The Cow”, especially when the idea didn’t grow out of some diminished success at KIK or failing on my part, but rather the personal agenda of somebody else. I decided to take the bull by the horns (cow by the utters?) and take on the station full-time, but had made up my mind the relationship with this owner had ended and it was time to move on. So after, again, the cursory first six months, I started hunting around for other opportunities. I really felt like I had a great relationship with the owner, and we’d accomplished a lot together, so when the dust settled I really felt burned by the whole mess. So much so that I would not even include “The Cow” on my professional resume except to say I consulted a station in San Diego county. If anyone asked, I told them about my success at KOWN-FM. But you live and learn, and like I said, looking back I’m grateful for the experience because it gave me a great opportunity to MOOOVE on to … wait for it … greener pastures!