Will the Real KVI, Please Stand Up?

Seattle’s KVI is like many long-lived 3-letter call AMs. A rich history in which its lows heavily detracted from its glory years. The golden age (and high ratings) of KVI was an adult contemporary mainstay which came well BEFORE Oldies KVI or Conservative Talk KVI. True, it was a simpler time and there were fewer competitive distractions in the ’60s and ’70s. But how can we forget the on-air lineup that included Bob Hardwick, Jack Morton, Dave Clarke, Ray Court, Don Fuhrmann, Buddy Webber, Johnny Carver, Lou Gillette, Bill Goff, Jack Spencer, Bill Schonely, Bob Robertson — to name a few. The era referred to here started in 1959 when Gene Autry and Golden West put KVI on the radio map. It pretty much ended when the station’s ratings tumbled in the early ’80s.
Here’s an audio compilation, a bit of KVI’s golden age in a composite which runs 5:41.

It starts with Hardwick sometime in the early ’70s doing his always-chatty morning drive show of limited music, lots of newsy info and ad-libbed commercials. Then there’s a rare but short clip of Robert O. Smith during his overnight schtick in ’77. Long-time afternoon drive host Jack Morton follows in another ’77 clip, complete with a Bob Robertson sports introduction and Tam Henry news. Then Jack Allen introduces an episode of KVI’s long-running Theater of the Mind, followed by a Bill Taylor newscast. You’ll hear a rare money-game promo from ’83 with a round of jockshots of the on-air crew at that time. And, closing out the aircheck, from July of ’84, Bob Hardwick again, this time including a Gregg Hersholt newscast, a Midas commercial with a Peter Boam voice tag, portions of a Ray McMackin sportscast and a Cliff Murphy KVI-in-the-sky report. Hardwick’s less-than-happy closing comments [you can hear more at “Bob Hardwick — KVI Format Change 1984”]– just a few days before the station changed to oldies hits — gave listeners little clue what he would do when the programming change kicked in.
(As it turned out, Hardwick left KVI — for the second and last time — and was off the air for 22 months, returning to morning drive on KIXI in late May of ’86. He later again left the airwaves for a time before his final radio job at KING, which ended with his suicide in June, ’92)
KVI’s two-decade golden age happened while many were watching — and listening — to the rock radio wars led mostly by KJR and KOL. While the younger set danced to Chubby Checker, the Beatles and the changing shades of psychedelia, their parents were faithful to the adult-oriented consistency (and news coverage) that KVI provided. With strong ratings bolstering management, KVI enjoyed envied longevity with its core on-air staff: Hardwick 23+ years, Morton 20 years, Fuhrmann 15, Jack Spencer 12, Dave Clarke 11, Bob Robertson 11, Lou Gillette 9 and Ray Court 7. It wasn’t that these and other talented KVI personalities lost their touch over the years, but rather that changing times pulled listeners in other directions. FM radio was storming the market by the early ’80s, the computer age was a growing reality and radio as a major news source was taking a back seat to a growing legion of airwave-transmitted and cable news channels. In listening to these old air clips today, some may say the sound of KVI and other ACRs of that time was boring or corny. But the product was professionally done …. and people listened. What else is there to say? Thank you, KVI, for that golden age.

Author: Ronald DeHart

Ron DeHart is a former newspaper and broadcast journalist and a retired Public Affairs Officer from both the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserve. His historical accounts of Pacific Northwest broadcasting are published by Puget Sound Media. View more articles by Ron DeHart  

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