Saturday, March 19, 2011

KGEZ Kalispell MT 600 kHz - back to its old glory?

John Hendricks at his home in Kalispell.

I spent seven days on ENOX26. Unfortunately only two days and mornings were worth listening since the solar weather turned to very bad actually right after I arrived in Enontekiö. However the first morning, February 28, was quite interesting and some real surprises faded in.
One of those nice catches was KGEZ on 600 khz. It has been silent for some time but just recently the station got a new owner and a station manager and has begun broadcasting again.
A main character behind the new KGEZ is a veteran broadcaster John Hendricks who was actually behind the mic at the time I picked up the station. John also verified my report with a kind email message. Thank you John for your nice reply!
I found an interesting story behind John Hendricks and the new start of KGEZ:

John Hendricks guesses he was about 5 when he broke loose from his mother during a trip to the dentist and bounded into the KOFI radio station that at the time was housed in the same Kalispell building.
Those next few minutes would set the stage for a career in radio as he gazed wide-eyed at the microphones and on-air equipment.
“That was it,” Hendricks recalled. “I knew at age 5 that this would be my life.”
And it was.
Hendricks, 61, returned home to Kalispell a few years ago after an illustrious career that catapulted him to fame as the first director of programming for Great American Country. He hosted nationally syndicated shows, both on TV and on radio with the “John Hendricks Overnight” show.
In his Kalispell home, office walls covered with framed photographs of him and various country music megastars attest to his success.
Hendricks isn’t basking in retirement just yet, though.
He’s got his eye on a potential radio project that would bring his life full circle if it materializes: Hendricks would like to acquire KGEZ Radio once the station works its way through bankruptcy court.
“I think it would be a great project,” Hendricks said. “There’s a lot of richness in the Flathead Valley that could be captured on-air again and I think KGEZ could be that medium again.
“What I have in mind is very different than what’s currently on the air,” he said, not wanting to tip his hand too much about future plans. “I’d like to bring the station back to its old glory.”
KGEZ, the second radio station licensed in Montana, was Kalispell’s only radio station for more than three decades in its early heyday. Most recently it was owned by John Stokes, but in September 2009 a federal bankruptcy judge ordered the controversial radio personality to turn over his assets, effectively shutting down KGEZ.
SOME OF Hendricks’ success came from being in the right place at the right time, but he also honed his skills along the way, even if he didn’t know it at the time.
Three days after graduating from high school, Hendricks joined the U.S. Air Force and completed a tour of duty in Vietnam in the late 1960s. He handled sentry dogs in Vietnam and later came back to McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma, Wash., as a staff sergeant in charge of the sentry dog program.
“One of the best things I learned from the military was they teach you how to interact with people and how to be a leader,” he said.
Once his military service was done, Hendricks wasted no time getting into radio, even though his family wasn’t on board with his career choice.
“Everybody tried to talk me out of it,” he recalled. “They didn’t believe a person could make a living at it. They thought I’d eventually get it out of my system.”
Teaching seemed like a good backup plan if radio didn’t work out, so he got history and political science degrees and a minor in secondary education from St. Martin’s University in Olympia, Wash. But in hindsight, the $1,100 he spent to go to broadcast school and get his license was the best investment he ever made.
He worked as a sales manager and general manager of several smaller-market stations in Southwest Washington to begin with. Those early years also included a very short stint at a station in Tillamook, Ore., a big dairy area where the morning show played Swiss yodeling music “so the cows milked better.”
That gig didn’t last long.
Hendricks — whose surname Hendrickson was shortened to Hendricks for on-air ease — then decided to focus his career as an on-air performer, first at KUBE in Seattle, where he “had a really good run” in the early 1980s, then at KIMN in Denver, one of the original giant Top 40 stations.
“I got good,” he said. “I worked at it and I brought a desire to it.”
KIMN was a dinosaur at the time, though, and when the station became KYGO and switched to country, Hendricks thought his career was over. The truth is, it was just starting.
It was at the Denver station that he originated and developed an award-winning 7 p.m. to midnight show that has been emulated in every major market in America. It was also the summer of 1989 and Garth Brooks had just come to town.
“I emceed his first three shows,” Hendricks said. “Nobody knew who he was.”
Clint Black was another country singer who jumped to stardom around the same time, and Hendricks was there.
“They were baby acts back then. We were redefining everything, and Garth literally redefined country music. No one else was doing what we were doing,” Hendricks recalled. “Garth was kick-butt country. I was so, so fortunate. It was 20 percent [my] skill and 80 percent being in the right place at the right time.”
IN THE early 1990s the savvy Hendricks jumped into the national arena when he was asked to design a country music video channel for television and Great American Country was born. There seemed to be no end to country music sensations who wanted to be a part of the show — Shania Twain, Kenny Chesney, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire and so many more.
Hendricks became friends with many of them.
Life was coming at Hendricks fast and furious, though. Ninety- to 100-hour work weeks were the norm, along with rich restaurant food. The train was headed right at him.
“It was so much fun I didn’t notice I was sleeping only two to three hours a night,” he said.
He took a break from his career in 2001 to spend time with his family after the sudden death of his mother during open-heart surgery.
Just six weeks after his father’s death the following year, Hendricks himself had a heart attack. Doctors patched him up with a couple of stents, but it was time to take life a little easier, so he formed John Hendricks Broadcast Services and began consulting with radio stations, record companies and musicians.
He returned to Kalispell in 2004 and it wasn’t long before he was hosting a morning show on KOFI, the same station that had thrilled him as a young child.
One more opportunity came his way a few years ago when New York City’s Music Choice needed someone to head its new Country Music Division and people in Nashville said he was the man for the job.
“It was a crazy left turn in my life, but one I couldn’t refuse,” he said about the time he spent in Lower Manhattan.
Hendricks is now back home in Kalispell and has resumed his consulting work.
He’s a single father with two grown children and an 11-year-old grandson. He loves the outdoors and now has the time to enjoy fly fishing, backpacking, golf and organic gardening. Community and church are important, too, and he enjoys being a part of the Bethlehem Lutheran congregation and the Elks Lodge.
There are dreams to come, he assures. Just stay tuned

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