Margie Rye

Margie joined the KWFM crew near the end of our story. She recounts, "I caught KW at the end of the glory days, February 1982 to August 1984. Bob Cooke is the one we can blame for getting me on the radio all those years ago." I bugged Margie for a few months to send me info for her bio page. She put together a wonderful biography to preserve the family history for her kids and sent it to me, adding "feel free to edit HEAVILY!!" Ah, but it's brilliant. This is a story of real American radio (not Sears radio) and deserves to be preserved in its entirety. I'm sure you'll enjoy reading this as much as I did. Thanks, Margie!

I come from a radio family, my dad graduated from Georgia Tech with an EE (Electrical Engineering) degree; his sister, my aunt Margaret was the first female grad with a degree in broadcasting from the University of Alabama. She and my Uncle Carl started the first production/jingles operation in Orlando, Florida. After many years as General Manager at several Orlando radio stations, Uncle Carl retired.

To say radio is in my blood is an understatement.

My Dad's dream was to own his own radio station. In the late 60's we were still living in Huntsville, where I was born. Dad was working in aerospace, but saw the writing on the wall that opportunities in that field were drying up, so he started working on plan B: to realize his dream of owning a radio station.

After a nationwide search for available frequencies, he came upon an open FM station in Bisbee, AZ. As Fort Huachuca was nearby, he figured he could reactivate his civil service credentials, get a job to feed the family and work on the station part time (you could get away with that in the 60's-early 70's).

He got the job at Ft. Huachuca, started the paperwork for the construction permit for Bisbee FM 92.1, and off we moved to the backwoods of the West.

When the local Bisbee AM radio owner got wind of Dad's designs, he put in his own application for the C.P. Now the lawyer's get involved... Dad wouldn't trust just anyone to handle his "baby", so he got F.C.C. law books, subscribed to the Federal Register and put together his arguments for why diversifying the local ownership would be better for the community. He did converse with a Washington F.C.C. lawyer to check his facts (at the unheard of price of $60.00 per hour!!), but he still lost the first round to Bisbee AM KSUN.

Not to be deterred, he appealed. To make a long story short, he packed up our family and we drove out to Washington for the Appeals hearing. My mother, little brother and I all sat in the F.C.C. courtroom as Dad made his case in front of the judge against a couple F.C.C. lawyers representing the other side. Dad won, the other side ran out of appeals and we were on our way to realizing Dad's dream.

Dad's vision for what was now KBAZ (later KZMK) was a mom & pop, beautiful music station. Equipment started coming to our house, I watched dad work on everything. He bought a lot of used stuff to save money; I can't even count how many times he and I took vacuum tubes to the store to check out which needed replacing. My favorite memories were of going up to the very top of the Mule Mountains to check on the tower site.

Dad's work at Ft. Huachuca was very demanding; he got up at 4am every morning to get to work by 5am, then left early to be home around 3pm to help my mom with my little brother (who has Down's syndrome) and to work on station stuff. All the stress caught up with him; he died suddenly of an aneurysm in November 1979... only months before he would finally get his baby KBAZ on the air. It was also only a month before I graduated from Bisbee High School, still only sixteen years of age.

The family was in shock; working with Dad I knew some of what had to be done. I had to fill out C.P. extension paperwork during Dad's funeral week. Mom tried interviewing engineers to take over Dad's work, but the expense of replacing what my Dad could do was overwhelming. Mom finally decided to sell what was still a Construction Permit. I was 17 years old.

We advertised in some trade publications; a group from Reno, Nevada, financed by a high roller in Texas made an offer Mom was comfortable with. I worked closely with them, knowing Dad's files, equipment and transmitter site. They decided to hire me, first as the local representative of Copper Valley broadcasters. I did the original community ascertainment survey. I assisted the Chief Engineer getting the station on the air, and then settled in as Traffic Director. Back then we'd do the whole day's log on a BIG sheet of paper and check by hand for conflicts of interest. I also worked evenings as the Assistant Manager for the local movie theatre, the Lyric.

After about a year of what was now called KZMK, Tucson was beckoning, as was the U of A. I moved to Tucson on my 18th birthday.

I enrolled in what is now Media Arts; in 1981 it was RTV or Radio/Television. I began a minor in Electrical Engineering, but after getting an "A" in the lab while flunking the math part, I gave up on the EE minor. The R.T.V. department had some decent TV equipment, but all the radio stuff was WWII era and a complete disapointment. Also the Media Law class was a joke; knowing the law as I did, we were in the midst of re-regulations... the textbook was thrown out and we used some paper handouts as our study guide.

What WAS good about the RTV department was people I met. They were all KWFM freaks in the department, and so I became one as well. Around January 1982, KW announced a new morning show guy, Rick Allen, was joining the station...

The first weeks Rick was on the air KW did a promotion, something like "Find The DJ"... they would announce hints as to where Rick would be appearing that day so you could meet him. One afternoon I was getting ready to go to bartending school (don't ask) and KW announced the appearance hints. Rick Allen will be at a bar at the corner of a road that sounds like a race way and one that's "Mmm, mmm, good". Speedway and Campbell, duh. I ditch bartending class and show up at the bar with my KWFM t-shirt on. Rick sees me, says "get this lady a drink on me, she's wearing a KW shirt." We start talking and a friendship was born.

Through Rick Allen I began hanging around with other KW staff, going to promotions, etc. Then in one of my RTV classes a buddy tells me about a job opening for research at KWFM in the evenings: doing phone calls, asking people what station(s) they liked, playing bits of songs to see if they liked them. I interview for the job with Jim Ray and was hired.

A few weeks later a Tucson Legend, Bob Cooke, comes back to KWFM after being in exile doing beautiful music board-op'ing. One evening I see Bob walking down the hall, "Hi, you must be Bob Cooke", he replies, "Hi, you must be Margie, you have a great voice!" A couple weeks later, he drags me into a production room and has me read some promos into a mic. Unbeknownst to me, he plays the tape for Jim Ray. Jim comes to me and asks if I'd like a shot on the radio. I never had designs on being on the air, but said yes anyway. One weekend, I get my shot at 3am-4am to record a demo on the air. A few of my college buddies arranged a party to listen to me. Mike Rapp was doing overnights then, so he set me up with scotch tape on the buttons I had to push. Somehow I got through it — it was the longest hour of my life. Bubba Ray listened to the aircheck, said I had potential....

In the 23 years since then, I've worked in Denver (KBPI, SANDUSKY) and Phoenix (KUPD, MORNINGS WITH DAVE PRATT) and Tucson. I've done everything: programming, music, production, promotions, engineering, news. I've been the programming voice for KVOA (TV 4, the Tucson NBC affiliate), done commercials that have run across the country. For most of the 90's I was semi-retired as my husband and I started our family, but now that our two sons are in school, I've been dipping my toes into radio waters once again.

As for the next generation of my family, my eldest son Willy is training to DJ at the tender age of 10. I've tried to talk him out of it, but I guess some things are just in your blood....

Margie has been rocking Tucson for many years now and you can catch her Weekend Warrior show on KLPX.