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The History Of Television In Denver

The Broadcast Professionals thank Ken Custer and Tom Mulvey for their input on the Radio and Television Industry history in Colorado. The following is a look at the Television business in Denver. We thank Advertising and Marketing Review for allowing us to pass on this Colorado broadcast history.

Editor's Note:
Tom Mulvey spent hours combing through many sources to prepare the 50 Years of Channels 4 and 7's history. Please pay attention to the news, sports and weather anchors throughout the years. You will be tested at the end to remember who was where and when. Many of the names are now gone from the market, some are still here. We have tried to follow the trail of the names you will recognize today. For those of you under 30, there is very little you will recognize. For those over 50, you will enjoy remembering many of the people. There are two sidebars to the feature. Dick True was Production Manager at then KOA-TV starting in the 1950s and relates some of his memories. The other is Ken Custer who started at Channel 7 in 1955 and provides some insight to the times.

On Sunday, November 1, 1953, Aladdin Broadcasting, owners of KLZ Radio and KLZ-TV7, signed the TV station on the air with Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town." Broadcasting from a converted Packard/Studebaker dealership at the corner of 6th Avenue and Sherman Street, the station then gave the viewers a tour of the new studios with Colorado Governor Dan Thornton. Sign-off time that night was 11:15 p.m. Hugh B. Terry was General Manager and Sheldon Peterson was News Director. Gene Amole, Jim Edson and Jim Lannon left Channel 2 to join Channel 7 and Fred Dravland joined the station as a floorman. Ken Wilmot was Art Director and Del Peden set builder.

In June of 1953, Metropolitan Television Co. (MTC) purchased KOA Radio from NBC. MTC was headed by Attorney Bill Grant and one of the principal stockholders was Bob Hope. This Christmas Eve, KCNC-TV will celebrate its 50th anniversary on the air. On December 24, 1953, Channel 4 was known as KOA-TV and those were the call letters until September of 1983. Ed Bowman was picked out of the KOA Radio newsroom to do the weather on Channel 4 because his name rhymed with weatherman, and for the next 12 years he was the only full-time weatherman in the Rocky Mountain Region.

In 1954 Aladdin Broadcasting sold KLZ Radio and television to Time-Life, Inc.

During the 1950s, the Channel 7 staff included Starr Yelland who came from KOA Radio & TV to join KLZ Radio & TV and Ed Scott as Sheriff Scotty to entertain the kids. Clayton Brace was named Assistant to GM to Hugh B. Terry, and Jack Tipton was appointed Station Manager and Director of Sales. In 1956, KLZ-TV presented the first TV remote broadcast from a courtroom after Hugh Terry won a court battle to allow cameras into the courtroom. In 1957 Panorama, a weekly public affairs series on Channel 7, became the first Denver-produced program to win a prestigious national Peabody Award. It was written and hosted by Gene Amole and directed by Jim Lannon. In 1958 KLZ-TV leadership in the half-hour syndicated film field was emphasized in the November ARB ratings which gave Channel 7 eight of the top 10 syndicated shows. Whirlybirds was number one. The most popular late night show was the "Dick Lewis Late Show" with old movies and live, fender-pounding commercials delivered by Dick Lewis.

In the 1950s, executives at Channel 4 included: Don Searle, Vice President; Jud Woods, TV Operations Manager; Dick Harris, TV Promotion Manager; Bill MacCrystall, TV Sales Manager; Quentin McCredie, Advertising Production Manager; Ralph Radetsky, Director of Public Affairs; Van Haaften, TV Program Coordinator; Jim Butts, TV Operations Supervisor; and Jessie Slusser, Director of Engineering. Channel 4 talent included; Ben Avery; Ed "Weatherman" Bowman; Director of Women's Programming Evadna Hammersley; Salome Hansen; Sports Director John Henry; Jack Mumey, Pete Smythe; and Newscaster Ken White. In 1957, Bob Palmer joined KOA-TV as a Reporter, Writer and News Film Cameraman and Dick McDaniel moved from Channel 2 to Channel 4. Frank Maselli joined KOA-TV in 1955 and John Rayburn and Barry Trader joined Channel 4 in 1959. In August 1959, KOA-TV and Radio moved from the Charles E. Wells Music Building at 16th and California Streets into their new 2 1/2 story building at 1044 Lincoln, the first new building to be constructed in Denver for the exclusive purpose of radio and television broadcasting.

In September and October 1955, President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack while visiting in Denver and all stations set-up shop at Lowry for a two week period to cover the story. Network newscasts and special feeds were routine each day.

In 1960, Mick Schafbuch joined the KOA stations as Promotion Manager, in 1963 he moved into sales and in 1974 was promoted to VP/GM of all the KOA Stations. Others joining KOA-TV during the '60s included Jim McDermott, Leo McGuire Adelle White, Ed Ruetz and Jane Hansen. In 1964, Channel 4 originated the "Ben Martin Show" with sportscaster John Henry and Head Coach Ben Martin of the Air Force Academy. In 1964, Channel 4 produced "Profile in Jazz", a unique presentation covering the three generations of American Jazz. The show was written by Program Director, Si Palmer, Directed by Operations Manager Gene Lindner and hosted by Duke King. In 1965, KOA-TV carried the 14 AFL Football games with Curt Gowdy doing play-by-play, but the Denver Bronco games had to be blacked out. In 1967, KOA-TV aired an award winning documentary "The Acid Test, LSD". Five months in the making, with more than 5,000 feet of film shot, LSD was hosted by News Editor, Bob Palmer. Photographers involved included Bill Baker, Medill Barnes, Jerry Curran, Sam Houston and Barry Trader. In 1968, General Electric bought KOA AM, FM and TV for $10 million. GE installed Robert Maynard as GM. The TV sales crew included Corky Cartwright, Del Greenwood, Gene Grubb, Cy Penley, Al Perry and Brian Cobb. Personalities on air included Bill Barker, Ed Bowman, Clyde Davis, John Henry, Merrie Lynn, Bob Palmer, Ed Ruetz, Bob Shriver and Pete Smythe. During 1968, Reynelda Muse joined the news team. In 1969, Bob Palmer left Channel 4 for Channel 7, to replace Rayburn, who went to a station in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, during the 1960s at Channel 7, Fred & Fae had become the most popular kid show personalities maintaining both a morning half hour and afternoon one hour shows. Fred & Fae spent a total of 15 years on Denver television, retiring in 1977. Fred Dravland moved into the sales department joining Connie Metro, Bill Hubble and Don Lee. Later, Dravland would serve as National Sales Manager and then Local Sales Manager. John Rayburn joined Carl Akers, Warren Chandler and Starr Yelland as a sports reporter and anchor, where the 10 p.m. news continued to carry a 60% share of audience every night. In 1964, KLZ-TV broadcast election coverage live from the Denver Post. The reporting team included News Director Jim Bennett, Bob Butz, John Connors, Ned High and John Rayburn. In 1966, Carl Akers resigned from Channel 7 to travel and write. His retirement was short lived, in 1967 he joined Channel 9 as a news anchor. Rayburn, who later became the only broadcaster to anchor the 10 p.m. news on three channels, replaced Akers. Bob White joined Channel 7 as a news writer. White would later return to KLZ-TV as News Director, be fired from that position, and then be named VP/General Manager in 1983. In 1969, KLZ-TV moved across the alley to a brand new facility on the corner of Speer & Lincoln, a state-of-the-art studio of the time.

In 1972, Time-Life sold KLZ-TV to McGraw Hill Broadcasting and the call letters were changed to KMGH-TV. The next year, Hugh Terry was selected as the Colorado Broadcaster of the Year and McGraw Hill let him go as GM of Channel 7. Jim Redmand and Terry Phillips joined the Channel 7 news team in 1975. About that time, the ratings showed Channel 9 taking the 10 p.m. news lead from Channel 7 and they have held on to that lead every since. In 1976, Marv Rockford joined KMGH-TV as a late-news producer and John Lindsey joined the station to anchor the 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts. Starting in 1968 and running through 1983, the most popular kids show in town was the Noell and Andy Show, 8-8:30a.m. Monday through Friday. Her coloring contest drew hundreds of entries each week. Leonard Marsh was named National Sales Manager in 1978. In 1979, Tausca Schillaci joined Channel 7 as Executive Secretary to the General Sales Manager and Jim Sieke joined the sales staff. Schillaci would later be named as Research Associate then become full time sales for the station and is one of the few still there. Also in 1979, the station leased a helicopter and hired Peter Peelgrane as the pilot.

In the 1970s at KOA-TV, Polly Gordon and Jerry Curran joined the station and in 1974, Mick Schafbuch was promoted to VP and GM of the KOA Stations. In 1976, Tom Mares and Sam Allred joined the station and General Sales Manager, William Donahue announced the appointment of L. A. Sturdivant as Sales Manager. In 1977, Schafbuch announced that KOA-TV had adopted a new logo symbolic of the Rocky Mountains and created a new slogan, "4 Stands Alone." Gene Grubb was named Local Sales Manager and John Sauer, Mark Warren, Larry Zimmer and Ron Zappolo joined the station. In 1978, Kent Lillie was named General Sales Manager and in 1979 Sam Allred, Marie Baker, Alison Harder, Rita McCoy, Randy Oswald, Jay Rabin and Caroline Schomp joined the Channel 4 team.

In 1980, Norvell Rose and Theresa Schiavone joined Channel 4 as Reynelda Muse left to join the Cable News Network in Atlanta. In 1981, Roger Ogden, News Director at Channel 9, was hired by KOA-TV as General Manager. Ogden brought Marv Rockford and John Haralson with him. Ogden named George Caldwell, Sam Allred and Ron Zappolo as Channel 4's number one news team. Also joining the station that year were Janet Zappala and Alan Berg. In 1982, Bill Stuart left Channel 7 for KOA-TV and Linda Farrell, Sylvia Cordy, Jeff Hullinger, Stephanie White, Merrie Lynn, Tom Martino and Tom Bear all joined the station. In June, KOA-TV premiered "Frist News", a half hour from 4:30-5 p.m., co-anchored by Larry Green and Linda Farrell. Suzanne McCarroll was the featured reporter on the new show. In 1983, Peter Rogot was named weekend Anchor at Channel 4 and Marty Aarons joined Bob Palmer and Janet Zappala in anchoring duties. Others joining KCNC-TV (the call letters just changed from KOA-TV) this year were Wendy Bergen, Karen Layton, Marcia Neville, Tom Raponi and Mike Silva. Marv Rockford was promoted to News Director. The station produced a live telecast of the million dollar Lottery Drawing with John Rayburn and Tricia Springer as co-hosts. In 1984, Penny Griego and Mary Brenneman joined Channel 4. Brenneman later moved to Channel 9. Reynelda muse returned to Channel 4 as Co-anchor of the new 6:30 p.m. news. Janet Zappala resigned from KCNC-TV and Bob Palmer and Linda Farrell were the new Anchors of the 10 p.m. news. In 1985, Ogden was named CBA Broadcaster of the Year. Madeline McFadden replaced Penny Griego and joined Peter Rogot, Les Shapiro and Steve Anderson on KCNC weekend newscasts. In 1986, KCNC-TV was named station of the year by the CBA and Bob Palmer Broadcaster of the Year. John Nickel returned to do special projects at the station. In 1988, Marty Coniglio joined the News4 Weather Team and Greg Moody joined the station. In 1989, John Ferrugia joined KCNC to Co-Anchor at 6:30 p.m. with Muse. Stuart was moved to the 10 p.m. news with Palmer replacing McFadden and also worked on the 4-5 p.m. news. Jim Benemann moved from Channel 9 to Channel 4 as a weekend Anchor with Kathy Walsh.

Channel 7 started off the 1980s by purchasing its own $290,000 Bell Jet Ranger III helicopter and adding $50,000 worth of special communications equipment. In 1981, Tom Campbell replaced Brian Drees as the number one Sportscaster and Ed Greene left KTLK radio to do weekend weather on Channel 7. This lasted 30 days before he left for KCNC-TV. General Manager Ray Watson named News Director Jim Frankin to Manager of News Operations and Shirley Frederick Director of Programming. Leonard Marsh was named local Sales Manager and Linda Moulton Howe, Special Projects Director, was honored as a winner of an Ohio State Award for "Borrowed Faces". Bill Lagattuta co-anchored "Live on 7" and "Nightscene." Bob Palmer was given the title Senior Editor of News and taken off the 10 p.m. newscast. Cheryl Jones replaced him at 10 p.m. In 1982 Arta Boley rejoined Channel 7 as Executive News Producer and Bruce MacCallum was hired as Executive Producer. Ron Allen and Mark Thompson were added as weathermen, Robin Robinson as reporter and Ernie Bjorkman joined the station as Noon News Anchor. The next year, John Lindsey resigned from Channel 7 and Jim Sieke was appointed National Sales Manager. In 1984 Andrea Joyce and Jeanne Schultheis joned Channel 7. Jim Redmond began anchoring Channel 7 newscasts with Co-Anchor, Ann Wade, Sportscaster Steve Harms and Meteorologist Tim Ross. Cynthia Hessin left Channel 4 to join KMGH-TV as Ernie Bjorkman left to join Channel 2. In 1985, Bill Clarke returned to Denver as Channel 7 consumer reporter and John Lindsey returned to the station to anchor the 6 a.m. and Noon news. John Keating and Gary Cruz join the station's sports department and Ann Wade relinquished her co-anchor duties to Bertha Lynn. In 1986 "KMGH 7 Wake-Up" was expanded to a full hour at 6 a.m. with Carol Bogart, Mike Fenwick and John Lindsey. "A.M. Colorado", a thirty-minute entertainment show premiered with hosts Cynthia Hessin and John Lindsey. Marty Aarons moved from Channel 4 to Channel 7. The stations and Director of Marketing, Bob Chernet, won a regional Emmy for a promotion titled "Colorado Style". In 1987 KMGH added the 4 p.m. news with Cynthia Hessin, John Lindsey, Dennis Ketterer and John Keating. The news at 4:30 featured Jim Redmond, Bertha Lynn, Ron Allen and Gary Cruz. In 1988, Al Seethaler replaced Bob White as GM of the station. Ernie Bjorkman returned to the station and Linda Farrel moved from Channel 4 to Channel 7. Keith Weinman joined the station as Business Reporter and David Crabree replaced Gary Cruz in the Sports. Reporter Dave Minshall and Producer Jan McCoy won an Emmy for "Plane Down, 35 Left", a five part series on the crash of Continental flight 1718. In 1989, Seethaler hired Mike Youngren as News Director and Brad Remington as News Managing Editor. Kevin Slaten replaced Brian Drees as the number one sportscaster and Seethaler fired nine people from the programming department. Youngren named Linda Farrell and Bill Clarke as 5 p.m. news anchors.

In 1990, Ron Zappolo left Channel 4 for Channel 9 and the station named Les Shapiro as the number one sportscaster. KCNC-TV accepted the stations first Peabody Award for the documentary "Yellowstone: Four Seasons After the Fire." In 1991 Gary Miller joined KCNC as a weekend sports anchor and David Crabtree moved from Channel 7 to Channel 4. In 1992, Aimee Spoorer joined KCNC to fill the woman anchor position held by Madeline McFadden. Bob Palmer stepped down as Anchor of the 10 p.m. news but continued to work the 5 p.m. news. In 1993, Marty Coniglio was named Chief Meteorologist at KCNC. The Rocky Mountain News asked readers to vote on a TV Dreamteam for news. Winners included Channel 4's Bill Stuart and Channel 9's Ed Sardella as Co-anchors, Channel 4's Larry Green for weather and Channel 9's Ron Zappolo for sports. The number two team had 4's Bob Palmer and 9's Mike Landess as Anchors, 4's Les Shapiro for sports and 9's Mike Nelson as Weatherman. In 1994, Stephanie Riggs and Rick Salinger joined KCNC-TV. 1995 is when KCNC became the CBS station and became part of the Group W/CBS Stations Partners. Marv Rockford officially took over as VP/General Manager of the station. Roger Ogden had accepted a position with NBC in London. Jack MacKinzie was named News Director and Dave Porta became Manager-Field Operations as the station expanded their weekend news programming. News at 4 and 6 p.m. Anchors were Alan Gionet, Kathy Walsh, Gary Miller and Glen Gerberg. In 1996, Linda Benzel moved from Channel 9 to Channel 4 to Co-Anchor weekend morning news.

In 1990, Ron Allen, Channel 7's main Weatherman, was moved to weekends and Ed Pearl took his place. The station did not renew contracts for Weatherman Dennis Ketterer or Sportscaster John Keating. Ann Trujillo was named Channel 7's 10 p.m. Co-anchor, teaming up with Bjorkman, and making her the only woman regularly in the 10 p.m. weeknight news. In January 1991, Seethaler was fired as GM of KMGH-TV and replaced by John Proffitt who had been Program Director at the station several years earlier. In 1994, Channel 7 started a print campaign promoting the 5 and 10 p.m. news team of Bertha Lynn, Ernie Bjorkman, Pam Daale and Jeff Passolt. 1995 is when all of the stations changed networks and Channel 7 became the ABC station. In 1996, Melissa Klinzing was named News Director at Channel 7. In 1997, Joe Franzgrote retired as President and GM of KUSA-TV and Roger Ogden returned from London to take that job. Cindy Velasquez was Channel 9 VP of Broadcasting and resigned to be named GM of Channel 7.

In 1998, the Broadcast Pioneers of Colorado instituted the BPC Hall of Fame. Channel 4 people who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame include: Pete Smythe, Reynelda Muse, Bob Martin, Ed Bowman, Merrie Lynn and Bob Shriver. KGMH-TV inductees include Hugh Terry, Gene Amole, Carl Akers, Ed Scott, Fred & Fae Taylor, Starr Yelland and Bob Butz. (Martin and Shriver worked at both stations.)

In 2002, Marv Rockford was forced out as GM of KCNC and replaced by Walt DeHaven. Tony Lopez moved from San Antonio to join Channel 4. In 2003 the lead news team at Channel 4 is Molly Hughes and Bill Stuart anchoring the 10 p.m. news, with Brian Maass and Rich Sallinger as Reporters.

On July 15, 2002, KMGH-TV became the first major market television station in the world to broadcast fully automated newscasts. A computer system, known as ParkerVision, combines the work of several technical personnel in a program requiring just a single operator. Ten studio cameras, channels of audio, all art graphics and electronic titling along with tape operations are programmed and played back live by one person instead of 7 people. In 2003, McGraw Hill again changed the GM position at Channel 7 by dismissing Cindy Velazquez. As of this writing a replacement had not been named.

Now, if you were able to follow which anchor-person was where and when, you get an A. The nature of the business for news talent seems to have changed. In 1953, radio newsmen were used for what little news programming was done. As news grew in importance, so did the need for looks and entertainment talent to take precedence over news ability. In the 1950s and '60s at Channel 7, Carl Akers, Bob Butz and others wrote their own newscasts. Today, the on air talent has little to say about what they must read on the air. Now it is prepared by a newsroom staff.

Acknowledgements and Credits: "Denver: the new Mecca of the West" in the 2/18/63 issue of Sponsor magazine. Various issues of Advertising & Marketing Review magazine; various issues of Colorado MAC News magazine; Denvertising magazine; Media Memo magazine-July 19, 1982; Bob Askey; Ken Custer; Fred Hobbs; Dick Lewis; Al Perry; John Rayburn; Mick Schafbuch; Bob Shriver; Merwin Smith; Phil Stinemates; Dick True; and anonymous phone messages on the answering machine.