Updated: March 8, 2013 at 12:00 am
Richard David Hawk, who rubbed elbows with many of rock’s greatest musicians and was himself a radio legend, died Thursday in a Colorado Springs hospital. He was 59.
Hawk was the first program director of KILO 94.3 FM, which started in 1978. He carried out the vision to make the station, which had been broadcasting country tunes, into an edgy rock entertainment source that gained national notice.
As program director for 30 years, he was responsible for the sound of the station. He picked the albums, developed the on-air staff and arranged the music lineup, said KILO General Manager Lou Mellini.
Hawk was playing Nirvana and Stevie Ray Vaughn before just about anybody else did. In fact, he put Nirvana on the air even before stations in the grunge band’s hometown of Seattle would.
And through the years there was a steady stream of rockers through the station’s front door — Motley Crue, Steven Tyler, Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne to name a few.
Hawk was a mentor to many. “He was brilliant on the air, with smooth delivery and clearness of voice, and he insisted all his jockeys meet that standard,” Mellini said.
Charlie Brown, of Charlie Brown’s Goodtime Travel, was then co-owner of the station with the late philanthropist Bob Telmossé until 1984. Hawk had started as a DJ at KPIK, a country station which morphed into KILO.
“He didn’t play a song because it was a hit, but because it was good music,” Brown said.
Hawk had the perfect Colorado mindset for the job. “He was laid back, not pushing music, but helping people discover the music,” Brown said.
As a result, the station earned the highest rating of any album-oriented rock station in the country for a couple of years in the early 80s, and showed up in the Denver ratings, something unusual then. The station won many industry awards, including Billboard station of the year in 1988-1990. Hawk was named best program director for Friday Morning Quarterback, a music industry publication, and won the industry’s Golden Ears award.
Hawk had many stories of his encounters with rock stars. A favorite one that friends recount was the time Bruce Springsteen was in Woodland Park on his way to a concert in Red Rocks. He borrowed a Jeep and got stuck in the backcountry. Hawk rescued him. “They sat in a Woodland gas station parking lot for two hours talking and no one recognized the star,” Mellini said.
Once, Tom Petty flew Hawk and several other radio programmers to Los Angles to listen to his new album and get advice.
Hawk had the courage to try new things. As a result other stations paid attention to his playlist.
Hawk played some of the first CDs, and created a local late night TV program where he interviewed musicians. He retired from KILO in 2006.
Hawk was born in Lamar and attended schools there, including Lamar Community college. He also worked at Columbia School of Broadcasting.