A tribute to Rich Hawk
Click below to hear Rich Hawk interview Ronnie James Dio
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.
Richard David Hawk, age 59, passed away Thursday, March 7, 2013. Rich was born July 24, 1953 in Anthony, Kansas to Harry and Betty Hawk. He moved to Lamar, Colorado in the early 1960’s with his family then to Colorado Springs in 1977. Rich was preceded in death by his wife Christine Hawk, his father Harry Hawk, and twin brothers Robert and Rodney Hawk. He is survived by his mother Betty and stepfather Howard Fenske; daughter Chelsea Hawk; and grandchildren Gabe, Rhiannon, Zion, and Ayden.
Rich was Station Manager and Program Director at KILO 94.3 and KRXP 103.9 for 28 years. He won three Billboard Station of the Year awards in 1988, 1989, and 1990, Program Director of the Year in 1992, and the record industries prestigious Golden Ears award in 1990.
Hawk was so revered for his talent in the music industry that artist Tom Petty invited him to his home to listen to tracks that were to be on his next album.
In 1988 Hawk and the late Red Noise came up with the most brilliant April Fool’s joke in the history of Colorado Springs. April 1, 1988 they convinced Colorado Springs that Pink Floyd was going to play on the roof of the studio at 707 South Tejon Street. On that cold April day, over 4000 people showed up to see Red Noise on the roof with a microphone in hand say “April Fools” and play the latest Pink Floyd album. The crowd roared with laughter!
Hawk brought music and laughter to Colorado Springs for 35 years.
Rich was a teacher and mentor for many in the radio business. He leaves a lasting legacy in the stations he made successful, and in those whose lives he touched. Services will be on March 13, 2013 at 11:00am at Evergreen Funeral Home 1830 E. Fountain Blvd, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to: TESSA, PO Box 2662, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80901. Online condolences at www.evergreenfuneralhome.org