Entertaining Tucson:
Turning on to KTKT

KTKT/99 disc jockeys Don Beetcher, I.W. Harper, Jim Bednarek, Kirk Russell, Kacie Sommers, Bill Murry, Ed Alexander and the KTKT van. Photo by Robert Zucker. Summer 1979, Youth Awareness Press. Page 9.

By Bryn Bailer 
Summer 1979 - Youth Awareness Press

From the outside, top radio station KTKT-99 AM appears to be nothing more than a one-story, adobe-colored building in the middle of desert scrub and surrounded by a ring of five towers. But it isn’t the building that has earned KTKT a prime position on the ratings charts– the people have.

 According to Mark Schwartz, KTKT’s the pipe-smoking general manager, “KTKT represents to Tucson a lot of history, a lot of actual trendsetting. “We’re alive. We’re today. We’re the lifestyle that people are leading.”

 But the KTKT Tucson relationship doesn’t stop here. Schwartz stresses the great commitment KTKT feels toward southwestern Arizona, Tucson in particular. “We’re in a city that we feel is a tremendous growth city, a city that has been very good to us,” he says. Tucson has been so receptive, in fact, that KTKT has plans for a new contemporary station, KTKT-FM.

 KTKT-AM and FM will be separate stations, each having its own image, format and approach. But that’s the future. What are the reasons behind KTKT’s present success?

 “We like to be first.” Schwartz says, gesturing with his pipe for emphasis. “We feel it’s our responsibility. If you’re going to call yourself a leader, you have to lead.” A few of KTKT’s “leadership firsts” include a fund-raising basketball team, a referral service (Call for Action), a station van, and Tucson’s first full-lime female Top 40 disk jockey.

Don Beetcher, sporting a mustache, boots, and electric blue eyes, is the 10:00AM to 2:00PM air personality whose show is living proof of KTKT’s ability to keep up with the times. It was originally a “strictly female-type show,” but then it was discovered that quite a few of the afternoon listeners are “househusbands” who stay at home while their wives work. “We try to play a mass-appeal type of music on the show because we’re reaching almost everybody who has access to radio– young adults, men, as well as women.”

 How does Beetcher, also operation manager of KTKT, prepare himself to ‘appeal to the masses?’ “A lot of people think you just walk in, play what you want, say what you want, do what you want.” He grins at the thought. “It’s not like that at all . . . I try to recollect a whole bunch of thoughts early in the morning, write ‘em down, and prepare them for my show.” He goes on to say that ideas often come to him while he’s in the car, and he’ll end up driving with one hand while writing with the other. “You should be in a good mood when you go on the air,” he comments, “And you should be ready to do four hours of work.”

 A big part of Beetcher’s show is entertainment. But, just like the records they play, KTKT has a flip side. Beetcher explains, “we feel it’s important to do something for people other that just giving them music ... you see us actively taking part in the March of Dimes, Multiple Sclerosis, Walk-a-thons... The list goes on. We try to do and to help as much as we can.”

Ed alexander, KTKTEd Alexander broadcasting at KTKT-AM. Entertainment Magazine photo, March 1986, page 3.

Ed Alexander [1] (whose name is synonymous with The March of Dimes, KTKT’s programming director, and the 6:00AM to10:00AM morning show) is not quite as big as one might expect from hearing his voice, which has the same rich quality off the air as it does when he’s speaking into several thousand dollars worth of sound equipment.

Referring to the benefits of his profession, Alexander cites such things as “all the concerts you can go to, and all the records you can eat” but he also mentions that he gets to meet a lot of interesting people, from superstar celebrities to “just neat people that you meet.”

Alexander has been an aspiring D.J. since he was about nine years old (despite his parents’ first reaction: “Oh, my God! A disk jockey? When is he going to get serious?”) He was in a few bands in high school, and reputedly did a great Mick Jagger imitation, but eventually moved into the announcing field. “The best thing about it is that there’s always something new,” he says, taking a swig of Dr. Pepper, “news, music, audience reaction ... it’s ever-changing. “

One thing that doesn’t change much is the limelight– it always seems to be focused on Alexander– and at the same time, on the station. Described by general manager, Mark Schwartz, as “the single most received personality in Tucson. Alexander has plenty of stories to tell about being recognized at baseball games, McDonalds, and the like. “I’ve been around for a while now, and people know me by face.”

Alexander’s future looks like it will involve a lot of “public image,” especially if he achieves his ambition to become a television producer. For the present, however, he’ll be kept busy enough with the new FM station, and, of course, also with KTKT-AM.

What is Alexander’s personal success formula? “A lot of hard work, and caring about my job, caring about the audience, and caring about the people I work with. It only makes the station better.” He grins. “And if I don’t do it, I won’t be able to sleep.” Now, that’s either insomnia, or Dedication with a capital “D.”

Until a few months ago, Nancy Reynolds was sales manager for KTKT. She now has another title to her name– station manager. Nancy, blonde and freckled sees KTKT as “fun radio,” and recognizes its long-term success of 30 years. She attributes KTKT’s success to a dependable image.

“People know what to expect from KTKT,” she explains. “We’ve been planning the same kind of music for many years and people can depend on KTKT.” When asked how she feels about the station, Nancy’s response was immediate and predictable: “I love KTKT,” she says. “I love our music– we have a great blend of music. I like our personalities, and enjoy our news, I like the fact that when people need help, they call on KTKT . . . it makes you feel good.”

The newest member of the KTKT clan is 22-year old Kacie Sommers self-described as “unpredictable, always talking, and Norwegian.” In person, the 6:00PM to10:00PM lady jock radiates happiness through an ever-present smile.

Sommers came very close to being in the Navy. Holding her fingers half an inch apart to show how close she actually did come, she says, “people just didn’t think it would be possible for a female disc jockey on Top 40 AM radio. They almost discouraged me.” Almost, but, not quite.

Sommers has been in the radio business for about three years. She worked in both Montana and Washington, before Tucson. “I’m not in there to be any kind of a sex symbol,” she insists, “I just happen to be a female who’s doing a Top 40 job.”

“Radio people are insane,” Sommers suddenly announces, a sinister look in her eye. “We claim no sanity. We have to project an audio picture to the listeners, and they turn it into a visual picture.” She wraps her fingers around a bottle of Tab cola and brings it to her lips. “When you’re that good,” she continues, “you get paid 100,000 bucks a year in Chicago or LA.”

Station manager Nancy Reynolds, revealed the secret behind the station that “makes a difference” when she said that KTKT “is a combined effort from all the people that work there ... a group of good, solid people working together for an overall sound.

KTKT radio station playbill, courtesy of Jim Bednarek. Circa 1979.

[1] Ed Alexander was KTKT’s program director and is now Operations Manager of Tucson radio station KVOI and KCEE.

Entertaining Tucson Volume 1 Home Page

From Google

Entertainment Magazine

© 2014 BZB Publishing, Entertainment Magazine. All rights reserved.

Now Available From Amazon.com

Entertaining Tucson Across the Decades
Volume 1

by Robert E. Zucker

The local entertainment scene in Tucson, Arizona during the 1950s through 1985 was vibrant– from the ‘50s rock and roll of the Dearly Beloved to the ‘80s with the Pills, Giant Sandworms and everything in between– classic rock, disco, alternative, punk, hard core, country, swing and Big Band. Hundreds of bands and thousands of entertainers over three decades. Within these pages are the memories and the experiences of those people and places.

These are the original articles and interviews published in several local newspapers that covered the Tucson entertainment scene over the decades. Follow their stories through the years– the big breaks, record releases, hot performances and duds, break ups, tragedies, personal insights and struggles.

Purchase copies of Entertaining Tucson Across the Decades on amazon.com.

Tucson Entertainment Book

Tucson Restaurant Coupons

Restaurant.com Weekly Promo Offer 300 x 250

Use discount restaurant coupons for dining at dozens of restaurants locally and thousands of registrants across the nation. This Week's Online Offers for Tucson restaurants.

New discount restaurant dining gift certificates from some local restaurants through Restaurant.com. Check out the latest offer.