Park City radio pioneer Dan Wilcox dies
Every five years since KPCW first signed on the air back on July 2, 1980, station supporters have carved out a sufficient part of the day in order to hoist a few and celebrate the anniversary. Although I’ve missed more than a few of these official gatherings, I must say I have always partaken of the ritual in my own fashion.
The date and the events in question are firmly imprinted to memory. Blair Feulner brought the vision and we all drank the Kool-Aid. Needless to say, we caught an immediate buzz. Those were heady times – wondrous, in fact. The community came on board with unwavering enthusiasm and never looked back.
My hero during those times was an expatriate Texan who had blown into Park City about a decade previous and got high-centered before he could find his way back out of Dodge. That would be Dan Wilcox, a fellow member of the original KPCW board of trustees and a radio bum of the highest order back then.
Dan provided us with both "street cred" and a high degree of improvisational professionalism behind the microphone. And it didn’t hurt, of course, that, like Blair, he had a great set of "pipes," as they say in the biz. And he still does, for that matter, as I am reminded whenever we find ourselves occupying adjacent barstools.
Although I had seen him around town a few times, I first started paying attention to Dan when, in the aftermath of the infamous "Fourth of July riots" on Park City’s Main Street back in 1971, he stepped forward at a post-melee powwow at the Alamo Saloon the following day to share his perceptions of what had gone down.
It would be a month or so later while we were shooting the breeze outside the same establishment that word came from the Buffalo Grill across the street that a radio station down in the valley was hiring. As Dan and I were both "between jobs" at the time, we hustled on down to KMOR, a country music outlet, and soon found ourselves spinning phonograph records for chump change.
Before arriving in Park City, Dan had already spent ten years or so working radio in the Lone Star State. He was very much at home pulling "air shifts" and managing the assorted chores that came with the territory. I, on the other hand, being a somewhat recent radio-school grad, had absolutely no real clue as to what it was all about.
Dan proceeded to mentor me as best he could about the subtleties of cueing-up records and reading meters and filling out logs, just as he later would with the seemingly unending line of volunteer disc jockeys that trooped into KPCW’s broadcast bunker above the gymnasium in the Memorial Building.
Following a predictable amount of on-air humiliation and embarrassment on my part, Dan, with the patience of Job, finally began to round me into shape. Not that sporadic instances of starting records at the wrong speed or forgetting to turn off the microphone before an off-color Nixon rant weren’t an ongoing problem.
But his biggest gift might well have been in turning this longtime jazz-music snob into a country-music fan. Of course, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, and many others also played a role. For some reason, it had taken a long time for me to recognize the virtuosity of country pickers and poets. I never said I was a quick study.
Dan went on to work both country and rock radio around Salt Lake as the ’70s wore on – certainly not the most creative musical decade in memory, especially with disco insinuating itself into the mix in such a huge fashion. Myself, when KMOR morphed into KPRQ, with its adult contemporary format, I hung around. I must say, that with absolutely no edge to the sound, this music was even worse than disco.
So when Blair, whom we had worked with at KMOR, returned from the out-of-state radio road with an epiphany about "community radio" in Park City, Dan and I immediately jumped on board. This was probably late 1977 or early 1978, a good two years before the sign-on date arrived.
Once we were up and running, Dan and Blair became the "voices" of KPCW with Dan hanging around a lot longer than I. To this day, he remains my all-time favorite disc jockey! Not that he’s going to take kindly to being portrayed in a newspaper column, of all things. Sorry Dan, I just had to do it. You’re the best memory I have from those days. Let’s carve out some time and hoist one!
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An important property owner at the Resort Center at Park City Mountain Resort indicated it backs plans for a major development, some of the first consequential support for a project that has overwhelmingly drawn opposition.