Chapter 15: KDOT, Bill Compton and a Missed Opportunity
By 1976, I had become buddies with several of the people at KDKB. There was a guy who was already god-like when I met him, named Bill Compton, who was working there as both the program director and a DJ. He was the real heart behind the operation, along with Dwight Tindle, who had bought the station with an inheritance. Both of these guys are legends in the Phoenix history books. They’d play deep cuts and mix them in with some popular singles, and it would all come together beautifully. He knew how to do an underground radio show and his influence and expertise spread throughout the staff at the station. Bill knew how to mix in the lesser-known artists and tracks in such a way that they’d stick in his listeners’ ears. He broke a bunch of bands from behind the turntables at that radio station.
Bill was supposed to get 10 percent of the radio station on account of all he’d done to get it to where it was, but when the moment came for him to collect on the promises that had been made, they wouldn’t give it to him. He got pretty heated over it, and instead of trying to fight it, he just quit on the spot. He came to me not long after that with a new offer: Let’s buy this other radio station, KDOT, for a million dollars.
“Cisco,” he said (he always called me Cisco), “do you think you could raise the other half million?”
I wasn’t sure, but I was intrigued by the chance to get into radio. It would be great for me to get to affect the programming and to get on the air and do a few hours; playing the music I loved so well—and now I had a new fantasy about being a radio station owner! I said I’d try.
I went to Don Reno, the boss at Dooley’s, and what do you know, things started happening! We put together meetings, got the money together and it became a real thing. We were going to do this. I got Bill and Don together, and we shook on it.
“What do you want out of this?” Bill finally asked me.
I hadn’t really thought about it. I didn’t want to be too greedy.
“Five percent,” I said. “Five percent and let me do two radio shows, on Friday and Saturday night.” That would be a time when I could really stretch out and play music at a time when people would be able to really dig it “Done.” This was when radio could break an act simply by playing their music because it was great, not because of ratings. The ratings were HUGE because of the way they did it, and they were RIGHT.
And that was it. I got a piece from Bill’s side and I could get on air twice a week and be a DJ, playing the music I wanted to play. This was a good deal with lots of potential and my passion for music would have an outlet. I’d be working in the business in a different way, getting close to the music from a new angle, one I hadn’t had the chance to get at before.
This was June of 1977. I was doing a show at Dooley’s with the New Riders of the Purple Sage and the day after the show we were going to sign all the papers and finalize this deal. The next morning, the phone rang very early and woke me up.
“Bill Compton’s dead,” the voice on the line said. He had a car accident on his way home from bowling the night before.
I went into shock. It was that quick; one day we were going into business together and the next, he’s not around anymore. That radio station was sold and became KSLX. Nowadays it’s owned by Hubbard Group, along with KDKB and a few others. KDOT turned into a $75 million property and I should have had a part of it, and Bill should still be alive. He was truly one of the greats in the radio business—someone who could never be replaced. And he wasn’t…look at the state of radio today. It doesn’t even resemble what it used to be. Nothing but hits nowadays instead of creating the need for the songs that become hits.
But you can’t dwell on all that stuff that might have been or could have been. It’s part of business, part of life. Opportunities show up, you do everything right and sometimes they don’t come through. It’s unfortunate but you can’t let that stop you from taking risks and making moves. When it comes to making deals—and most things in life—you just have to keep going.
I am quite sure that had Bill lived, we would have gone on to greatness as a new radio station, creating a format that would have been copied and would still be all over the air to this day. So many greats broke out of Phoenix because of Bill’s ability to pick songs and allow his talented staff members to bring new music to the masses through him. Early, unpredictable deaths have robbed the world of what could have been so much more; in this case, Bill would have continued as a radio pioneer who had his finger on not only what to play, but how to present it to new audiences. We were left with a lot of decent radio people, but not with his vision and taste. The world of radio was never the same.
Dwight and I got together some years later (1998) and did a “Return to The Underground” radio show on Sunday nights for the better part of the year on a station called the Mix. We had a good time doing it. Not long after that Dwight got cancer and passed which was very sad for me. Another one of the guys I started out with, then gone too young.
Here is a note that Bruce Springsteen wrote to Dwight’s mom when he learned of his passing. If it wasn’t for Bill and Dwight, I am not sure Bruce would have happened the way that he did as Phoenix was Bruce’s first HUGE market.
Chapter 15 Photo Gallery
A picture of Dwight with a tie on from his website, 1975.
A 1973 photo of the people behind the microphones and the magic called KDKB – Krazy dog, Krazy boy.
Bill Compton in the early 70s
The end of the radio underground.