ARCHIVED  December 1, 1995

Tennessen famed as ‘Mr Weld County’

Doughnuts are to coffee what the voice of Joe Tennessen is to radio station KFKA-AM.
They don’t have to go together, but everybody knows that coffee tastes better with a little sugar, and Weld County has learned that KFKA is a lot better with a little Tennessen — actually it’s pretty safe to say it wasn’t really possible without him.
KFKA did try. In the course of 11 years, from 1980 to 1991, the station battled it out through four ownership changes and a variety of programming changes — country music formats mixed with agricultural news, easy-listening morning music formats mixed with news from the agricultural industries, even cutting back the agricultural news to go all rock music, a move Dorthy Corkran, KFKA account executive , described as horrible.
“Not because rock music is horrible, but as far as my advertisers are concerned `”
The struggle ended with a seven-month silence when the last owner, Rainbow Broadcasting Inc., declared bankruptcy and KFKA went off the air.
That’s when Tennessen, also affectionately known as Mr. Greeley, Mr. Weld County and Mr. Community, entered the picture. He’s earned those titles both on and off the radio with community involvement that ranges from Saint Peter’s Catholic Church Parish Council to president of the University of Northern Colorado Foundation to his broadcasted pleas that people recognize the plight of farmers and, darnit, be kind to animals.
“He’s an outstanding community leader and has always been there,´ said Jeannine Truswell, executive director of Weld County United Way. “Probably to a fault.”
Truswell has known and worked with Tennessen for more than 10 years. He emcees the agency’s events and was once voted Hunanitarian of the Year by the organization.
Returning to KFKA in 1991 was a reunion for Tennessen. He worked at KFKA as part owner and general manager from 1966 to 1980, having arrived there after about 15 years of radio announcing and sales at KIUL of Garden City, Kan. Off the air himself from about 1980 to 1991, Tennessen kept busy working for Greeley Cablevision (now TCI Cable), then managing InterLink Communications, a paging company.
Four years ago, Tennessen and a group of about 12 to 14 local business people bought 5,000-watt KFKA from Ingstead Bros. Tennessen and the investors have used the “all-talk” format to restore KFKA to a modest life.
“We’re not making much, but we’re in the black,” Tennessen, now 63, said. “The first two years — if we hadn’t had local investors, we’d have lost our shirts.”
But a 1995 survey shows that the station’s life blood, the listeners, are coming back. In a study on how much farm programming is listened to, Farm Media Research reported KFKA’s average quarter-hour rating share of farmers in Weld County who tune into the morning agricultural programs is at 53 percent.
KFKA gives agricultural reports all day, but one of the popular blocks is from 5 to 6 a.m. If listeners care to stay tuned a little longer, they’ll hear the voice of Tennessen starting in with his familiar, “Thank you for getting Up With Weld County.”
Besides the comfortable voice of Tennessen, listeners might hear him speaking on-air with a local mechanic who has started a school fund foundation you can pay into if you’re concerned with education.
“We wanted to get back to the strictly local format,” Tennessen said. “To quit trying to be all things to all people and to quit trying to find a music format. Our niche has always been local information. KOA, for all their money and staff size — they do what they do well — but they can’t do what we do.”
What KFKA does is give its listeners pure, 99 percent Weld County. The remaining 1 percent, what Tennessen calls filler, is Rush Limbaugh in the afternoons, a little bit of really old country weekend nights and a soon-to-be-airing program on American classic literature that enables students to earn extra credit. Most of these shows do not take up peak-hour air time.
KFKA is an outlet, the only outlet, really, according to Tennessen, for local sports.
“We’re the voice of the UNC Bears,” Tennessen said. “We’re the only station that covers all of the UNC Bears. We cover all their sports, including this year, all the women’s games. That’s about 75 to 80 UNC games, and we’ll also cover over 100 high school games.”
Want to get on KFKA? You don’t have to be a local athlete or community supporter, or someone who phones in to talk to guests. All you need is an opinion to counter Tennessen’s five-day-a-week, minute-and-a-half editorial.
Anyone is welcome to speak their mind and get the last word. Even those who don’t like what he’s said, and have said as much on KFKA, haven’t been rebutted. It’s a station practice.
And if you want to meet somebody in town, just ask Tennessen.
“My kids love having a grandpa that knows everybody,´ said KFKA operations manager and Tennessen daughter Ann Weigle. “You know, when they go fishing, my 15-year-old son will come back and say, RGrandpa knows everybody!’ “
But has a man with such community involvement — as well as name and face recognition — ever thought about entering politics? It has come up, but his wife nixed the idea long ago.
“I’ve been married for 15,360 days, and I have the world’s best wife,” Tennessen said. “The only thing she’s asked me is not to run for any political office. I’m grateful for it now. It’s extremely time-consuming, and you make a lot of enemies. Right now, I don’t have a lot of enemies, and I like it that way.”

Doughnuts are to coffee what the voice of Joe Tennessen is to radio station KFKA-AM.
They don’t have to go together, but everybody knows that coffee tastes better with a little sugar, and Weld County has learned that KFKA is a lot better with a little Tennessen — actually it’s pretty safe to say it wasn’t really possible without him.
KFKA did try. In the course of 11 years, from 1980 to 1991, the station battled it out through four ownership changes and a variety of programming changes — country music formats mixed with agricultural news, easy-listening morning music formats…

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