Joseph Walker, Deseret News
SOUTH JORDAN — At noon on Friday, March 1, Danny Kramer disappeared.
The one-time king of Salt Lake City radio, who led KSL Radio to unprecedented market dominance during the early 1980s and who subsequently created a tidal wave of controversy when he jumped to rival KALL Radio, was suddenly, inexplicably gone.
“We thought you died,” people tell him these days when they bump into him, still very much alive, in the store or at a restaurant.
And in a way, Kramer did die. Several times, in fact. In the rough and tumble of the radio business, where today’s ratings hit is tomorrow’s format change, Kramer has died several deaths only to be resurrected by new opportunities to reinvent himself — most recently as the owner/programmer/technician/headline talent of an Internet radio station (www.retromediaallstars.com) that features his music, his way.
“This is beyond exciting for me,” Kramer says over a cup of coffee in his comfortable South Jordan home that doubles as his studio and operating base, complete with computers, monitors, modems and an affectionate Yorkie named Sonny-Dog.
But it wasn’t so exciting on March 1, when KKDS management called him and other station employees in for a 10 a.m. meeting to announce that the station was changing its format at noon that day and many of them — including Kramer — would be out of a job.
“Talk about scrambling,” Kramer says, shaking his head at the memory. “Just like that, they pull the plug and there’s all these people who are suddenly unemployed. We didn’t have time to warn our listeners or our advertisers or anything. We were just gone.”
Which, in the minds of many listeners, is the same as being dead.
“When you’re in the media, you like to think that your listeners or your viewers or readers really care about you and that they will come looking for you when you are gone,” he says in that calm, comfortable, friendly tone that has been his trademark since he got his first job in radio in 1962.
“And they do,” he continues. “They’ll look around a little. But if they can’t find you easily, they’ll find something else and move on with their lives.”
Which is precisely what Kramer has been doing throughout his five decades-plus in radio: finding something else and moving on.
His career started while he was still in high school in Savannah, Ga., where he joined the high school radio club because he thought it would help him get over his fear of public speaking. When the local radio station was looking for a part-time weekend announcer, he got the job because “I was the only one who could read a script without stumbling.”
“I had no idea what I was doing,” he says. “I had no concept of how radio even worked.”
But it didn’t take long for him to get “the bug,” as he called it — especially when it became clear that girls thought being on the radio was pretty cool.
“They would say, ‘So you’re kind of like Wolfman Jack?’ ” he recalls as he walks Sonny-Dog outside so he can do the things dogs need to do outside. “Even though Wolfman Jack was this huge national disc jockey and I was just working the weekends in a little Savannah radio station, I would say, ‘Yeah, I’m kind of like that.’ ”
Despite his youth and inexperience in the industry, young Kramer could see that there was a problem with his radio station’s programming.
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