KISW (99.9 FM) is a radio station in Seattle, Washington. Its format is Rock, with the slogan, "The Rock of Seattle". KISW broadcasts on a frequency of 99.9 MHz with an ERP of 68,000 watts through a transmitter near Issaquah, Washington on Tiger Mountain, and operates from its studios at the Metropolitan Park complex in Downtown Seattle.
KISW has a long history in Seattle as a hard rocking album-oriented rock and mainstream rock station with the slogan "Seattle's Best Rock". Over the years the station has employed some of Seattle's most successful on-air hosts and DJs, including Bob Rivers, Crow and West, Robin and Maynard, Steve Slaton and others. KISW's license is held by Entercom, who operates four stations in the Seattle metropolitan area. KISW morphed to an active rock format by 2003, when sister alternative rock station KNDD dropped the majority of hard rock songs.
KISW commenced broadcasting on January 18, 1950. KISW played classical music under the tutelage of its founder and first owner, Ellwood W. Lippincott (1904–1977). From 1954 to 1956, the station was managed by Harvey Manning.
In 1969, the station was purchased by Kaye-Smith, a partnership of famed entertainer Danny Kaye and Lester Smith. At that time Kaye-Smith were also the owners of the number one pop music station in Seattle, KJR. By 1971, KISW had switched to a progressive rock (or "underground") format pioneered by Tom Donahue at KMPX and KSAN in San Francisco.
KISW was not the first commercial station in the Seattle/Tacoma market to experiment with rock and roll programming on the FM radio dial - KOL had already accomplished some success with their FM frequency. Through the early and mid-seventies, KISW evolved, as most of the FM progressive stations did, into the more tightly controlled album oriented rock (AOR) format.
A key period in KISW’s history began in the late-1970s, when the station adopted the slogan "Seattle’s Best Rock". Seeming to embrace a younger, more blue-collar aesthetic than Seattle’s other (AOR) stations, KISW added hard rock and heavy metal into the music mix - even in the mornings.
KISW worked with radio consultants Burkhart/Abrams. Lee Abrams had developed a successful hybrid of AOR that applied the principles of Top 40.
Station Manager Steve West and Program Director Beau Phillips developed what would be a long line of top-notch, clever and irreverent KISW radio personalities. The air staff in 1980 included the morning team, John Langan and Mike West, who went by the moniker "Those Dudes". Gary Crow and Bob Hovanes worked together in the afternoon. Both duos ran outrageous audio skits of Leave It To Beaver and Mr. Bruce’s Neighborhood (a send-up of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood), along with fake news and other off-color parodies.
After a couple shuffles in the mid-1980s, Gary Crow and Mike West ("Crow & West") aired during afternoon drive, while John Maynard was paired with Robin Erickson ("Robin & Maynard") for the mornings with their fictional sidekick Roy Otis. Both proved extraordinarily popular. But after KISW was sold and management changed, both teams left the station together in 1987 to start rival rock station KXRX.
The exit of Crow & West with Robin & Maynard threw KISW into a long search for a top notch air-talent to compete for Seattle listeners. Eventually, Bob Rivers debuted on KISW in 1989. Bob had gained notoriety in Boston and Baltimore for his parody songs and an 11-day, on-air marathon during a Baltimore Orioles losing streak.
A disgruntled former employee, Vincent L. Hoffart, who was fired from KISW in the late 1970s, has continually challenged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) renewal application of KISW. In 1987, he wrote a book about his dealings with the FCC, KISW, and Kaye-Smith titled A Case Of Notorial Imperfections which was reprinted in 2006 as Gippergate.
In 1991, as an April Fool's prank, the radio station changed their format to soft rock for a day.
In August 2000, the popular "Twisted Radio" show led by Bob Rivers left to join rival radio station KZOK-FM, resulting in a slump in the station's ratings. Howard Stern's nationally syndicated show was signed in May 2001 as a replacement. At the end of 2005, Stern moved to Sirius Satellite Radio.
On November 30, 2005, the Tom Leykis Show was moved to KISW from sister station KQBZ (which flipped to country), after nearly 1,000 fans called the station and sent emails to stop the switch through protest sites.
- HD1 carries the analog format ("KISW 99.9") from the standard 99.9 FM frequency.
- HD2 carried a "live rock" format featuring rock songs from concerts. This lasted until August 10, 2015 when 99.9-HD2 switched to "The Metal Channel".
Ellwood W. Lippincott 1950-1969 - Ellwood W. Lippincott founded KISW. He was a resident of Centralia, Washington, and worked as an electrical engineer for Weyerhaeuser. During the week, Lippincott's job required him to travel about 3,200 miles a month maintaining Weyerhaeuser's radio equipment from the Canada–US border to southern Oregon. Lippincott would spend his weekends managing the station. KISW was his labor of love. Under Lippincott's ownership, KISW operated out of a small studio on the northwest corner of NE 92nd Street and Roosevelt Way NE in north Seattle. The building was demolished and replaced with townhouses in 2007.
Kaye-Smith 1969–1982 - Kaye-Smith was a joint venture between actor/comedian Danny Kaye and businessman Lester Smith. Kaye-Smith owned several radio stations including KJR, the dominant AM top 40 station in Seattle during the 1960s and 1970s. Together, they also owned Seattle's Kaye-Smith studios (where records by Heart, Steve Miller and Bachman–Turner Overdrive were recorded), Concerts West (with Pat O'Day, a booking and promotion company that handled Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Eagles, Paul McCartney and others); and were original owners of the Seattle Mariners baseball team.
Alexander Broadcasting Company 1982–1987 - In 1982 Danny Kaye sold his interest to Lester Smith's company, Alexander Broadcasting.
Nationwide Communications, Inc. 1987–1996 - A subsidiary of the Nationwide Insurance Company, Nationwide Communications originally established itself in the Radio business in 1947. Nationwide had sold off its radio stations by 1997.
Entercom Communications Co. 1996–present Entercom is the 4th largest radio broadcasting company in the United States. Entercom operates four stations in Seattle and is the market's leading operator in terms of revenue. Data from the Arbitron ratings company shows that the Entercom's Seattle holdings regularly draw more than 20% of all radio listening in the Seattle/Tacoma market.
Former programming features
The following programming features were largely phased out as KISW made the transition from AOR to the active rock format. Nonetheless, these were in place and part of the programming for a bulk of the station's existence, including some of the station's most successful years during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
This program aired weekdays, 12 noon until 1 p.m. and mainly featured the artists and music of the late 1960s. The name was a reference to the psychedelic aesthetic in the music and culture of the era this show celebrated – as in The Electric Prunes, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and perhaps when Dylan went electric. The program was hosted by the mid-day DJ, for many years Dan Wilke.
Played several times each day, this was basically a music news feature with a rundown of the interesting facts and happenings. Hosted by Dan Wilke, the background music, or music bed for this feature was an instrumental by the British blues band Savoy Brown called "Sitting And Thinking", from their 1970 LP titled Looking In. Dr. Rock (Jeff McIntosh) was the host during the early 80s.
For the full 24 hours each Thursday, KISW DJs played two songs in a row by every artist. To entice their audience, the station gave away $100 if listeners called after hearing only one song by an artist.
Leave It To Beaver 1980
Written and produced by members of the KISW airstaff, these skits were an over the top and irreverent take-off of the 1950s CBS television show Leave It To Beaver (commonly seen as syndicated reruns during the 1970s and 1980s). In various skits, The Beaver was portrayed as a child with an affected voice, Ward and June as cocaine addicts in one episode, Mrs. Cleaver in an affair with Wally's friend Eddie, and Beaver's pal Whitey as a drug dealer. One of the most beloved episodes is when Beaver accidentally kills Eddie Haskell with poisoned cheese. These episodes ran on the Langan and West (Those Dudes) morning show, 1979-1983.
Vincent Hoffart cited complaints about this feature in his 1982 challenge to the renewal of KISW’s FCC Broadcast License.
Current programming features
BJ & Migs Mornings (formerly: The BJ Shea Morning Experience)
Starting each day off with a variety of different topics, they interview many people from different aspects such as celebrities, politicians, comedians, etc.
A show running weekdays 10:00am–2:00pm hosted by Ryan Castle The Drunk in Charge. His show features "The Morning 12 Pak" and then "The Hook-Up" running from noon till 1pm, in which the last letter of the title of a current song must be the first letter of the title of the next song..
The Mens Room
Composed of Miles Montgomery, Steve "The Thrill" Hill, Thee Ted Smith, and Mike Hawk. The Men's Room is an afternoon/evening show running weekdays from 2:00pm to 6:00pm. The shows features a mix of music, commentary on national news and local events, and daily features such as the "Shot of the Day" where someone from the headlines of the day is toasted for their stupidity/brilliance/alcoholism. There is also a Men's room beer line. On Fridays the Men's Room runs Bad Joke Friday (in which listeners call in to exhibit skill in poor comedy), Bad Choice Friday (in which listeners must vote on two songs that do not fit the format of the station, to be notionally retired permanently from airplay), and Ted vs. The FCC (in which Thee Ted Smith must recite a tongue twister that is constructed in such a way to come out with an expletive should he speak it wrong).
Taryn Daly hosts the evening show from 6:00pm to 10:00pm, featuring a four-hour block of music. She took over for Jolene in June 2015 after Jolene retired from the radio business after 11 years on KISW (2004-2015). Features include "Dude it's the 80's" running from 8:00pm to 8:30pm and then "90s Something" starting at 9:00pm.
Hosted by KGRG alums Kevin and Ian, Metal Shop runs on Saturdays 11:00pm to 2:00am and features three hours of ear shredding metal music. Kevin and Ian have hosted the show since March 2010, replacing Steve Rock and Kevin after 8 years of doing Metal Shop every weekend.
The older version of Metal Shop's last show was aired on March 20, 2010; replacement DJs made their appearance on the next week's show.
Historical station IDs
Through the 1980s, KISW’s trademark station ID included the opening power-chord slam from the Thin Lizzy song "Jail Break", followed immediately by the voice of Van Halen singer David Lee Roth naming the call letters K-I-S-W, and the station’s slogan, "Seattle’s Best Rock". Another ID featured all four members of Van Halen yelling the call letters with David Lee Roth over the end with the slogan. This was acceptable to the FCC as a legal ID, required at the top of each hour, because the call letters were said directly before the city.
KISW released an LP Epic Rock in 1981 that featured a mix of on-air DJ "comedy bits" and live performances by artists on the KISW playlist. The live recordings came from artists signed to the Epic Records label. It was a low-priced limited-edition pressing of about 5,000 copies that was released by Epic in the Seattle area only.
- 1. Langen & West part one (DJ)
- 2. Cheap Trick - "Day Tripper" (live recording)
- 3. Langen & West part two (DJ)
- 4. Angel City - "No Secrets" (live recording)
- 5. Dr. Rock (DJ)
- 6. Molly Hatchet - "Beatin' the Odds" (live recording)
- 1. Crow & Hovanes part one (DJ)
- 2. Gary Myrick - "She Talks In Stereo" (live recording)
- 3. Crow & Hovanes part two (DJ)
- 4. Steve Slaton (DJ)
- 5. REO Speedwagon - "157 Riverside Avenue" (live recording)
- 6. Jessie Brandon (DJ)
- 7. John Napier (DJ)
KISW Radio Seattle had a duck mascot that promoted the station from 1977 to 1980. The KISW duck attended public gatherings, fairs, festivals, rock concerts, sporting events and other area events to promote the station visibility in the station listener area. The KISW duck attended the 1978 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California and was briefly seen on the national TV broadcast. The game featured Washington and Michigan. The game was won by Washington 27 to 20. The KISW duck regularly attended rock concerts and once performed with the TUBES rock group during their show at the Paramount Theater in Seattle in 1978. The KISW duck was also well known for giving away donuts to listeners who drove by the station every Friday morning. The KISW duck is probably best known for being the victim of a police beating that happened at a Richard Pryor show in 1979 outside the Paramount Theater in Seattle. Although it was never clear what triggered the incident the charges were eventually dropped by the Seattle city attorney. The story of the beating was covered in several national music trade publications at the time. The KISW duck was portrayed by Daniel O'Brien a Seattle native and local promoter who was, beside being the KISW duck, one of the founders of a local entertainment magazine known as The Rocket. The KISW duck quacked his last quack in 1980 when the station dropped the promotion.
Miss Rock hydroplane
On August 4, 1980, Steve Montgomery of the KISW sales department and Doug McIntosh created a hydroplane, (which was once the Miss Timex), painted it black, and added the station's fiery black "rock" logo to it. To Steve Montgomery's surprise, Doug McIntosh wasn't the owner of the famed "Miss Rock". Brian Keogh of Detroit was, and he ended up driving the boat in the first Seafair race, which they didn’t even qualify to race the first year. The boat rarely placed, but drew cheers anyway. The Miss Rock has become a fixture at Seattle’s Seafair.
Previous DJs and other on-air staff
- 1972-1977 Steve Nicolet
- 1973-1992 Steve Slaton
- 1975-???? Tracy Mitchell
- 1975-1979 Terry MacDonald
- 1976-1978 Steve Spellman
- 1977-1978 Brent Alberts
- 1977-1983 Mike West (on-air w/John Langan as "Those Dudes") (see also 1984)
- 1977-1986 Gary Crow (on-air w/Bob Hovanes through 1984, then w/Mike West through 1986)
- 1977-1984 Bob Hovanes
- 1978-1979 John Evens
- 1978-1983 John Langan later known as C. Foster Kane (on-air w/Mike West as "Those Dudes") (see also 1988)
- 1978-???? Jim Arnold
- 1980-???? Steve Akrish
- 1980-1984 Larry Sharp; "Sharpie"
- 1980-1982 Steve Cooper
- 1980-1982 Jesse Brandon
- 1978-1984 Dr. Rock Jeff McIntosh
- 1980-???? John Napier
- 1980-???? Rick Evens
- 1980-???? Mike Luchino
- 1981-2002 Dan Wilke
- 1982-1984 Marie McCallister
- 1983-1984 Gary Bryan
- 1983-1986 Beau Roberts
- 1983-???? Gary Bryan
- 1983-1986 John Maynard (on-air w/Robin Erickson)
- 1982-1986 Robin Erickson (on-air w/John Maynard starting in 1984)
- 1984-1986 Mike West (teamed with Gary Crow) (see also 1977)
- 1984-1985 Lisa Walker
- 1985-1987 Dean Carlson
- 1985-2001 'the late' Cathy Faulkner
- 1985-2000 Mike Jones
- 1987-2002 Damon Stewart
- 1987-1989 Sky Daniels
- 1987-1997 Jon Ballard
- 1989-1996 Rob Oxford (Rockfish) (Returned briefly 1998-1999)
- 1997-2002 "Scott 'the Worm' Vanderpool"
- 1987-1988 John Langan aka C. Foster Kane (Mornings w/ John Rody "Two White Guys") (see also 1978)
- 1987-1988 Mike Bell (Also Writer/Producer/Voice talent for "The Two White Guys" morning show" 1987 - 1988)
- 1987-1988 John Rody (Mornings w/ John Langan "The Two White Guys")
- 1989-2000 Twisted Radio (Bob Rivers, "Spike" O'Neil, "Downtown Joe" Bryant)
- 1989-1995 Steve O'Neill (Steve-O)
- 1990-1991 Bill Reid
- 1990-2002 Mr. T (Mike Trochalakis)
- 1997-2004 Andy Guyer
- 1998-2003 Adam Gehrke
- 2001-2002 John Sebastian
- 2002-2003 Lisa Wood
- 2002-2004 Reed Wacker
- 2002-2002 Rover
- 2002-2003 Kylee Brooks
- 2002-2003 Tommy Hough
- 2002-2004 Ditch
- 2004-2008 Kenna
- 2004-2006 Will Dixon
- 2005-2006 Seaman
- 2003-2009 Ricker
- 2006-2010 Double R
- 200?-201? JEETZ
- 2004-2015 Jolene
- 2005-2016 Ben The Psycho Muppet from(The Men's Room),Topshelf and Mono Nick from (BJ and MIG'S)
In 2007, the station was nominated for the Radio & Records magazine Active Rock station of the year award in a top 25 market. Other nominees included WIYY in Baltimore, WAAF in Boston, KBPI in Denver, WRIF in Detroit, and WMMR in Philadelphia. Nominated for a RadioContraband Rock Radio Award for "Major Market Radio Station of the Year" 2012
KISW was inducted into the Rock Radio Hall of Fame in the "Heritage Rock Radio Stations-Still Rocking" in 2014