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David “Kidd” Kraddick’s legacy extends far beyond the radio

Posted 2:36pm on Monday, Jul. 29, 2013

David “Kidd” Kraddick, the popular radio personality who died unexpectedly Saturday at age 53, was a part of the DFW radio scene for nearly 30 years – more than 20 of them as the morning-show host at KHKS/106.1 FM “KISS-FM,” where his program was the top-rated radio show in DFW for the past several years.

Those facts alone, however, provide just a glimpse of Mr. Kraddick’s reach in North Texas. With a show tailored to attract both parents and their children, rarely getting edgier than PG-13 humor, Mr. Kraddick and his show cast earned an audience so loyal that listeners who grew up with them now listen with their children. In some cases, the listenership goes back an additional generation.

The reaction on social media was immediate when the news broke Saturday night, and continued well into Sunday evening, with comments and tweets from high-profile personalities ranging from American Idol host Ryan Seacrest (who’s also an L.A.-based syndicated radio host) to Texas-native TV personality Dr. Phil McGraw, to State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.

“For years, my daughters and I listened to Kidd’s show every morning on the way to school,” Davis posted on her Facebook page, echoing a lot of other comments. “Like many of you, he filled our morning commutes with joy and laughter. He brought smiles to so many of our faces, and his legacy will live on through his charitable work.”

Mr. Kraddick began his Dallas-Fort Worth radio career in 1984 at KEGL/97.1 FM “The Eagle,” which was then a Top 40 station. When the station changed formats in 1992, Mr. Kraddick suddenly found himself off the air but still under contract. He wanted to be back on so badly, he told the Star-Telegram in 2011, that when the KISS opportunity came up, he told KEGL to tear up his contract even though his KISS salary was a two-thirds pay cut.

Over the years at KISS, Mr. Kraddick connected with listeners by developing a cast – currently Kellie Rasberry, Big Al Mack, Jose “J-Si” Chavez and Jenna Owens, – that seemed like a family. The cast treated listeners as part of the family and included them in the conversation.

“Kidd wasn’t afraid to let people into his life,” said singer Tim Halperin, a graduate of Texas Christian University who made recurring appearances on Kidd Kraddick in the Morning after Mr. Kraddick thought Halperin was eliminated too early on season 10 of American Idol. “That’s what he did on the radio as well as off the air. That’s what made [his death] so incredibly hard, because he was so loved. For most people who listened to his show, it wasn’t just a radio show. It was one of their best friends that they got to listen to in the morning.”

Fans left flowers and notes expressing their sympathy Sunday at the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning studios in Las Colinas. Restaurants, including Arlington’s Candlelite Inn where Mr. Kraddick and his family had dined, and Dallas’ Maple and Motor, where Mr. Kraddick had scrawled “Best Burger in TX!” on the door, posted notes about Mr. Kraddick on their Facebook pages.

Mr. Kraddick was a student and ambassador of radio. When the Star-Telegram ran an essay critical of DFW radio in 1999, Mr. Kraddick was the only local personality to contact the newspaper and defend the radio scene, pointing out the bevy of talent here, including local DJs Ron Chapman, Tom Joyner and Terry Dorsey. He was also a visionary, said Kelly Kibler Owens, Clear Channel senior vice president of operations who worked with Mr. Kraddick for 17 years.

“Kidd was way ahead of the industry curve in recognizing the true potential of partnering digital content and social interactivity with his huge radio audience reach,” Kibler said Sunday via email. “He was investing funds and attention to his web site, and related digital product development, long before the actual benefits of doing so were more commonly understood.”

Patrick Davis, KISS’ program director, worked with Mr. Kraddick for 12 years, including two as operations manager of Kidd Kraddick in the Morning. Davis says that Mr. Kraddick is responsible for bringing him to DFW and for his becoming the station’s program director. When Kidd Kraddick in the Morning went into syndication, Davis says, Mr. Kraddick never forgot KISS even as he became a national personality.

“We never had the relationship of two separate entities,” Davis says. “I wanted what was best for his show and he wanted what was best for KISS. So it was always very mutual in our drive to be the absolute best, which is what I think Kidd was.”

YEA Networks, which distributes Kidd Kraddick in the Morning, has not made an announcement about the show’s future. The supporting cast announced Sunday via Facebook and Twitter that they will broadcast live at 7 a.m. CDT Monday for a short time to share their feelings about Mr. Kraddick’s passing. The show can be heard locally on KHKS/106.1 FM “KISS-FM” or via KiddNation.com. The show is also one of the radio programs featured on the syndicated TV show Dish Nation, which airs at 11:30 p.m. weeknights on KDFW/Channel 4.

Mr. Kraddick also connected with thousands of listeners through Kidd’s Kids, a charity he began that annually takes a group of terminally and chronically ill children and their families on a trip to Disney World in Florida.

“One of the things I was interested in seeing when I went on a Kidd’s Kids trip was, was this for the radio, or was this personal,” Davis says. “The first trip I went on, Kidd was the first one there in the morning talking to the kids. It’s not being recorded. It’s not for the radio. And he knew each child and why they were there.”

Afternoon DJ Billy “The Kidd” Green and nighttime jock Cruz went on-air Saturday night on KISS to pay tribute and take listener calls, many of which came from people who had been part of past Kidd’s Kids events. Green was also on the air until about 3 p.m. Sunday, when Cruz took over. Both DJs had received mentoring from Kraddick, Davis says.

“He would pull Billy aside when he first came to KISS ... and give Billy pointers,” Davis says. “Billy’s always been very talented, but when you can get one-on-one instruction from someone like Kidd Kraddick, that meant a lot to Billy. When we hired Cruz, [Kidd] sent me a note that said, ‘Hey, this guy fits perfectly, I’d love to meet him.’ As big as he was in syndication, he always had KISS first.”

Mr. Kraddick was at a charity golf tournament for Kidd’s Kids in Gretna, outside New Orleans, when he died Saturday, reportedly of a brain anuerysm. Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson said Sunday that an ambulance was sent to the Timberlane Country Club about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, but it was for another patient at the event.

Lawson said when paramedics arrived, they were told Kraddick had been taken by private car to Ochsner Medical Center Westbank Campus in Gretna.

“He had left the event by the time the ambulance arrived,” Lawson said Sunday in a telephone interview.

Richie Tomblin, described as the head golf professional at the Timberlane Country Club in Gretna on its website, told The Associated Press that Mr. Kraddick wasn’t looking well when he saw him getting ready for Saturday’s charity event.

“He came out and he borrowed my golf clubs and went out to the driving range,” Tomblin told AP when contacted by phone. “It’s kind of a freaky situation. He came out. He practiced a little bit. He hit the ball at the first tee and wasn’t feeling good, and after that I didn’t see him.”

Tomblin said the hundreds of amateur golfers taking part went ahead with the event Saturday. He added he only found out afterward that Mr. Kraddick had died.

In 2001, Mr. Kraddick’s show went into syndication, extending his reach again as the show started airing in more than 80 markets. He was able to book bigger guests, including many – singers Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez and others – who had grown up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area listening to Kidd Kraddick in the Morning and then became stars who appeared on the show.

“RIP #KiddKraddick, awesome DJ taken far too young,” tweeted Michael Urie, a Plano Senior High graduate who was a series regular on ABC-TV’s Ugly Betty. “Used to listen on my way to school – even got to guest on his show a few years back.”

Mr. Kraddick was an avid music fan who as a Tampa-area teen made DJ tapes at a homemade studio for his sister Jan, naming his station WJAN. “She won every contest, and every request was from her,” Kraddick told the Star-Telegram in 2011. “I’d make these tapes for her, and I feel bad for her now, because she had to listen to them in her car, and I’d be like, ‘Did you play it for your friends?’ I was so bad, talking in this DJ voice.”

His music fandom stretched beyond the Top 40 music played by KISS and the adult-contemporary pop at other Kidd Kraddick in the Morning affiliates across the country.

“Kidd was exceptionally popular with music artists, not only for his incredible audience delivery, but also for his genuine love of music,” Kibler wrote. “He loved listening to music, attending concerts, getting to know artists and maintained a personal recording studio at his home where he was always quick to show you something new he had created on the keyboards.”

Halperin, who says he was starstruck when he was invited to make his first appearance on Mr. Kraddick’s show, used Mr. Kraddick’s love of music to help break the ice.

“I knew Kidd was a huge Ben Folds fan,” said Halperin. “And Ben Folds is one of my big influences. So I sat down at the piano for sound check and just started playing Ben Folds song after Ben Folds song. Kidd walked in the room and said, ‘Are you playing Ben Folds? He’s one of my favorites.’ ”

Halperin is on the bill for the first ever “Concert for Kidd’s Kids,” also featuring the Jonas Brothers, Jason Derulo and Andy Grammer, Aug. 15 at House of Blues Dallas. He says there was a quieter, private side to Mr. Kraddick that radio listeners didn’t always hear.

“I think Kidd had the personality to be a songwriter,” Halperin says. “I think a trait that songwriters have in common is that we’re more sensitive people. That’s why we write about life and why we write about love and heartache. Kidd loved that; that’s why he loved my song The Last Song, because it was a heartbreak song. I think there’s a side to Kidd Kraddick that was just sensitive and sentimental, and that was a beautiful thing.”

Services for Mr. Kraddick are pending.

Staff writer Domingo Ramirez Jr. contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press.

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