KBCO (97.3 FM) is a AAA radio station licensed to Boulder, Colorado, United States, that serves the Denver-Boulder area. The station's format, dubbed "World Class Rock," is an eclectic variety of pop, rock, blues, reggae and folk, from the late-1960s to the present.
The iHeartMedia, Inc. outlet broadcasts with an effective radiated power of 100 kW. KBCO's studios are no longer located in Boulder. They now broadcast out of the iHeartMedia, Inc. broadcast facility in south Denver. The transmitter is located southwest of Eldorado Springs, Colorado, at the top of Eldorado Mountain at an elevation of 8,400 feet above sea level, or 469 meters above average terrain.
Scott Arbough, who started as a part-time DJ at KBCO in 1985, is the current Program Director.
KBCO, whose slogan is "World Class Rock," has been in the adult rock format since its sign on in June 1977. The format on the station was derived in part from Boulder station KADE (1190 AM) which had gone on the air in 1973. KADE was a solar-powered station, which signed on and off the air in conjunction with the rising and setting of the sun. KADE was purchased in 1975 by Bob Greenlee. Two years later Greenlee also purchased FM station KRNW, which then became KBCO. The original studio was located in an office complex at 1900 Folsom Street. The station's original transmitter was located on a tower atop Lee Hill with a low-power 610-watt signal. Bob Greenlee worked with consulting engineers and petitioned the FCC to increase the power to its current 100,000-watt signal.
The original format was co-designed by Dennis Constantine and Randy Morrison (formerly of KBPI Denver and WLS-FM/WDAI Chicago; he had also designed the format for KADE). At launch the airstaff included Dennis Constantine, the station's original program director, in the mornings; Bob Lynch overnight, Music Director Judy McNutt and production director Richard Ray. Jon Steele hosted 6-10 in the evenings.
The freedom allowed to the airstaff in the early days bred exceptional creativity. The station produced an award-winning series of yearly broadcasts, collectively known as "Intervention Day: Planet Earth's Premier Holiday." Intervention Day broadcasts were set in the future and celebrated the day the Inter-Galactic Community intervened to prevent Earth's leaders from destroying the planet. Celebrations were marked by music from the time prior intervention day. The broadcasts won the 1987 International Radio Festival of New York "Grand Award for Best Entertainment Program of the Year". Worldwide competition included ABC, National Public Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the BBC.
Greenlee moved KADE and KBCO to a state of the art studio complex at 4801 Riverbend Road in East Boulder and then sold the stations to Noble Broadcasting in 1987. During this time of KBCO's history, deejays selected the songs to play on their own shows from a broad music library.
In 1982, KBCO was the first station in Colorado to play music from CDs. In a partnership with local audio retailer Listen Up, CDs and playback equipment were shipped in from Japan.
KBCO has occasionally been rated #1 in the Denver-Boulder Arbitron ratings with overall listeners 12+, the first time in 1988. KBCO is often rated #1 with its target audience 25- to 54-year-olds. The station's sale to Clear Channel in the mid-1990s has resulted in a tightening of the formerly unpredictable format, and KBCO DJs no longer have control over any of the tracks they play except during special features. Music played on the air is chosen by the station's programming staff.
In 1988, KBCO Studio C was created by Production Director Tom Koetting with a performance by Melissa Etheridge in a small cramped production studio. The studio has since upgraded, and many artists in Colorado for a concert tour or promotion tour stop by to play live on the radio. The station releases a CD every year in late November or early December with the best or most memorable Studio C performances. The CDs, titled KBCO Studio C followed by the volume number, sell out in a matter of hours and all proceeds from the album are donated to Boulder County AIDS Project and Food Bank of the Rockies. Two retrospective CDs have been released combining the best of the previous CDs and a couple of unreleased songs.
In 2005, KBCO received an experimental permit from the FCC and became the first FM radio station in the state of Colorado to implement "Multicasting" a second program channel using the Ibquity Digital HD system. The station debuted a HD2 sub-channel playing only songs recorded in Studio C. The Studio C Channel is also available on KBCO's web site, along with the New Music Channel, an Internet channel playing 100% new releases.