By Tommy Hough
One of the funniest guys I've ever worked with in broadcasting, and one of the most unusual, lovable characters I've come across in my years of doing radio, died this week in Cincinnati from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. Mr. K was 48.
Mr. K's real name was Ken Glidewell, but I know no one who ever called him by that name. It was always Mr. K. Even when he was being yelled at by a brand new program director only moments after we learned we were being fired – only to be rehired by the new company owning our radio station – he was still referred to as Mr. K, or sometimes, in anger or exasperation, just "K."
K was the first guy I came across in radio who worked from his "own set of notes," as I like to say, having long stopped worrying about how anyone else would ever react to him. Mr. K did his own thing, made no bones about it, but did so in such a good-natured but curmudgeonly, mischievous way.
Mr. K immediately, if innocently, let you know what was on his mind, and whether he was dealing with a new boss or anyone else, he never changed his tune to suit the person in front of him. K was real-deal on-air talent. I can't imagine him having any other job, other than playing bass in his band at Ohio nudist colonies – which there are, and which he did.
I met and worked with a lot of great, wonderful people during my Ohio radio days, I learned a lot and had a lot of laughs, but Mr. K remains the one guy I would tell stories about for years afterward. I was just talking about him at FM 94/9 a few days ago. K taught me more about doing your own thing and doing the right thing, and he was such a funny guy the way the most creative people in this business tend to be. Some folks call people like Mr. K a force of nature. Mr. K would've said that's bullshit.
I first met Mr. K as a nervous, rock radio rookie at the now-defunct 102.9 WAZU in Dayton, Ohio. The station was an active rock outlet, and a complete asylum of zanies. Mr. K was one-half of the morning show, and on the air and off the cuff Mr. K was absolutely hilarious, but fun to be around and welcoming off the air. He always had lots of patience with me while I was still learning how to do radio for real.
Mr. K would make time to explain how things worked around the office and in the business in his own "look kid, here's how it is" way, and he was the first to make me feel like part of the team. When WAZU was LMA'd by the now-former Great Trails Broadcasting, Mr. K was the first guy to ask our new managers, who were all dressed in suits and weren't even sure if they knew what to do with our rabble of an airstaff, if we were going to be subject to drug tests – that was his first question.
Later on that morning he led us down to a bar and diner combo around the corner from the station where we all used to hang out, and we breathed a laughter-filled, "we showed them" sigh of defiant relief. I remember spending several inebriated nights in the country music bar underneath our rock station, with Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson blasting over the bar's sound system, watching a seemingly sober Mr. K subversively encourage everyone on the airstaff to take a turn riding the bar's mechanical bull.
Like Al Pacino's Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glenn Ross, he would work on the most reluctant person for hours, alternately explaining to them why they should ride the mechanical bull – and then yelling at them to do so over the music. It was hilarious. Who got me on a mechanical bull the one time in my life I was dumb enough to ride one? Mr. K. There were barely four pieces of straw on the metal floor in that place to break your fall, and it didn't take long for me to get there.
A few years later when I was preparing to move west to Seattle, I was doing weekends at WEBN in Cincinnati and Mr. K was working there too. Some of the crosstalk breaks I had with him while he was getting off the air and I was coming on were positively surreal.
I remember one of the last times I saw him he was haranguing WEBN's assistant program director over the "access all" P.A. function on the studio phone for scheduling too many Metallica songs during his airshift. In a mock Voice of God, heard by everyone in the building, K half-jokingly blasted away, "Rhino, how many f___ing times do I have to tell you? Stop scheduling Metallica songs! I hate f___ing Metallica!"
Later I recall K playing back a video of his band playing one of those nudist colony gigs somewhere near his home in Hamilton, Ohio, where such things are generally frowned upon.
Ken, rest in peace pal. I'm so terribly sorry to get this news. Thanks for the laughs and thanks for the guidance, but most of all, thanks for making me feel like part of the team. Not that you don't know, but you will be missed.
A San Diego County planning commissioner and former radio host and media personality, Tommy Hough works as an environmental consultant and communications professional, and is a California Democratic Party delegate and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.