Northern Colorado Radio lost a legend this past weekend.. Long time Market President of iHeartMedia of Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming, Stu Haskell, passed away the morning after his 71st Birthday. He passed away surrounded by his family. I can't say enough about what Stu meant to me.. Mostly because the words aren't coming to me as it still doesn't feel real.. How could Superman, be gone? That's just not possible.. But sadly, it is, and the radio world will never be the same. I personally owe just about everything in my Radio career to him. He took a chance on a young kid from Denver in 2005 and we've worked side by side creating some of the biggest moments in NoCo history ever since. I know he'd hate all of this attention, but he deserves it and so much more.
One of Stu and I's best friends and closest colleagues, Chris Kelly, penned the following when Stu was Awarded the Rex Howell Broadcaster of the Year Award by the Colorado Broadcasters Association in 2018.. Please enjoy this peak into the man, the legend, the ICON that was Stu Haskell..
"Many local Radio folks can truly say if not for him and his leadership, a lot of our staff over the years would be where any of us are today. That group includes a number of current broadcasters in both radio and TV across Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs but also literally countless others scattered coast to coast across the United States.
Son of legendary Nebraska Broadcasters Association Hall of Famer George Haskell (credited with giving a guy by the name of Johnny Carson his first job in radio, and playing the organ for Johnny’s ventriloquist act), Stu Haskell has spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 years in Colorado radio. I say ‘neighborhood’ because getting him to open up about the early days and actually attribute dates is a rare feat. He was part of the very special group at KIIX and KTCL in the mid 70’s, back when it was based in Fort Collins and ultimately pioneered nationally what we know today as the modern rock/alternative format.
We recently stumbled across a website dedicated to a reunion of the original KTCL crew they held in 2014. The treasure chest of pictures from the mid-70’s to mid-80’s was mind blowing, making us realize how somewhat insignificant our own launch of 96.1 KISS FM was (20) years ago, in spite of building that station feeling pretty special at the time. While even that seems like forever ago to me, and there were certainly chapters of what we were doing with that station was in fact special, we cannot even fathom how remarkable the experience must have been back in the 70’s launching KTCL.
We look back at that station in those years with a deeply rooted admiration and envy, because as you know if you’ve spent any time around a radio station, when you have a group of people doing something they all really, truly believe in, the passion inside the building could generate enough power to light up New York City.
From that KTCL Reunion website: “There were ups and downs, very little pay, struggles with "The Man" and a dark period when (KTCL) was automated. But with long hours, a lot of dedication and very little pay, most of us still ended up out of work. The dream of "What It Could Be..." ran headlong into the realities that are business. Eventually, Stu Haskell moved from the (KIIX) AM air staff over to the sales department and the FM began to turn into a growing and profitable effort. The station even increased power to 100,000 watts and relocated the transmitter to the top of Horsetooth Mountain. (As a result), KTCL-FM, in all its forms, grew and still exists today.”
The stories we’ve heard about those years and that team, mostly from Stu but also from many others who were part of it, are the reasons why we fell so deeply in love with radio. To think of how dramatically the radio industry and media landscape as a whole has changed not only since the mid 70’s but even in the last few years is enough to cause a migraine. But through everything – through all the consolidation, the challenges and the changes – back when it was what it was to what it is now, in some capacity or another, Stu Haskell has been at the center of it all in Colorado.
From the programming side of KIIX-AM in Fort Collins, to the launch of KTCL and his subsequent segue to the business side of radio, to moving with the station to Denver in the 90’s and then ultimately returning to Fort Collins as a Market Manager where he still is today, Stu has been an example of tremendous leadership not only inside the building but in the community the stations have served. He’s become a pillar of the Northern Colorado community, having sat on numerous boards for non-profit agencies over the years and has dedicated countless hours to community projects, educating businesses on the power of radio and the growth of the Northern Colorado market as a whole. His vision for a premiere outdoor concert venue in Northern Colorado came to life with a (then) Clear Channel parternship with Thunder Mountain Harley-Davidson, and the construction of Thunder Mountain Amphitheatre (conveniently located behind the radio station’s facility Clear Channel at Crossroads Boulevard and I-25, built in 2005-06).
It’s at that amphitheatre where you can witness first hand not only Stu Haskell, the guy you work for, but the true measure of Stu Haskell, the man.
The concerts at that venue are done as a collaboration between the radio station and Thunder Mountain Harley-Davidson, and for most of its existence, the shows have been booked, sold by and executed the day of by staff of the station itself. At the end of each show when the lights come on, as you can imagine, the venue is covered in bottles, cans and trash. On every single concert night we can remember, as the lights powered up, the very first person you’d see go out into that amphitheatre and start picking up bottles and cans was Stu himself. The number of times I’d nudge a young employee of the station and point to Stu as an example of how they should conduct themselves over the course of their career, we can’t even begin to tell you. That the Market Manager and guy who essentially signs your paycheck, many years your elder and even after numerous surgeries on his back would beat you to cleaning up after a few thousand satisfied concert goers speaks volumes about who he is and how much he loves what he does. It doesn’t matter what his title is, how much he’s contributed to the community or to the radio industry as a whole… he’s the first one to get his hands unspeakably dirty to get the job done. It’s this pride for and love of the radio and entertainment business as a whole that’s powered his entire existence.
Come October of 2018, Stu will celebrate his 69th birthday. And for the last several years, the very common question among those who have worked for him over the years is: when will he just finally retire, walk away and enjoy life outside of radio?
If there were a singular reason why he deserves this award it’s that I’m not certain it’s possible for him to truly enjoy life outside of radio, because for most of it, his life has been radio. Yes, he has a wonderful family and now several adoring grandchildren, and much as Stu is himself and at his best in private with his family, he is at his absolute very best when he’s stopping by a car dealership remote to schmooze with some listeners or a client (and make sure the promo staff has properly tied down the inflatables). He’s in his element when he’s sitting in his office listening to 30 and 40 year old airchecks online and waxing poetic about the jocks he could pick up on WLS out of Chicago, with an old transistor radio at night, as a kid in Nebraska. And he’s truly the kind of leader you want to work for, when no matter what kind of day it has been, he’s usually the last one you see turn out the lights at night before leaving – not because there’s more work to be done, but because he just doesn’t want to let the day go."
We will miss Stu every single day and we will never be able to thank him enough for all he has done for us personally, but for all he has done for our community in general. A leader in all aspects of the word.. and an even better person. To this amazing Man, Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, and hero among men, we all say thank you, Uncle Stu.. And we'll see you on the other side, "dammit."