The loss of one of radio’s most visible personalities, syndicated morning host David “Kidd” Kraddick, shocked the industry and millions of fans of the “Kidd Kraddick in the Morning” show. The immediate outpouring of love for Kraddick—who died Saturday, July 27, during a charity golf event benefitting his Kidd’s Kids foundation—stems not only from his decades of on-air dominance but also his compassion for chronically and terminally ill children through his charity, and his reputation for being one of the most approachable, down-to-earth entertainers in the business.
Kraddick’s love for radio and his boundless energy dated back to high school, when he snuck his dad’s stereo out of the house to DJ the senior dance when the class didn’t have enough money to hire a professional DJ. Once Kraddick became a disc jockey himself, he crisscrossed the country with stops including Fresno, Calif.; Salt Lake City; and Tampa, Fla. (where the name “Kidd” originated).
Then came Dallas and KEGL (the Eagle). Joe Riccitelli, then a promotion guy at PolyGram, says of Kraddick, “You knew immediately he was destined for stardom.” Former KEGL PD Joel Folger recalls, “During one of the many times he was recruited by other stations to leave town, I remember telling him, ‘Don’t do it. If you play your cards right, you’ll be as big as [Dallas radio legend] Ron Chapman.’ And he was. Kidd was at the top of his radio game right down to the last day of his life.”
The move to mornings at KHKS (106.1 Kiss-FM) came in 1992, when the station was part of the Gannett chain, where Gerry DeFrancesco was president. “[When] we were looking at [top 40] as an option for Dallas, the format was very much out of favor, so the pressure to deliver a success was considerable. I was completely confident with Kidd in mornings. Our goal at KHKS was to be No. 1 within the first year. David made that happen.”
It was during this time the seeds were sown for the national success story that became “Kidd Kraddick in the Morning.” Kraddick’s humorous take on everyday life and pop culture, plus and his natural repartee with co-hosts Kellie Rasberry and Big Al Mack, earned him several awards including a Marconi for major market radio personality of the year. Early believers included WEZB (B97) New Orleans, where Mike Kaplan was PD. “Kidd’s desire to syndicate on B97 was relentless,” he says. “That same intense passion drove his success and made him the extraordinary person we all knew and loved.”
Robin Jones, the show’s one-time VP of operations, adds, “Watching Kidd develop and execute magnificent content on a daily basis was incredible to see. Unlike anyone I’ve ever heard, Kidd had the innate ability to make time stand still because listening was so much fun.”
Radio syndication success led to the same in TV when in 2012 Kraddick’s became one of four morning shows taking part in TV’s “Dish Nation.” The added activity didn’t slow his charity work, which at the time of his death was focused on its first Concert for Kidd’s Kids featuring Jonas Brothers and Jason Derulo. When the curtain goes up Aug. 15, it will surely be a testament to Kraddick’s two passions: music, and helping children and their families.
Columbia Records executive VP of promotion and longtime friend Lee Leipsner saw Kraddick regularly embrace both worlds. “Last Thanksgiving with Big Time Rush in Orlando [Fla.] was one of the greatest weekends we had together. Watching Kidd’s love for these kids and giving them so much joy: That was what he lived for.”
Leipsner continues, “I can’t express enough what Kidd meant to artists. He’d come out on weekends, weeknights, to support them. In an industry with so many restrictions, he played by his own rules, premiering artists no one had heard before and letting them come on the air and do what they wanted.”
Warner Bros. senior VP of promotion Peter Gray adds, “The times Kidd acted as a champion of undiscovered talent will always stay with me. His passion was so focused and vision so clear that had there simply been more hours in the day, he probably could have added ‘record executive’ to his résumé.”
KHKS PD Patrick Davis says, “As great as Kidd was on the air, I will miss him more as the person who took time from his hectic schedule to make sure that we talked about parenting, giving to others behind the scenes and treating others with respect.”
Disney Music Group senior VP of promotion Scot Finck muses, “How many use radio to its maximum potential the way Kidd did, to change lives, bring a smile and make a daily difference in the world? How many will consider doing more with it now by his example?”
Steve Perun, Gannett’s group PD during those early days at Kiss, might have said it best: “His creativity was an inspiration.”
Perhaps somewhere, Kidd Kraddick is reading this and smiling.