Rick Barber out after thirty years at KOA, Jon Caldara's show also ending

Categories: Media

rick barber 2000.jpg
Rick Barber in 2000.
Update below: Not so many decades ago, stations across the country employed overnight talk-show hosts, who kept lonely listeners company as they lingered in the dead zone between yesterday and today. Now, they're almost all gone -- victims of sinking revenues and budget cutting. So it's no surprise that Rick Barber's KOA 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. staple ended this morning, thirty years after it launched. More startling is that he's managed to survive so long as Denver radio's last past-midnight man.

Barber isn't the only KOA staple to get the heave-ho in the face of ugly 21st century economics. Steve Seidenfeld, his faithful Man Friday for the past fifteen years, and his Friday fill-in for nine-and-a-half years (from 2001 until May 2011), is also bidding farewell. Given that Barber will be replaced with syndicated programming -- Coast to Coast AM -- the powers that be have decided no one needs to be minding the sound board during the time period. And pugnacious commentator Jon Caldara will be departing from his 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. slot, although not from the airwaves affiliated with Clear Channel, KOA's owner. He notes that he'll still be at the microphone on Sunday evening's over at sister station KHOW, and will substitute at both outlets, as Barber, who's in his mid-sixties, hopes to do as well.

jon caldara with rocky mountain news.jpg
Jon Caldara reading the Rocky Mountain News. Those were the days.
Our conversation with Barber is below. As for Seidenfeld, he declined to comment for this story -- but Caldara spoke with nostalgia about the slot that he'll fill for the last time on a regular basis this evening.

"It's been great to have that piece of radio real estate," he concedes, "and for us insomniac night owls, it's a great part of my social life. I'll certainly miss that. But I'm not going anywhere. I'm joined at the hip with Denver. This just means I'll finally be able to get a good night's sleep."

Indeed, Caldara will remain a prominent player on Denver media landscape, not only through his regular appearances on his Channel 12 Devil's Advocate program, but also via the political work he does as the leader of the Independence Institute. Love him or hate him (and plenty of folks do both), Caldara is the rare radio personality who's actually reporting from the trenches, where he fights for his libertarian values, as opposed to standing on the sidelines sniping at the actual movers and shakers.

In contrast, Barber is largely apolitical -- a gentle, reassuring voice in the night, or, in Caldara's words, "the Johnny Carson of late-night radio. There's nobody who does radio better than Rick Barber late at night."

That's a point we made back in 2000, with a Message column profile with the subhead "At 3 a.m., KOA's Rick Barber Is the Only Game in Town." Even back then, Barber was the sole live-and-local overnight radio host in the market -- an anachronism in some ways, but an exceedingly welcome one. In discussing his longevity, he made a joke that Caldara repeated earlier this week: "I'm sort of like a piece of furniture -- the couch no one wants to move. I guess they're afraid to find out what's behind it."

His last segment this morning was as decidedly low-key as most of those that preceded it. Barber rolled out a long snippet of an appropriate tune (Frank Sinatra's "My Way") before taking calls from well-wishers, including one apiece from Wisconsin and Manitoba -- an indication of just how far KOA's blowtorch signal can travel. Then, prior to the final commercial break, he noted that while some people consider his exit the end of an era, he sees it as a new beginning. He added that there's no such thing as permanent change in radio. "This is what we do," he said.

Not any more -- at least not every night. The wee hours will be a little lonelier without him.

Update, 9:53 a.m. January 6: Rick Barber gave us a shout a few hours after closing out his final overnight show for KOA, and his tone was entirely bitterness-free.

"I've got to tell you, the people here have been just great to me," he says, singling out past executive Lee Larsen and current honchos Pat Connor and Greg Foster. "This whole thing was a decision made at the corporate level -- and my presence here is not going to end. It's just that the status has changed. I'm going to do a bunch of fill-ins, especially during baseball season, and I'm looking at this as a new opportunity. The way it is now, I'll be able to not only do fill-in work, but it might break me out to do some syndication."

Not that Barber would consider relocating to broaden his reach. "There's no reason to leave. I could do the syndy right out of here. And I've lived here since I got out of the Army in 1970. My son, my grandkids, both my ex-wives and all my girlfriends -- everybody's here."

Will the end of the shift change his sleeping patterns? Probably not. "I'm a night owl, and I have been since I was a teenager -- although I've done a lot of morning-drive radio over the years, and that's a killer, as anyone who's done it will tell you. You've got to get up at 3:30 in the morning, and go to bed at eight. That's a tough gig, and I admire people who do it. I did it long enough to know I was happier doing overnights."

Lots of folks will miss him. He's gotten hundreds of e-mails, plus phone calls, Facebook messages and more from longtime admirers. And the affection is mutual. "My audience kept me sane," he maintains.

While plenty of folks see traditional broadcast radio as lurching toward extinction, Barber isn't among them. "It still fulfills a very necessary niche. The digital age is just something you can add on -- another layer. Terrestrial radio is never going to go away."

Live and local overnight hosts seem to be doing so, though, and he understands why. His succinct explanation: "Economics rules the game."

By the way, this week also marks the retirement of another longtime Denver media personality. CBS4's Paul Day. To watch a video tribute to Day, click here.

Click here to follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.

More from our Media archive: "102.3 ESPN replaces The Ticket with national-local mix, Jack FM survives."

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43 comments
George Braun
George Braun

I am situated in Yorkton, Sask. Canada, about 200 miles north of the border, same latitude as Denver.With a clock radio beside my pillow, listening to Rick Barber every night became almost an addiction.I was wondering what happened to him.  Now I know.  Kind of sad.  The replacement show is nothing but silly conspiracy nonsense.

Psteinberg
Psteinberg

Koa hasn't been coming in here in Missouri and Boy! and I glad. Would not waste my time listening to the George Noor claptrap

Sirwalter Robinson
Sirwalter Robinson

Thank you Rick Barber for so many smooth years of listening to your voice of reason.  I've been listening to you since the tragic murder of another of my favorite talk show host,  Mr.  Alan Berg.  May he ever be loved and remembered.  Thanks guys.  From a fond listener, Sirwalter Robinson.

MARGO
MARGO

WE MISS JOHN CALDARA'S SHOW ON KOA AND CAN NOT STAND "COAST TO COAST".  MIGHT HAVE TO STOP LISTENING TO KOA.  ALL THAT IS LEFT IS MIKE ROSEN, RUSH, AND "ASK THE PROFESSOR...

Randy
Randy

I live in Amarillo, Texas and have been listening to Rick ever since he first started his late night show thirty years ago.  I didn't always agree with him, politically, but thought he was excellent anyway.  KOA comes booming in all over the high plains late at night and reaches as far as my home town, Overland Park, Kansas, where I can listen when I go back home to visit my folks.  Too bad Rick's been replaced with Coast-to-Coast AM because almost every other station I can receive on AM radio at night other than local broadcasts has the same thing (and the most powerful station here, KGNC, has George Noory also, so I don't need KOA anymore). Rick was a breath of fresh air when I got tired of listening to some of the conspiracy theorists and other crackpots Noory frequently has on his show. So long, Rick.

Timmy
Timmy

Barber may be too old now but perhaps he should have gotten something going on the internet, some sort of streaming program with possible syndication later. He may have been counting on riding KOA out to the end and so didn't pursue these new technologies as aggressively as he could have.

CaldaraFan
CaldaraFan

This reminds me of when they put Phil Hendry on the air, apparently also a bean-counter decision. They backed out of that one once they figured out that no one in Denver wants to listen to that sort of garbage. I'm guessing they will quickly change again when they realize that nobody wants to hear about UFOs and magic crystals every night either.

The trucking Geek
The trucking Geek

As a long time Listener of night time radio. KOA has become part of the mundane of over night radio with content I can recevie anywhere. Also a show I dont care for.  As a long haul driver KOA was one of my preset. Thank you Rick Barber and your Sponsors. KF6SMO

Paula
Paula

I am crushed.  I will truly miss Rick Barber.  My radio will now be tuned to a totally different station, never to return to KOA or Clear Channel again.

Joe LIbertarian
Joe LIbertarian

And the dimmest dimwit Michael Brown still has a job. Unbelievable.

VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

Another restaurant cliaimed to use freshmozz arella cheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economycheddar.the "fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to befrozen.--Agedate. ℃⊙M--a nice and free placefor younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact witheach other. 

VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

Another restaurant cliaimed to use freshmozz arella cheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economycheddar.the "fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to befrozen.--Agedate. ℃⊙M--a nice and free placefor younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact witheach other. 

radioPete
radioPete

Several thoughts:

 

1)      -  Imet Rick at the KOA/Channel 4 studios in 1983. Great guy, who could grasp plenty and roll with a lot to always come outon the positive end of things.    I’m hoping he will land elsewhere in radioland, if he wants to.   Unlike those hosts who lean on “Mr. HoldButton”, Rick brings intelligent and open discourse to the airwaves, whetheryou agree with him or not.  

2)      -  I can’tsay that I’ll miss Rick, only because of the time that the Clear Channel “gods”decided to give him air time.  When I wasable to catch a part of his show, it was always fun and interesting. 

3)      -  If this were Chicago or some other largecity with more than one AM blowtorch signal, Rick would still be in the thickof things.   Give KOA some much-needed competitionin that realm and things would be far more creative and stimulating.  He belonged on the air from 9 or 10pm until 2am, so some of us working “day jobs” could have joined in the fun.  Another KOA-like signal here would have madethat possible.

4)      -  With the election coming this year, ClearChannel was smart to finally dispose of Caldera and his “let’s return to 1890’sde-regulation” nonsense.

5)      -  If Clear Channel was bold, they’d placeRosen and Sirota in the on-air studio at the same time.  The ratings would go through the roof, butprobably at the expense of Rosen, and Clear Channel's conservative slant.

6)      -  Radio will continue to decline as long ascurrent radio station ownership rules remain in place, allowing bean-countingsoul-less entities like Clear Channel to own up to 8 radio stations in everymarket…Not just 8, but the strongest 8 radio signals in every market.   Senator Udall, are you listening?

Timmy
Timmy

Talk radio fans should check out 560AM. Overnight they have Rusty Humphies who is pretty good usually and Laura Ingraham. The also run a news program from the Washington Times in the early AM that is good.

Wonder if Lou Pate tried to get an open spot on KHOW.

Sussman
Sussman

The next to go very well may be Zesbaugh and Tubbs, albeit on their own terms.  They could be moving on to become the new evening news anchors at KMGH-7 once the Scripps-Howard transition from McGraw-Hill is complete.  Talk is S-H wants to create a local version of Fox News and Z & T are just the team to make it happen, drawing in a potentially large audience ready for a change from the stale regime of Arakawa and Koebrich.

Jim Walsh
Jim Walsh

I join many other Rick Barber Fans in thanking him for 30 years of great overnight radio I will miss the localness of his show,. I will have Mike Rosen & Peter Boyles to listen,. Koa has lost me and I wager a lot of other listeners in the 1 am to 5am slot. I have listened to local talk radio in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Denver. I do not like the syndicated shows, but I do understand its about the numbers and economics. Clear Channel I hope this works for you. I think it will, but Iam sad that it had to come to this

johninlongmont
johninlongmont

so if koa gets coast to coast am what happens to the coast spot currently on khow???? 

L. B.
L. B.

Hopefully, KOA will put Rush Limbaugh rewind in the evening.  Caldara was boring and too much in love with himself.

Beavis
Beavis

Does this mean Mike Rosen gets his walking papers in the hopefully near future? Please?

Boondocker
Boondocker

Now, the Co-Dependence Institute will actually have to pay for its anti-public-transit advertising instead of getting it free 15 hours a week on KOA. I suspect Clear Channel just saved itself from an eventual Federal Elections Commission investigation.

rain
rain

Why not go ahead and fire Caldara completely? Is he buying that Sunday slot? Maybe he can use it to sell dietary supplements like damned near every other non-Broncos show on Clear Channel weekends. One thing *I'm* not buying is that he's a "libertarian." Right-wing Republican, sure. Libertarian? Not a chance.

Big Kahuna
Big Kahuna

Apparently the internet has finally killed the radio star!

Atkiwildwood
Atkiwildwood

I'm another longtime Rick Barber listener in Manitoba, Canada who will miss his intelligent, old pro voice.I haven't been in Denver since 1974 but have felt a connection to Colorado through Barber for many years. How sad to hear Barber is being replaced by the syndicated Coast-To-Coast. I can get it anywhere including on CJOB in Winnipeg. Caldera is too right for this northern liberal. But Barber was special.His show was a rare gem. Now I've lost him and my other southern favorites, the long-running but suddenly gone, Steve and Johnnie Show on WGN radio in Chicago.American AM radio seems kind of empty, all of a sudden.

Timmy
Timmy

In all the years since 9/11 Barber has been wrong on Islam. When it first happened he was one of those who kept bringing up the Crusades as though that gave some reason for the wonderful Muslims to be mad. Then through the years he remained obstinately against learning the truth about Islam and joining the ranks of those recognizing the need the defend our civilization from it. So for all the supposed high minded intellectual talk he somehow was never able to get to dealing with the truth about Islam. He isn't alone in this, even Caldera can't get this issue right. But Caldera is just a poor talk host altogether talking to the audience like they are morons taking forever to make simplistic points that he could easily make in a few short sentences. At least Barber was interesting on various topics with varied guests, he just needs to use his time off to learn the truth about Islam. Good riddance to Caldera though. And what a shame that a serious institute such as the Independence Institute has such a clown as their head.

Rockymountainpix
Rockymountainpix

Rick became too predictable - he claimed to be a libitarian when he was actually a lefty that didnt want to spend his time on the air defending his lefty stance. His shows became too predictable with many of the same callers night after night after night. I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO n glad I wont have to hear from the lefty idiot from Oklahoma anymore! Frankly - Rick burned out his show years ago and I know - I listened for the whole 30 years - I started out loving the show and grew to hating the show - the problem was - in factory work at nights - his was the only radio signal that boomed into and around machineery. MAY I ADD - GOOD RIDANCE!

Timmy
Timmy

It is disturbing to see the changes in AM radio. FM music radio was ruined years ago, they no longer introduce you to new bands or play obscure tracks from favorite artists to grab the interest, they play the same three songs from each group over and over. Now they are consolidating AM talk. How expensive is it to have a talk show? Put someone local at the mic and let them take calls. It is critical to the success of our political system that the populace have debate and discussion. They don't have talk radio in Europe like we have. Liberals have largely failed in talk radio due to being too strident and not being able to take opposing calls rationally. I've listened to it all. Rick was unique, what in the world could have caused the economics to go against him and his show? Something doesn't make sense with this move.

Timmy
Timmy

As a fan of Caldara your judgment as to what makes good talk radio is immediately suspect, but in any case, Phil Hendrie is absolutely hysterical when he is talking with one of his "regular guests" but he can be hard to take when he gets serious. His show should be carried in Denver by some station. He will make you hurt laughing so hard if you catch him at the right time. And then when someone calls in and tries to argue with one of his guests, it is pure gold.

Darin Bates
Darin Bates

Rick Barber there is the internet diy your own show I dumped my XM Pay radio and started down loading pod cast on my smart phone for free if Rick Barber started doing pod cast he would be added to my list of over 15 shows I down load each week ? Is this thetruckinggeek.com owner? if so cool site  for drivers to start there own networking and blog posting.

Johnsally6
Johnsally6

We surely will miss Rick.  Shame on you KOA.

GaryLockhart
GaryLockhart

Zesbaugh couldn't find her rear end with both hands if you spotted her nine fingers. Losing her would be a big improvement for Colorado's Morning Entertainment.

Kick both of them to the curb and bring back Steve Kelley.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Good question, John. Here are the details from All Access:

CALDARA and BARBER's KOA shows will be replaced starting next week by PREMIERE NETWORKS' "COAST TO COAST AM," moving over from KHOW, where THE WALL STREET JOURNAL RADIO NETWORK's "THE DAILY WRAP WITH MICHAEL CASTNER" and CUMULUS MEDIA NETWORKS' "RED EYE RADIO" will join the lineup to fill the time slot.

Timmy
Timmy

It was almost embarrassing to hear people call into Caldera, they apparently didn't grasp that he was talking down to them the whole time, humoring them at best. And his calls from Ann Coulter were truly embarrassing.   

Jim Walsh
Jim Walsh

BevisNo he will not, him and Peter Boyles have the numbers. I like Boyles & Rosen

FrankG
FrankG

As someone from Palm Springs Calif, your post illustrates that Rick Barber leaving is not just a Colorado matter. It's seems like radio talk is being 'cleansed' of all those not part of the standard pea-brained conservadum republicrud crowd just in time for the election. 

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

A lot of folks feel as you do. Thanks for the post, Atkiwildwood.

Robert Gift
Robert Gift

Whatrvth about HIslam?  That it is a MAN-made / MAN-serving myth? That Muslim males are so weak thathey attempto compensate through oppression, domination and control of women Allah time?  Ask my brilliant girlfriend, born and raised a devout Muslim, now so happy and free being ex Muslim.  No more covering, she can now speak freely and reveals REAL HIslam.Nowe have the morons of Coasto Coast dumbing down the airwaves at 850 kilocycles?  Sad.

Will Lamdin
Will Lamdin

I have listened to Coast to Coast since Rick Barber has left.  The Coast to Coast UFO and magic crystal type programing does not appeal to me at all.  Rick and Steve Sidenfeld booked interesting guests for a wide range of discussion topics including economics and politics. Rick's views sometimes differed from mine but I respected his professionalism and willingness to discuss opposing views.  Good luck Rick and Steve! 

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Strong post, Frank -- one we're going to make an upcoming Comment of the Day. Congrats, and thanks for reading.

Timmy
Timmy

You should be very careful getting mixed up with any Muslims. If you and your girlfriend ever visited a place with a lot of Muslims you might not get out alive. Islam has no place in the West, it will eventually destroy our culture and civilization just as it has every single other place it has spread in. People like Barber just don't get it, they like to act like they are above it all, but that is just delusional, and traitorous to our own civilization. If you are not resisting Islam your are surrendering to it, there is no middle ground. Ask your girlfriend what would happen to her if she left Islam to be an atheist or Christian? How strange, a supposed follower of Muhammad happy to get away from a society controlled by Islam, that is called cognitive dissonance, it makes no sense, not even to her, but she can't admit that Islam is the problem, she is brainwashed and would be killed if she renounced Muhammad or Islam.

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