Jim “Daddio” Walker was the force behind a musical transition in Denver’s radio scene, designed to unite the community in the ‘60s. A Saturday morning meeting between Walker and AM1510 owner Dave Segal led to a historic change in the station’s music format from Country Western to Rhythm & Blues and Soul. Walker became KDKO’s operations manager with a mission of creating unity within the African-American community and the community at-large through his mixture of talk radio, R&B and Soul music.
Walker grew up in Gibsland, La., where he went to school and met his childhood sweetheart, Patsy Walker, to whom he has been married for 48 years. He always dreamed of owning and operating a Black radio station, though he pursued and earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology at Southern University in Baton Rouge, and a certification in education at Grambling University, also in Louisiana.
After college he went to Shreveport and worked in ad sales at the KANB and KOKA radio stations. From there, he went to Houston where he sold ads for KCOH.
Five and a half years later, he was at Hamm’s Brewery in Houston, where even being the top sales representative couldn’t protect him from being laid off. Without a job, he asked his wife to place her finger on a map, without looking, to determine where their next home would be. That is how in the late 1960s, the Walker family, which had grown to include daughter Yolanda and son James Jr., moved to the Park Hill neighborhood in Denver, with no job, no plan and no acquaintances. Walker worked in tire and fleet sales at an Aurora tire store and then in ad sales for the Denver Blade Newspaper, owned by African American Joe Brown.
Fueled by his longtime dream of owning a radio station, he began applying to radio stations, starting with the largest and working his way down. He approached such radio stations as KOA, KHOW, KHIH, KTLK and finally Littleton-based KDKO.
On a Friday, Walker called Segal and secured a meeting for 9 o’clock the next morning. Arriving a half an hour early on Saturday, his meeting lasted until 3 o’clock in the afternoon and ended with him taking a big step toward his dream by getting hired to manage the operations of the R&B slot at KDKO from 3 p.m. to midnight starting two days later on Monday. Within six months, Walker became the station’s sales and general manager.
“William H. McNichols Jr. was the mayor of Denver, the attire of the performers consisted of tuxedos, suits and gowns, and the choreography of performances was phenomenal,” said Walker.
The Five Points Historic District, considered as the center for Black music, was dying down and performance sites shifted from the utilization of the Casino Cabaret and the Rossonian Hotel to the Denver Coliseum and Red Rocks Amphitheatre, he said.
Walker was working as a promoter of R&B artists during the same period that promoter Barry Fey with his Feyline Productions was promoting Rock & Roll artists. The list of timeless, popular acts Walker brought to Denver included The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Four Tops, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, and Bobby Bland. The hard-working radio man also promoted these artists in other cities, like Houston, Los Angeles and Oakland.
The musical lineup of KDKO appealed not only to the Black community, but the white community also embraced the new music category called Soul. The DJ’s were a diverse group representing white, Black and Spanish cultures, from Bob Allen, Pepper Martinez and Sandy Scott to Don Miller, Billy Soul and Dr. Daddy-O. Dr. Daddy-O was a name used by one of the DJ’s at KDKO back then, and “its spelling and usage within the R&B radio industry was widespread,” said Walker.
After 17 years of dedication to KDKO as its general manager, Walker entered the transitional period of his life in the early ‘80s. He started and ran an advertising agency for a few years. Then for a few more years, he managed the sales department of KDKO, which was under new ownership. Walker later met and entered into a partnership with a radio broker, which led to his move to Tucson where he became part owner of a dual frequency radio station.
As luck would have it, KDKO was put up for sale and Walker moved back to Colorado, purchased the station and soon became known as Dr. Daddio.
“It became the greatest moment of my life, next to marriage to my wife Patsy,” said Walker.
He moved KDKO from the Denver Tech Center to Welton Street and later to Grape Street and Smith Road. Walker focused on broadcasting at various local schools such as Cole Middle School, Smiley Middle School, Manual High School, and West High School. Sometimes he played music including Disco while broadcasting from high school dances.
“The African-American community was happy and hopeful because they felt like they had a positive voice,” said Walker.
Walker used music, such as by Johnnie Taylor, B.B. King and Syreeta, as the filler in his programming and talk radio became the main feature of his broadcasts. The community was informed about social and political events, and encouraged to call in about positive community event promotions. Dr. Daddio continually promoted Unity in the Community, despite the various concerns within the community including the learning conditions within schools, political topics, job promotions and brutality.
In the ‘90s, Wellington E. Webb was the mayor of Denver, music was available on CDs, and Rap was the more popular style of music. Walker adjusted to the changes in the radio industry as best he could by playing R&B and Urban Contemporary music, though he refused to play Rap music. He didn’t care for Rap due to the profanity in its lyrics, the tendency for youth to blast it from their cars, and his view that the music genre encouraged behavior that promoted the disregard of others. Although suits, ties and tuxedos were still worn by other music performers, Rappers developed attire that Walker felt was unbecoming for the growth and development of the younger generation.
Though Walker reached out to youth through community service such as internships at the station, the popularity of Rap caused the younger crowd and other listeners to shift from his Unity in the Community message, he said. Meeting the bottom line became a financial burden as he strove to hit the right numbers with listeners, advertisers and radio frequency. His spirit was down during this time and he had conversations with God and his family about his desire to sell his dream, he said. It was a sad time for him and the community in the minds and hearts of his family, he added.
In May 2002, Walker sold AM1510 KDKO for $2.7 million to Phillip Anschutz, who changed its name to KNRC. It became a news talk radio station, which went off the air in 2004.
Even as he walked away from his dream job, Walker was reminded of his successes such as those whom he had helped rise in the radio industry, like former Denver sports-talk host Thierry Smith, Becky Taylor who went on to Smooth Jazz 104.3, Carlos Landau of KUVO, and DJ Tony V. of KS107.5. In those uncertain days after the station’s sale, Walker’s drive and ability to go on came from his knowing he had to work hard and apply himself.
“God gave me the strength to wake up every morning. He gave me ideas and I could not have done it without Him. I am here today because of Him,” Walker said.
He traveled for awhile. Later he opened up two Dr. Daddio’s Kitchen on Wheels restaurants: one in Aurora, operated by his daughter Yolanda, and the other in Bennett that he operated. His Aurora restaurant was named Westword’s Best of 2005 for Best BBQ in a Gas Station.
In March 2008, Daddio returned from retirement from the radio industry to work under Lee Larsen, senior vice president of Clear Channel Radio. The Talkin’ With Dr. Daddio show airs on KKZN AM760 every Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m.
To prepare for his show, Daddio spends Monday mornings planning, prepping, reading and watching the news. On Saturdays, he completes the process of getting his show ready. He begins Sunday mornings with church and then goes to work. The show is for the community of listeners of all races and walks of life, with emphasis on the Black community. It serves to enlighten, educate and inform both young and old alike. He uses his show to reach out to youth, encourage them to stay in school, inform them about life issues, and provide them with role models through his show’s guests and listeners.
Daddio strives to create unity within the community. He is adamant avoiding community members and leaders who approach him with negative agendas saying, “Don’t bring it to me, talkin’ ‘bout it’s a Black thing and it turns out to be something else, because if you do I will reveal that to the public. I independently research everything that comes my way. I will not endorse anything that is designed to take advantage of people.”
As he reflected on his new adventure in radio, Walker pointed out the great impact of the support of his family throughout his ups and downs in his career. He thanked his wife and his children: Yolanda, James Jr., Michael, Jasmin and the late Darlene (deceased 20 years ago), as well as his five grandchildren, for all they have done for him.
Walker also noted his gratitude for the support of two mothers.
“My father passed before I was born and my mother was both father and mother to me. My sister became both sister and mother when my mother died. God blessed me with two mothers,” Walker said of his late mother and 90-year-old sister Minnie Dawson. “These women taught me how to respect people, to do what is right, to not be afraid of taking risks, to be honest and not to lie, and to keep my word.”.
Editor’s note: LisaMarie Martinez is a writer, photographer, spoken word artist, actress, and a master’s prepared nurse, who continually seeks to find the ‘journey of herself’ through the situations and people that her life has to bring. To hear Dr. Daddio’s show tune in to AM760, or log on to http://am760.net/main.html.