R&B has come back to Denver. Full Blown!
One might say that Denverite Skip Reeves had more than just a hand in the genre’s second coming.
“Being in Denver, you might remember the R&B music scene was virtually dead in town,” Reeves says. “Especially in the mid-2000s, it was just dead.”
Reeves, a former drummer for old school artists such as the Drifters, Platters, Marvelettes, Buddy Miles, and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, had an idea in the mid-90s to launch an unconventional R&B radio station in the Mile-High City.
While traveling to gigs, Reeves would listen to R&B radio stations, and listen hard.
“I started getting bored quickly with the radio stations,” he says. “It didn’t matter what city I went to, I basically heard the same old songs, same old format and same old personalities trying to sound like they were cool. I really got tired of it.”
Reeves’ epiphany came in 1996 while traveling with the band Sundance and the Music and Blues, the rhythm section for the Marvelettes at that time. While driving from Denver to Las Vegas, Reeves as usual was listening to the radio thinking “here we go with this old radio stuff” but thought if he could ever do his own show, his playlist would expand three or five cuts deep into the releases, and stay away from the hits.
“I’m going to play the cuts that everyone knows on the album, but you never hear on the radio,” he thought. “And I’m also going to add independent artists who never get an opportunity for airplay on a major radio network.”
However, Reeves plans took a slight detour, as he ended up doing a community television children’s show called “Big Mouth and Knucklehead,” which admittedly had a pretty good run for several years.
“I love to read,” Reeves says, “So we promoted literacy through our television show. When the television show ran out, somebody suggested I take our show over to Radio Disney.”
The Disney gig lasted about a year as Radio Disney fell by the wayside. However, Disney afforded Reeves the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scene in radio – and he liked it.
So Reeves shopped his idea around to several local radio stations, who listened to his pitch. But with dusty memories of KDKO, Denver’s premiere soul radio station to rely on, they didn’t think R&B would sell again in Denver. In September 2005, close Charles Dotson asked Reeves if he listened to jazz on KUVO 89.3.
“I said, ‘No, I’m not a huge fan of old jazz,’” Reeves says. Dotson told him on they are doing specialty shows on weekends and he should talk to them about his idea of doing a show.
“I emailed the music director asking to meet with him,” Reeves says. “I explained the format to him in detail, and he said, ‘Oh man that will work. But you have to get the support of the program director.’”
KUVO’s program director and the general manager were in agreement that the show would work.
“In November 2005, KUVO agreed to give me a show called A Funk Above The Rest,” with a slot time from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturday night,” Reeves says.
He was told that it might take awhile to build up an audience, because his target listeners are probably in clubs or chilling somewhere. However, within a matter of months, A Funk Above The Rest gained momentum.
Three weeks after launching the show, a friend told Skip that he was single-handedly getting ready to reintroduce R&B back into the Denver market.
“I said ‘I’m just trying to play music I want to hear and music I know other people want to hear,’” Reeves replied. “There was a huge void of R&B and funk music in the air waves in this town.”
“Once I started doing the radio show,” Reeves says, “I then started doing A Funk Above The Rest at Jazz@Jacks every Tuesday. Then I started reaching out to independent artists all over the world to play their music and do interviews on my radio show.”
In 2009, Reeves brought the R&B group Slave to Jazz@Jacks. Feeling the vibe, Reeves asked larger music and concert venues to partner up with him to bring old school R&B bands to Denver, but was told there is no money in R&B.
“So I hooked up with various other people, sought investors and started bringing shows to town,” he says. Reeves brought in Cameo and other R&B bands, but says his crowning achievement for he and his friend Cedric Pride was bringing Frankie Beverly to the Mile-High City.
A lot of promoters tried to bring Frankie Beverly and couldn’t get it done,” Reeves says. With the success of Jazz@Jacks, Frankie Beverly and A Funk Above The Rest, Reeves started syndicating his show on internet radio in 2008. He then approached other internet stations. Friends and associates told Reeves he was wasting his time on internet.
“Well, look where it is now,” he says. “There are internet stations now that have more listeners, than terrestrial stations. Currently, I have my show on 40 stations between terrestrial and digital. I’m heard all the way around the world.”
Today, A Funk Above The Rest can be heard on public radio KGNU and digital radio KZKO. And if you miss his live show, listeners can download podcast.
Reeves says one of the things that helped his station grow, was he played music by independent artists. “You play Earth, Wind and Fire, The Commodores and then you play an independent artist, then James Brown and Stylistics and then they, the independents, would promote me on their websites.
This month Reeves is celebrating the 10th anniversary of A Funk Above The Rest on August 20 with a concert at the Adams County Fair Grounds featuring The Whispers, The Dazz Band, Slave, Regina Belle and other old school artists.
“Adams County Fair Grounds want me to do this every year,” he says. “They have already reserved a date for next year. Now I’ll be able to get some major companies to sponsor it.”
Reeves admits that he’s had help and support along the way.
“People told me that it wouldn’t work, but I always knew in my heart that it would.”