The last DJ The last DJ The last DJ

After a career of shaved turkey legs and tartar-sauce baths, Tim Hunter can’t quite turn the dial.

By Mike Seely | Photos courtesy of Tim Hunter | April 11, 2024

There’s a photo on Tim Hunter’s website that shows him covered in a milky, off-white substance, looking like a butter sculpture at the Iowa State Fair.

At the time, Hunter was part of a three-disc jockey team that hosted KLSY-FM’s morning “Murdock, Hunter & Alice” show, which mixed comedic bits with easy-listening hits. On the air, the three would engage in a game called “Battle of the Sexes,” with Alice Porter as the lone woman.

“That was a time the men lost, so as our punishment, we were at the Fourth of Jul-Ivar’s at Myrtle Edwards and got to jump into a whirlpool full of tartar sauce,” recalled Hunter. “You smell like tartar sauce for hours.”

Over time, Hunter and Bruce Murdock grew accustomed to defeat, with no stunt too outlandish to subject themselves to.

“We developed a concept of hideous consequences,” said Murdock. “There was one Thanksgiving where we lost and had to put on turkey outfits and go stand downtown with big signs saying, ‘Women rule, men drool.’

“We had to stand down there in Pioneer Square for a while. The exciting part was that to make the outfits look just right, Alice decided we needed to shave our legs, so we had an aesthetician come in and shave our legs on the air. There was only a little blood.”

While Porter passed away in 2004, a life lost too young, Hunter and Murdock remain friends to this day.

“I spent 20 years coming into the office at four o’clock in the morning and sitting next to him to start the day,” Murdock said of his time with Hunter. “In some of the iterations of KLSY, the space was pretty jammed. We were kind of packed in there. There was never any friction. It was amazing.”

This past August, Hunter, a University of Washington graduate, hung up his headphones for good after a final five-year stint as the morning show host at Everett’s family-owned KRKO-AM. But “retirement” is something of a misnomer for the 68-year-old Hunter, who will undoubtedly be dreaming up bits on his deathbed — and who cut his teeth in a broadcast booth at UW’s campus radio station, KCMU, well before its turbocharged transformation into KEXP.

‘All the glory and all the blame’

Hunter grew up in Torrance, California, where he got his first taste of broadcasting when he and his friends launched a very low-frequency radio station in high school.

“It was kind of inspired by M*A*S*H, where you’d get on the loudspeaker and tell jokes and play songs,” he explained, adding that the neighbors quickly had the youthful endeavor shut down.

Hunter’s best friend’s dad was Torrance’s fire chief, and when he retired, he moved the whole family to Hood Canal, Washington. Tim visited one summer and decided he would join this pal as a freshman at the UW, theorizing, “I could live where I used to go camping.”

“We came up to school together, Californians transplanting up to the Northwest,” Hunter said of himself and his schoolboy friend. “Back then, you could establish residency, and after one year, you got to enjoy in-state tuition. My first year, it was $527 a quarter. Once I was a resident, it was $188 a quarter.” (Compare that to today’s rates, if you want to bawl your eyes out.)

The U-District wasn’t exactly Hood Canal back then (or ever), but once settled on campus, Hunter soon backed into what would become his lifelong profession — and obsession.

With radio, you get all the glory and all the blame.

Tim Hunter

“Coming to the end of my sophomore year, a girl I was dating in California, she had a sign from God to break up with me and marry a minister two months later,” he said. “A guy in the dorms told me the school had a radio station. I didn’t know that. I signed up for it right away and the following fall I became a Radio & TV Communications major.

“That was back when Channel 9 was on campus. They had TV studios down at the UW Hospital. We would get the chance once a week to produce a TV show. My senior project in TV, I’d written this script and you had to work as a team. It was a disaster. The director forgot to make the calls, the camera wasn’t in focus. At that point, I wanted more control over the outcome, and with radio, you do that. You get all the glory and all the blame.”

While in college, Hunter interned at KING-1090 for Steve Lawson, who would go on to start Bad Animal Studios. Hunter assumed he’d get a job after graduation, but assumed wrong. Instead, he consulted the Washington State Association of Broadcasters job board and wound up with a gig at a now-defunct Yakima radio station that went by the call letters KQOT.

After two-and-a-half years there, he returned to Seattle to produce Larry Nelson’s show on KOMO-1000. A round of layoffs four-and-a-half years later would prove fortuitous, as he landed a job at KLSY as a copywriter and production hand — which soon led to a climb up the DJ ladder.

“They gave me the weekend shift, then afternoons. Then I went to mornings with Murdock.”

At KLSY (pronounced “classy”), Hunter recalled, “There was Christoper Cross and all these soft-rock people. We went to the Earth, Wind & Fire-Lionel Richie concert a few months ago. Philip Bailey is still hitting the high notes. It was a concert. Lionel Richie, his was more like a Vegas show. He came into the studio one time when he was kind of relaunching himself. Just a nice guy. You just never know when they come in — are they really good people or are they raging egos?”

After a long stint at KLSY, Hunter launched a production company and stayed out of the booth for 13 years. But he stayed involved with the industry, both through his new company and by writing syndicated show prep for Radio Online, which he still does to this day.

In 2018, when KRKO shifted from sports radio to a classic hits format, Hunter was coaxed back on the air.

“I was recording it from my house and uploading it for the next morning,” he said. “I partially did it to kind of prove I could still do it. And I proved it and proved it and proved it and said, ‘I’m killing myself.'”

The best man

If the first few months of his retirement are any indication, it may kill Hunter not to do radio.

When he decided to leave KRKO, Hunter was able to choose his successor, Bryon Mengle, who was the producer of the KLSY show during its last few years.

“From there, Tim and I just became great friends,” said Mengle. “He was the best man in my wedding. I think what’s so great about Tim is the guy you heard on the radio is just as nice or even more kind in real life. What you see is what you get. He’s obviously hilarious, he’s so humble, just incredibly generous. When I think of great friends — people that have your back, who are there for you — Tim is top of the list. It’s been incredible to call him a friend, call him a colleague. It’s just been absolutely invaluable.”

As for replacing Hunter, Mengle said, “They were big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively,” adding, “To be handpicked after his five years there, I was just honored.”

He continued, “We did a week of transition shows. Tim sold me to his audience, to those he had built relationships with. Tim retired from the show and yet every single day, Tim is sending me show ideas. I said, ‘Tim, I’m not paying you to be my producer.’ But it’s pretty funny how it’s come full circle. He can’t help himself.”