Sunday, 30 December 2012 17:45

RIP Richard Miller

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Reading about the death of Richard Miller reminded me of my own experience with the former owner of KADI. In 2005 I was urged by former KSHE DJ and A&M rep Ross Gentile to speak to Richard. Ross told me Richard Miller was a good friend. It wasn’t always that way. As KADI burned to the ground in 1973, it was Ross who put on every “Fire” record he could get his hands on from the KSHE library. Gentile gave me Miller’s number and told me he was loaded with stories of the history of KSHE, KADI and the rock scene in St. Louis.

Although I was a bit apprehensive to talk to him, I still called figuring, “what have I to lose?” Others had told me stories of Richard’s eccentric qualities. So it came as a surprise that he answered the phone and seemed friendly. He told me he was busy but to call him back the next day and he would tell me all I wanted to know. He assured me he had plenty to talk about.

I liked KADI in the 1970s. For several generations of rock fans in St. Louis it was the number 2 preset on their car stereo. Promotional materials created by Miller for the station were conceptually brilliant and incredibly beautiful. My favorite was a poster of King Kong on top of the Empire State Building. There the beast was tossing the attacking biplanes aside. Each plane had the markings of the competitors’ call letters: KSLQ, KXOK and KSHE. In 1976 the poster hung on the door in my bedroom.

I called Richard as promised on the following day. After identifying myself he asked me a question, “So you are a graphic artist. Do you know about Push Pin?” He then threw the names of a few designers at me. Although I had an art history class back in the 1980s, the names left my mind blank. Trying to get him on track, I asked him a question about KADI. He left me with, “I don’t recall anything from that time.” Then the phone went dead. I suppose he had a good laugh. I was embarrassed, but could honestly count myself as one of those who had their moment with Richard Miller.

A year or so after the book came out. I was talking to Frank Absher, the historian who has created the St. Louis Radio Hall of Fame and the website Absher said Richard Miller told him he loved my book and then made disparaging remarks about another book on rock in St. Louis. It was a strange honor to hear such words considering that KADI had such a small part of the book.

KADI did have a big impact on KSHE. The radio stations were rivals for years and this helped make KSHE the institution it became.