KBCO Studio C began in 1988 and has hosted hundreds of artists over the years, becoming a Colorado radio institution along the way. It has become a favorite stop for artists touring through the area and even has its own channel.
You can listen to the KBCO Studio C Channel online at kbco.com, on your phone with the iheartradio app or on your HD radio.
Click here to listen to past KBCO Studio C sessions on demand.
Click here to view the KBCO Studio C photo galleries.
As part of the Studio C 20th Anniversary Edition CD release, KBCO Program Director Scott Arbough wrote a comprehensive history of KBCO Studio C. It was included in the liner notes for the CD, and is reproduced in full below:
KBCO Studio C 20th Anniversary Edition liner notes
Over the last 20 years, KBCO Studio C has become one of Denver radio’s most enduring institutions. It wasn't the result of any grand scheme, it just kind of happened.
In 1984, KBCO moved into a new building, complete with three studios for broadcasting. The main studio for KBCO-FM was known as “Studio A”. The newsroom was “Studio B”. KBCO’s sister station, 1190 KADE-AM, was “Studio C.”
By early 1988, KADE had become KBCO-AM, re-broadcasting the KBCO-FM signal on the 1190 AM frequency which eliminated the need for a separate on-air studio. It was decided that Studio C would be remodeled to include an 8-track recording facility to improve the radio station’s commercial production capability. A large multi-channel mixing console with an 8-track recording machine was installed, taking up most of the space in the little room. The thought that the new studio could be used to record and broadcast live music didn’t cross our minds at the time.
On June 15th, 1988, Melissa Etheridge made a visit to KBCO to personally thank the staff for being among the first radio stations to play her recently released debut album. Melissa brought her guitar in from the car to protect it from the mid-June Colorado sun.
It was a spur of the moment idea. Why not a live performance? KBCO audio engineer Mike Wiley quickly set up a few microphones in the newly remodeled studio and Melissa performed live on the radio in what later became known as the first KBCO Studio C session.
Over the next few years, there were occasional live performances, but nothing formalized. Often visiting artists would perform in the KBCO main studio because Studio C, intended to be a commercial production room, was in use throughout the day. Many of these sessions were live on-the-air but not recorded so the performances have been lost.
Tom Koetting joined the KBCO staff in late 1990. Tom had experience with recording and mixing live performances and suggested that KBCO use the multi-track Studio C to properly record and remix the live sessions. Though KBCO listeners responded well to these special Studio C versions of songs, it was not yet apparent how popular the Studio C sessions were becoming. As a result, the master tapes for many early sessions were erased and reused with little regard for archiving or documentation.
Luckily, some songs from these performances were remixed for regular broadcast before the masters were lost. In response to the growing popularity of the unique Studio C recordings, KBCO Studio C Volume 1 was quickly assembled and released in the fall of 1991. It was a benefit for the Leukemia Society of America and featured 14 songs. All 4,500 copies of the CD were sold through Rocky Mountain Records stores in Boulder and Denver. The disc sold well enough that we decided to produce another. KBCO Studio C Volume 2 followed in 1992 with 16 songs. This time the charity changed to benefit the Colorado AIDS Project and the Boulder County AIDS Project.
I had been working as Tom Koetting’s assistant during the live sessions. When Tom left KBCO in 1992, I replaced him as the KBCO Studio C Engineer. Performances were moved to the hallway outside of Studio C to accommodate larger groups. Most of the recordings were actually done in the hallway over the next few years.
KBCO Studio C was gaining a national reputation among the music community. It was considered a treat to come and play live on the radio. New artists in particular saw these live sessions as an opportunity to showcase their music. Studio C became increasingly busy.
1993 was a big year for KBCO Studio C with the production of two discs. Volume 3 was released in the summer of 1993 and the number of CDs increased to 10,000. Volume 4 followed later that year and featured a picture of the sun setting on the Studio C mixing console signaling that changes were on the way.
The change came in October of 1994 when KBCO moved to its current location on Pearl Street in Boulder. Studio C now had a separate control room and a dedicated performance room to improve the quality of the recordings. Since the new Studio C was not finished in time for the annual fall CD release, Volume 5 featured songs recorded prior to the move in the original studio.
1995’s Volume 6 showcased pictures of the new Studio C. The number of CDs released was now up to 30,000. The demand was overwhelming and, despite the larger inventory, the CD sold out faster than ever before. In order to make a greater impact on a single charity, Boulder County AIDS Project became the exclusive beneficiary of the KBCO Studio C CD series.
Volume 7 “A Retrospective” was released in the summer of 1996 in response to the increasing demand for the first six CDs which were now out of print. It featured music from the first six CDs along with two previously unreleased songs. KBCO Studio C was upgraded that year. The original analog mixing console and 8-track tape machine were replaced by a state-of-the-art digital recording system. KBCO Studio C Volume 8 with 18 songs, many of them now digitally recorded, came out in the fall of 1996.
KBCO Studio C Volume 9 was released in the fall of 1997. It was the first CD to feature cover art by a KBCO listener, a tradition that continued for 10 years. Later that year, KBCO added drums, keyboards, acoustic guitars, guitar amplifiers and a bass amplifier to Studio C so that visiting musicians would not have to bring their own gear to perform. This made it possible for artists to play live on the radio while their own equipment was being set up at local venues.
The next three years brought the release of three more CDs. By now, the discs were selling out in less than a day. The lines of people waiting to purchase the discs stretched for blocks and began forming the night prior to the on-sale.
In April of 2000 I was promoted to KBCO Program Director and no longer had the time to engineer Studio C sessions. Andy Torri had been assisting with engineering in Studio C for many years. He stepped up and became the KBCO Studio C Engineer.
KBCO Studio C “Retrospective 2” was released in the summer of 2001. It featured 14 songs from Volumes 8-12 and two new recordings. Volume 13 followed later in 2001 and was the first to be mastered by Grammy Award winner David Glasser at Airshow Mastering in Boulder.
In the late summer of 2004, KBCO Studio C Local Edition was added to benefit music education in the Denver Public Schools. It featured 13 songs from Colorado musicians who had performed in Studio C. Liner notes were written by Todd Park Mohr from Big Head Todd and the Monsters, the local artist featured on KBCO Studio C Volume 1 thirteen years earlier.
Each year brought another KBCO Studio C CD release. Sting, Stevie Nicks, Dave Matthews, Jackson Browne, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Coldplay, Elvis Costello, Jewel, Counting Crows, Matchbox Twenty, David Crosby & Graham Nash, Robert Plant, Sarah McLachlan and Steve Winwood were among the artists included on Volumes 13-19. KBCO Studio C was now a destination for national touring acts to showcase their music.
So here we are at the end of 2008. KBCO Studio C Volume 20 celebrates the 20th anniversary of KBCO Studio C and is the first double-disc in the series. Disc 1 is the annual collection highlighting the recent recordings. Disc 2 features a look back at music never before released from the 20-year-old KBCO Studio C archives. Some of these recordings from the early days survive only in their original 2-track form. The songs on Disc 2 are sequenced in chronological order and the progressive quality of the recordings is apparent.
The tradition continues. With each passing year, the list of artists grows and the CD collection adds another release. KBCO Studio C Volume 20 celebrates the hundreds of performers and thousands of hours of great music that have been broadcast live on the radio from 97.3 KBCO Studio C over the past 20 years. I would like to thank all of the artists who have been so generous with their time, and most importantly, all of the KBCO listeners who have made KBCO Studio C so popular, so much fun and so musically rewarding.