Dave Pratt

Written by Craig Outhier Category: People Issue: November 2011

How does the architect of 98 KUPD’s Big Red Radio juggernaut of the 1980s explain his longevity? Adaptation, baby.
“New media has taken over the world,” the 49-year-old Paradise Valley resident proclaims. “A lot of longtime radio people have been resistant to change. I love it.”
The Twitter-and-phone-app-focused model of modern radio bears scant resemblance to FM’s vinyl yesteryear, when Pratt launched his first KUPD show out of a doublewide in Guadalupe. Pratt – who recently penned a memoir, Behind the Mic: 30 Years in Radio – knows that innovation, not nostalgia, will guide his career into the homestretch. And he’s eager to run. “It was nice break,” he says of fulfilling his KMLE contract in absentia. “Basically, I sat around for two years and got paid for hanging out.”
Don’t think of Dave Pratt Live as a radio show. “We’re a content distributor,” the entertainer says. “Our goal is to get our show to listeners any way possible, whether it’s FM or a phone app or the Internet.”
Using the app, listeners help Pratt exploit the interactivity of new media, reporting from such locales as the Prince William/Kate Middleton wedding and Joplin, Missouri, during last spring’s tornado: “It was ironic because [people in Joplin] could get tornado news on Dave Pratt Live but not on local radio, ’cause of the outages. New media really lets us bring the world to Arizona.”
Pratt has seen flotillas of competitors come and go in his three decades as a Phoenix morning radio personality – none more famous than talk radio superstar and noted Nazi analogist Glenn Beck, whose former incarnation as a wacky morning-zoo DJ included two years at Valley Top 40 station Y-95 in the late 80s. “He had zero success,” Pratt says, dismissing Beck’s old show. “But you have to give him a ton of credit. I have respect for anybody who makes it in media regardless of political affiliation.”

Figuring one celebrity guest per day, Pratt has conducted approximately 7,860 interviews with assorted celebrities.
The Best: In the early ’80s, he got counterculture comic George Carlin to break down in hysterics by playing his profanity-laden “Seven Words You Can’t Say on the Radio” bit live on-air.

The Worst: Television B-talents James Doohan (Star Trek) and Maureen McCormick (The Brady Bunch) both refused to talk about the roles that made them semi-famous. Redneck rocker Ted Nugent once went into a tirade after Pratt tried to steer the conversation away from a bow-hunting event he was promoting.

The Toughest: Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and Pratt had a “standoff” when the rocker refused to talk about the drug recovery memoir he was promoting. He finally relented when Pratt threatened to end the segment.

The Weirdest: Late comic Andy Kaufman (Taxi) made Pratt wrestle him shirtless before going on the air.
Pratt says he turned down out-of-state hosting gigs during his hiatus, primarily because he didn’t want to uproot his family (Pratt and wife-manager Paula have four children ages 10 to 18). “You look at a guy like Howard Stern, the most successful person in the history of radio tenfold, but I always felt like he sacrificed part of his life for success,” Pratt ventures. “I’m not standing on a pulpit. I’m just saying there’s gotta be balance.”
Listen to Dave Pratt Live on 103.9 FM (6 to 10 a.m. weekdays) or on daveprattlive.com.