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The day the music died: Kris Neil Losh deserves better

A lot of things make no sense. Kris Neil Losh being walked out of WKDW and dumped curbside like a bag of garbage is right up there.

kris neil loshIn case you hadn’t heard, Kris was let go from his job at WKDW yesterday, after 25 years.

The move came with no warning. He did his Country Club morning show as usual on Wednesday, interviewing country star Aaron Tippin, who will be performing at the Rockingham County Fair, then …

Kris had worked at WKDW in Staunton for 25 years, the last 17 on the air. It was his dream job, as he described it, though I’ve known Kris personally for about the last decade, and his idea of dream job constituted close to what would be my worst nightmare in terms of work situations.

His morning show was a 6-10 a.m. gig, which meant he had to be at the station around 3:30 a.m., to get ready for the show and to take care of other off-air duties.

So there was that part of his day, and then came the other part. Kris was somewhere pretty much every night, serving as the emcee for local music festivals, spelling bees and other such events.

He also made the round carrying the WKDW flag at country music shows big and small.

When the guy slept, I have no idea. I remember sitting courtside with him at JPJ covering UVA basketball games tipping off at 9 p.m. thanks to ESPN and its money. Kris would tell me that he was heading back after the games to the studio to sleep on a couch, and apparently he did this on a regular basis with his busy schedule.

I had the fortune to be a part of his schedule as an in-studio guest of his on Country Club quite a few times. The walls of the studio were decorated with photos of Kris with practically every big-name country star of the last 25 years.

A friend commented on Facebook the hope that he’d been able to retrieve the photos. He said, and this is sad, infuriatingly sad, that the station is supposed to pack his memorabilia up and send it to him.

This is the thanks he gets for 25 years?

Kris was more than an on-air personality for the station, now part of the ironically named iHeart Radio Group.

I first met Kris through Big Brothers Big Sisters. He had several little brothers through the program, and his littles were among the luckier kids in the program, getting to meet country stars backstage, in between road trips to Camden Yards.

Kris used his show to promote every good cause in Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County, a few minutes here and there between songs, weather and news updates.

He also used Country Club as a learning lab for local elementary- and middle-schoolers to get on-air experience reading the news and weather.

A fun thing that I like to brag about is that I recruited Kris to join me on the broadcast team for the Waynesboro Generals of the Valley League in 2013. My goal was to have Kris take over the play-by-play duties, which he did, finishing up his fifth year with the team earlier this month.

What I can’t forget, though, was how much of a hard sell I had to make to get him to do the job.

Anyone who knows Kris knows that he has a hard time saying no, so it wasn’t that. He wasn’t sure he would be good at it.

Guy had a decade of experience doing a daily radio show, and he was worried that he wasn’t up to the job.

The people who need to worry are the vermin at iHeart Radio.

Look, I get it that the media business is changing. There’s a reason I left the mainstream 15 years ago to go on my own with Augusta Free Press. I was the idiot back then, and we went through several lean years before finally settling down and making a decent living on the outskirts of the media business.

As the years have gone by, more and more friends from the newspaper, radio and TV businesses have been transitioned out into other career fields.

That’s fine. There’s just a right way to do things.

Kris Neil Losh deserved better than to show up for work yesterday at 3:30 a.m., do his morning show, then get pink-slipped and led out the door.

You have to assume that whoever decided this move was going to happen didn’t do it on a whim.

If the decision was made a week ago, a month ago, whenever, you tell him.

Kris deserved the chance to have a good-bye show, if nothing else.

At the absolute very least, give the guy a chance to pack his own stuff up, instead of sending some goons down from corporate to box it for him.

My sense is that the worry about telling him ahead of time might be that maybe Kris lets the news slip and tries to get the community to rally behind him to save his job.

So instead of that, you have a community rallying behind him vowing never to do business again with the ruins of the radio station that you have left after dumping a community icon on the curbside like week-old garbage.

That’s what the iHeart Radios of the world don’t get.

See, Kris Neil Losh will be here tomorrow, and next week, and next month, and next year, and 25 years from now.

This iHeart Radio thing, it’s here until it gets snatched up by a bigger corporate entity. I didn’t even know who owned WKDW until researching this column on what had happened to Kris, so whoever is responsible for branding in your company, maybe you folks should be polishing up your resumes, if you get what I’m saying, because they’re coming for you next.

Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County will be just fine whenever the day comes that iHeart Radio as a corporate entity is pink-slipped and led out the door and thrown to the curb like a bag of garbage.

It would be poetic if Kris Neil Losh was able to report the news on his new morning show the day it happened.

Column by Chris Graham

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