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Being "all things to all people’

Tara Flanagan
Vail Daily/Cliff ThompsonAfter 24 years in the business, the Edwards resident and general manager of KYSL-FM Tony Mauro has been named the 2001 Broadcast Citizen of the Year by the Colorado Broadcasters Association
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The eighth-grade mumps didn’t come anywhere close to killing him, but somewhere between the lumps in his jowls and his mother’s insistence that he do nothing but lie there and listen to KRDO, radio seeped into his pores.

After 24 years in the business, the Edwards resident and general manager of KYSL-FM was honored for being the guy with the microphone: the newsman, weatherman and the voice of the central mountains who’s emceed everything from big wheel rallies to President Ford’s Christmas tree lighting to the Eagle County spelling bee. When the Colorado Broadcasters Association selected Mauro last month as its 2001 Broadcast Citizen of the Year for mid-sized markets (Channel 9’s Mike Nelson won for large market), the group also honored Mauro for the things it probably didn’t know.

One such occasion might be the time he was reading the news at Monte Vista’s KSLV and a large light fixture pulled loose from the ceiling and dropped 10 feet onto his head. He remembers things going dark, but using the instincts that draw the line between pro and hack, he regained his composure and managed a garbled but honest version of the news.

“It was my first job,” he says. “I spun country, basically. Well, actually, one country, one Spanish, one gospel and one pop song. That was our format. I guess that’s when I learned to be all things to all people.”

When he wasn’t in the studio spinning Dolly and Freddie Fender, the young DJ/reporter/sportscaster spent his hours covering things like high school bonfires and, to his chagrin, boxing matches. Mauro admits he still doesn’t know a thing about boxing, but “one night my co-host left to go to the Elks Club for a drink and told me to cover the match. It was terrible, just terrible. I basically said “one guy’s hitting the other guy, and now the other guy’s hitting him back real hard.’ It was the worst moment of my broadcast career.”

Things got better. Mauro moved to the Eagle River Valley in 1985, and aside from a two-year stint in New York City working as a news “go-fer” for WOR-AM – as a messenger he schmoozed himself to first-name basis with such New York icons as Jimmy Breslin and talk-show host Joe Franklin – he’s been a familiar face and voice locally. His mother, Blanche High, grew up on Squaw Creek, where Cordillera has since grown, and those roots have always given Mauro a sense of home in the valley.

He can rattle off the various call letters that have passed through the valley in his sleep, having worked for many of them. His first job in the valley was with KGMJ in Eagle in 1985. He took a job as weekend overnight jock and offered to do the news for free. He moved to KZYR for a short stint, then over to KVMT for a year, to KRVD for a year as the “morning guy,” then finally back to KZYR in 1987 as news director, where he would work in the same building for 13 years.

“I went to every council meeting in Vail and Avon – until my eyes were bleeding,” he says.

In Mauro’s early days with KZYR, aka, “the Zephyr,” the independent station was well known for cooking its own flavors, taking some of the down-home elements of public radio and mixing them into the ever-changing atmosphere of the valley. It was, as Mauro says, “a mix of hokey and hip.” Never afraid of outward nonsense, the station did things like bad-song benefits, in which tunes like William Shatner’s version of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” (perhaps the worst song ever recorded) were aired without shame or remorse. People then called the station and paid ransom to have the songs turned off.

In 1991, KZYR became part of the Radio One network, comprised of just KZYR and Summit County’s KSMT at the time. By 2000, however, the number of stations had grown to more than 100, with Mauro as program director.

Mauro became general manager of Frisco’s KYSL-FM in September 2000. From that time the station has broadened its musical format and integrated into the community with things like the “Hometown Hero” series, a renewed focus on high school sports and benefits, such as the “Microphone Marathon,” which recently raised $27,000 for Summit County’s Family and Intercultural Resource Center.

“It’s a lot of fun to customize a radio station to reflect the community,” he says. “Radio stations of this size can really be the heart and soul of a place.”

For visitors, Mauro says he wants KYSL to be a sound that leaves behind the city and marks a sense of arrival in the mountains.

“I want it to be a fun station to listen to,” he says. “I want to create an interesting mix that’ll keep people listening.”


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