Most of us probably associate the Twin Cities and the ’70s with Mary Tyler Moore, but radio diehards might recall a groovier chick: Mesa Kincaid.
Kincaid — dubbed “the Fox that Rocks” on legendary guerrilla rock station U100 — died of a probable heart attack in her Pine City home, according to her sister, Shelley Ausham. Kincaid (birth name: Cheryl Holm) was 52, and had suffered several strokes throughout her life, the latest three years ago, according to her daughter, Courtney Gryniewski.
Kincaid was one of the first local female jocks and the only one among the “Right On Super U” headbangers. U100 lasted only two years, debuting at the 1974 State Fair and dying when competitor KDWB-AM bought the signal (technically, 101.3 FM) in summer 1976.
The station’s innovation — playing Top 40 on FM — seems tame on the surface. But former program director Rob Sherwood’s florid history includes a cool first playlist, live readings of “The Hobbit” and early spins of the Rocky Horror Picture Show’s “Sweet Transvestite.”
According to Sherwood, Star Tribune columnist Jim Klobuchar likened the station’s sound to “dropping the rear axle out of your car at 65 miles per hour on I-35.”
The Klobuchar column at left doesn’t reveal that phrase. However, it quotes Kincaid (claiming to be 22, though probably 19 or 20) saying, “Why should I blush to play that kind of music? We deal with excitement. I’m tall, blonde and gorgeous. It’s a beautiful world. We try to get our listeners to feel the same way.”
In 2006, G.R. Anderson, then writing for City Pages, captured Kincaid’s moment nicely:
For local radio geeks of a certain vintage, hearing “Mesa Kincaid” is like unearthing a forgotten oldie. Back in the mid-1970s, Kincaid, whose real name is Cheryl Hoeft, came to prominence on the short-lived, much-loved U100, a free-form radio station that eventually became KDWB-FM.
There, Hoeft engaged listenders as “Cheetah.” As Rob Sherwood recounts on his web site:
“The woman had a typical Scandinavian name that I will not reveal to protect her privacy,” Sherwood writes. “On the air she called herself Cheetah. I listened to the air check and it was the typical low talking sexy voice stereotypical female Top 40 jockess. After listening to a few breaks, I told her that I wanted MY female Jock to sound just like a male jock except that she was a girl. … Could she drop the sex-kitten and just be a jock with a woman’s voice? The answer was, ‘yes.'”
Soon Cheetah was jettisoned for a tamer handle, Mesa Kincaid (One option, “Beaver Kleaver,” was wisely bypassed, according to Sherwood). Soon after, Kincaid became known as “The Fox that Rocks.”
After U100 folded, Kincaid went to work for Hubbard Broadcasting, when 1500-AM was a top-40 station. Eventually she went to work for KQRS-FM. For a time in those days, Kincaid was part of a duo known as “The Cat and Kincaid.” The Cat was Tom Barnard, the radio behemoth who has long anchored the KQ morning show. After parting with Barnard, Kincaid became a jock on WCCO-FM, which is now WLTE.
“It was wild,” recalls Ausham. “I remember her working so hard. We would sit in her apartment for six hours working on air checks” to get the U100 job, her first in radio, in late 1975. “Here she was, this Brown Institute graduate; her dream was to go on the air and do it. And she did.”
Tom Oszman, who runs another excellent history site, TCMediaNow.com, got to know Kincaid in the last couple of years, when she had become a waste management consultant for companies such as Northwest Airlines, and later in environmental technology finance. Oszman says she was generous with her time and not bitter about a radio career that all but ended in 1983.
“She talked about playing the ‘mother role’ to a lot of the guys she worked with, and spoke highly of a lot of people, including Chuck Knapp and Tom Barnard, even though she was disappointed in how it ended at KQ,” Oszman says. “They way she tells it, KQ asked her to come over, after she’d been working at KSTP. And then she’s out of a job seven months later.”
On her LinkedIn page, Kincaid thanked the ” broadcast legends” she’d worked with, writing, “You know how you get a year in your life that defines your entire life? 1976 was it for me! And U100 changed everything. I owe these guys a lot. They took a gal who was green, green, green and made me the hottest thing since Global Warming! ! Thanks fellas!”
Kincaid is survived by her husband, Donald Hoeft, her daughter, a son, Dustin Hoeft, her sister, and her 87-year-old mother, Dorothy Coppess. There will be a viewing Sunday 4-6 p.m. at Swanson’s Funeral Home in Pine City. The burial will take place in Minneapolis; details pending.
Her daughter says people are welcome to email for more information: the address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Memories welcome in the comments.