Dave Hamilton (photo courtesy Rick Burnett/twincitiesradioairchecks.com)

Dave Hamilton (photo courtesy Rick Burnett/twincitiesradioairchecks.com)

While Tom Barnard is the love-him-or-hate-him public face of Twin Cities classic-rock standby KQRS, Dave Hamilton was Mr. Inside -- the programming whiz who hired Barnard and built KQ's "Morning Show" into the nation's top-rated morning-drive program.

Hamilton has announced his retirement after 27 years at the station -- a lifetime in radio-biz years.

"I'll be moving out of the 25-54 demo next month, so it's time to do what I've wanted to do for years -- flee winter," he said in a statement.

KQ is still No. 1 among men in that demographic, by the way, though it's no longer the juggernaut it was in Barnard's heyday, when Howard Stern tried and failed to break his lock on the a.m. audience. Overall, it's the fifth most-listened-to station in the Twin Cities market.

A Minnesota native, Hamilton started out as program director at Twin Cities station KDWB, then was promoted to a national job in New York before returning at age 27 to engineer KQ's reinvention. In that time he's survived several changes in ownership, most recently when Atlanta-based Cumulus Media -- the nation's No. 2 radio chain -- took control in a merger last year.

Hamilton, who as local operations manager for Cumulus also oversaw hard-rock station 93X and adult-contemporary-oriented Love 105, said he informed the company of his plans several months ago and expects a replacement to be named soon.

He and his wife will maintain a spring/summer/fall home in Minnesota, and "in time, I may consult a station or two in my home state," he said.

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