RADIO GENIUS INTERVIEW:
THE “KyXy MORNING SHOW”
WITH SONNY AND SUSAN, JOHN AND KEVIN!
You may have noticed the ratings success of KYXY in San Diego, and particularly their morning show, in a very competitive radio market. Many people are aware of Jeff and Jer, and Dave, Shelly and Chainsaw, which are two morning talk shows with big numbers. Close behind them, though, is a music show on KYXY featuring Sonny West, Susan DeVincent, Kevin Dean, and John Q. Lawrence. These days, it takes considerable skill to attract an adult audience by delivering impactful content while still playing enough music to drive a "music-radio" image. We reached out to producer Kevin Dean, and we got answers.. from all the guys on the KYXY morning show! They all answered the questions separately.. so let's see whether their answers match! GB
GARY BRYAN: Give us the players and their roles on the KYXY morning show.
Sonny West Co-host
Susan DeVincent Co-Host
Kevin Dean Co-Host/Producer/Traffic Reporter
John Q. Lawrence News
Kevin Dean and Friends
Kevin Dean, John Q. Lawrence and those other guys
GARY BRYAN: What is your personal background? We know that San Diego is a great place
to live.. are you a homeboy?
I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley--Monterey Park...graduated Cal State Los Angeles; grad school at San Diego State; worked for a music syndicator (Peter's Productions); KPBS (Public Radio in San Diego); PD at WBYG, Kankakee, IL (now WRZA); PD KVON and KVYN, Napa, CA; KLOK, San Jose; KWIZ, Santa Ana; KITT, San Diego (now KIOZ 105.3); KCBQ AM-FM for 12 years with a stint as PD from 1988 to 1991; Mighty 6-90, Baja; B-100, San Diego; KyXy
96.5 (15 years and counting.)
John Q grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to San Diego for the first time (you know how radio can be) in 1970. He was Program Director of KBKB (now KGB FM) from '70-'72 when the format changed and John moved back to San Francisco to work at K-101 FM. After a year he was back as Program Director of KDEO Radio (then oldies). JQ has also worked at KPSA (yes, owned by the now defunct airline) in San Diego, K-Best (oldies), KCBQ through roughly five ownership and a couple of format changes (but who's counting). As Operations Director John helped start Shadow Broadcast Services providing news and traffic services to several San Diego radio and TV stations and for the past 13 years has been News/Public Affairs Director at KyXy.
I am a San Diego native. Worked here all my life. My college job delivering keg beer for a local liquor store lead me to a career in the industry where I delivered most of the beer.. Radio Stations! Since then I have avoided any heavy lifting with stints at KCBQ, KSON and for the last 13 years here at KyXy. If the boss ever gets a close look at the roster I may be back to delivering beer again.
GARY BRYAN: Do you have certain set benchmarks or features?
I guess the smarmy answer would be our benchmark of ranking in the top 5 consistently over the past 15 years....but in actuality, we float our features so they are exposed to a broader audience. But we do a "Know the Show" contest where we ask a question about something that we talked about in the day's show. It always runs at 8:40...so I guess this is our only benchmark. Then every Thursday we do a radio/tv simulcast with the NBC affiliate. We've been doing that for five years and it's paid heavy dividends. We cover topics from Father's Day to Baseball Opening Day to Turkey Tips at Thanksgiving...and we always try to have a prop that makes fun of at least one of the anchors. They are great sports and love the interaction. And we are constantly challenged to find just the right prop that translates to our radio audience. Porn stars work really well...very
audio and visual. Ah, not quite!
Oh heck yeh but if we told you we'd have to kill you
We do a lot of Traffic Reports. People love them. In between traffic reports we fill with stuff like celebrity interviews, topical bits, news, and big giveaways. But mostly it's the Traffic that keeps listeners coming back.
GARY BRYAN: KYXY is a station that seems to have evolved from a "soft rock" position to a pretty contemporary mix. It's music intensive, which makes it challenging to make impact in morning drive. How do you deliver content and still drive the music image?
It's never been a stumbling block for us ... when you listen to a lot of the talk morning shows, there's a lot of filler that in our minds we'd rather play a song. Hell, we're not THAT interesting of people. Matter of fact, we're only interesting about 20 minutes an hour. We get between 5 and 6
songs in an hour but we have the latitude of dropping them all if we are on a hot topic. Our PD Charlie Quinn makes us pay him 50 bucks for every song we drop in the morning...and we make him pay us 50 bucks every time the sales department adds "just one more unit because we are sold out...really it won't happen again." So far we are astronomically ahead.
We're just very very good at what we do. That or the content just goes in one ear and out the other so listeners think all we're doing is playing great music.
I know the music drives the show and the station, we all know it. As for the content, comedy without dick jokes is hard to do. But we do it and we do it well. Our listeners appreciate the fact that they can listen to our show and be entertained without worrying that the kids in the car with them will hear something they shouldn't or be bored. Bottom line is our show is safe, entertaining, funny AND plays great music.
GARY BRYAN: Are there any bits or stunts that have worked for you.. and do your "stunts" tend to be more community service-type events?
We don't stunt. It just doesn't work for us. We're not that kind of station. But we are very active in the community.
We put Kevin in a clothes dryer once.
One time they put me in a dryer. But I'm OK now... What was the question again????
GARY BRYAN: What is your prep routine?
Living life...keeping the antennae up and always trying to have relations with 40 year old women (our target demo)....I mean trying to relate to 40 year old women. Scouring the local newspaper and Radio Genius. I could actually live in a cave and never come outside as long as I have my
Genius...hell, one day you may get word that authorities will have to remove me from my home with a 100 ton crane because all I did was eat Ho-Hos, use Radio Genius and dream about Ryan Seacrest. Ok you caught me, drop the Ho Hos and you're right on target.
Whatever Sonny says - we do.
I have three daughters a wife and a female cat. They keep me in touch with my feminine side. Living here at the estrogen ranch is prep 24/7. Of course I spend a lot of time on the PC too. The usual sites AND Radio Genius. No BS Genius is a great service created by an actual radio guy. imagine that.
GARY BRYAN: Last question: It's very difficult for music shows to compete with talk shows.. but what will it take to bring you up one more notch and actually put you OVER Jeff and Jer? You're very close!
A faulty brake line on their cars may help. It's difficult to overtake a franchise like Jeff n' Jer who have either been #1 or #2 for the last 15+ years. But truly, who wants the kind of financial headache they experience on the 1st and 15th of every month...I mean, come on...sooner or later your back is gonna' go out wheelin' that barrow full o' money to the bank. San Diego is awfully competitive with JnJ, Dave, Shelly and Chainsaw on KGB, the Mikey Show on KIOZ, two solid Country morning shows, a top performing light jazzer, plus the usual compliment of Top 40's, Hip Hop and alternatives. The morning landscape is amazing here...but then so are 75 degree days 350 days a year. The other 14 hit the 80's.
We're thinking a new state of the art control room would help or perhaps Jeff & Jer style salaries. Failing that we'd settle for some promotional bucks.
I have a plan. When Jeff goes out on the ice before his show to warm up I am going to run out and hit him in the knee with a piece of pipe. wait that didn't work so well did it. Actually I have listened to Jeff and Jer just about my whole life here in SD. You gotta give them props for developing a great show that has always been in the top 3. I really don't sit and plan on how to beat them, or any of the other shows here in town, Dave Shelly Chainsaw, Mikee, Cliff & Co. they are all great shows that could stand their own in any market. Sure that makes it tough for us but great for the listeners here in town. I think everyone should have a show like J&J in the market to set the pay bar HIGH! For me it's all about doing your best every day and if you're good the success will follow. But I am having an elevator put in my house like Jerry has, weird because I have a one story house.
RADIO GENIUS INTERVIEW:
"Q BREAKFAST WITH MARTY AND SUE"
One of the cool things about doing an Internet prep site is the opportunity to get to know broadcasters from around the world. Shane Smyth, from Q102 in Dublin, dropped by the CBS Radio building in Los Angeles recently.. and when he was safely back in Ireland, he answered a few questions for us.
GARY BRYAN-Give us the lowdown on "Q Breakfast with Marty and Sue". Who are the players? What roles do they play on the who?
SHANE SMYTH-He's the Dub, she's from Downunder! He's the man who once wore a dress and has never lived it down... She's the girl who would probably never wear a dress.. The show is just "wrong".... It shouldn't work... They fight, they argue, they disagree... Yet somehow it manages to be Dublin's Feel Good Breakfast show with Dublin's best traffic provided by your calls and texts..
Electric Eddie's mad dares out on the street, Dublin's best dating game Flirty at 8:30, and at 10 to 9, the most entertaining and inaccurate news feature ever News Daddy !.
GARY BRYAN-What is the music format of Q102?
SHANE SMYTH-Q102 is Rhythmic AC!
GARY BRYAN-How would you characterize your audience? Are you heard throughout the country? Is Dublin a young market?
SHANE SMYTH-Our audience is female based over 35s - we have a target listener whose name
is Orla and every time we link or do a promotion we are encouraged to think about whether Orla would be interested in what we're saying... Dublin is quite a varied market and is in fact the 3rd biggest radio market in Europe superceded only by London in position 1 and Berlin in position 2. We have one radio station aimed at a youth audience called Spin 1038, Newstalk 106 for talk, FM104 is "Dublin's Hit Music Station" and 98FM target 25+ We also have some "Community Of Interest" stations and a number of national stations who are all based here in Dublin. Dublin's Q102 broadcasts to Dublin City & County (tho you can hear it most of the way across the country!) and also on the internet on www.q102.ie
GARY BRYAN-Which benchmarks work for you?
SHANE SMYTH-We have a number of benchmarks particularly in Q Breakfast - the two biggest
ones are "Flirty @ 8.30" and "Newsdaddy". Flirty @ 8.30 brings the shy people of Dublin together who don't want to make the first move when it comes to dating so Marty & Sue do the work for them but then offer the "askee" €102 to turn down their suitors with hilarious results!! Newsdaddy
aims to crown one of the breakfast team as "Newsdaddy" for the day, or the person who knows most about what's going on in the world!! 5 questions are asked to the team and it's presided over by our morning news anchor "Judge Trudy"! Great smart and witty answers ensure that the feature is a hit with both the audience and the breakfast team! We do High School Hits for an
hour everyday at 9am playing an hour of songs from a particlar year to bring back memories from the best days of your life and then Dublin's only Midday Disco Workout from, well...midday!!
GARY BRYAN-Have you pulled any stunts that have made big impact?
SHANE SMYTH-When the station was first launched on March 4th 2004 we flipped from Lite
FM to Dublin's Q102... All day long Big Brother contestant Ray Shah barricaded himself into the on air studio voicing his disgust at the lack of music choice in Dublin - he proceeded to play HIS favorite tune of all time "Mnah Mnah" by the Muppets, over and over for eight hours straight until he finally came to his senses and launched Dublin's Q102 at 4.15pm on Thursday March 4th 2004. We clocked over 200 plays for it that day and were very tempted to log it with the Irish Airplay charts for that week!!
GARY BRYAN-Last question: Who is the biggest Irish rock star in history.. Van Morrison or Bono?
SHANE SMYTH-For my money, it's Bono!!
BOB RIVERS IN THE MORNING
A few years ago, while hanging out with B.J. Shea in Seattle, I had a chance to go to dinner with B.J. and his producer, Arik Korman. Over some Indian food, I had a chance to get to know Arik a little, and I was impressed with his intelligence and passion for the business.
When I heard that he had made the jump to Exec Producer of the Bob Rivers show on KZOK, I was impressed again. Bob is obviously one of the most successful guys in the biz, with his world-class parody albums and his long-running Seattle show, now expanded into Portland on KVMX. What I didn't know is that Arik's connection with Bob goes back further than I realized.
GARY BRYAN - When we met, you were B.J. Shea's producer at the Buzz in Seattle. How did you hook up with Bob Rivers?
ARIK KORMAN - In addition to acting as BJ Shea's producer, I was Executive Producer of KIRO and KQBZ. That position led to APD of KQBZ. While EP of KIRO/KQBZ, I was charged with looking for possible weekend hosts for KIRO that would bring younger demos. Bob Rivers did mornings on sister station KISW and seemed like a natural fit. I called him out of the blue to see whether he'd be interested in a weekend/fill-in gig at KIRO and he took the bait. I then taught him everything I knew about how to do talk radio. Bob soon dropped the remaining music on his KISW show and became #1 Persons 25-54 in morning drive.
GARY BRYAN - How did you integrate yourself into a long-running show with such a tight-knit team?
ARIK KORMAN - It's like learning a dance. You look for the holes and fill them. We needed additional strength in show direction (i.e. a PD for the show) as well as audio production, and the show didn't have a character who filled the role of walking encyclopedia/world traveler. The transition took about a year but has worked out beautifully.
GARY BRYAN - What do Bob, Spike, Joe and the crew do differently from other shows you've worked on?
ARIK KORMAN - Their relationship is the healthiest I've ever seen among ensemble shows. They genuinely like each other and everyone puts success of the show above any personal agenda. Each show member could be a star in his or her own right - they're amazingly funny and intelligent. When you look at the entire cast, it's like working with the New York Yankees of morning radio.
GARY BRYAN - What is your prep routine?
ARIK KORMAN - Most of my work is done the day (or weeks) before. I edit and produce all audio highlight clips used on the program, serve as editor-in-chief of bobrivers.com, oversee all technical issues and sales/promotional opportunities and stay up on news analysis/scientific breakthroughs for my on-air persona (I listen to NPR almost exclusively and read The Economist). I could work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and still not get everything done - very much like a PD gig, actually.
GARY BRYAN - Give us a topic or bit that has really worked for you.
ARIK KORMAN - My wife and I are beginning the process of adopting a child. This experience has been an ongoing plotline in the Show and has received plenty of feedback from listeners. Discussing our personal lives has been a key component of The Bob Rivers Show.
GARY BRYAN - Now that the show has started to reach into different markets, are you doing anything differently? For example, are you feeling the need to re-set the characters and chemistry for the new listeners?
ARIK KORMAN - We're calling each-other by name more often and show clips use cast member names as part of our production package. Other than that, our show is exactly the same.
GARY BRYAN - Last question: will we see you guys in L.A. again?
ARIK KORMAN - We're focused on winning in Portland. Right now, that's our top
Matt and I go back a long way.. in fact, he was seventeen when I hired him at KNBQ in Tacoma, a little flame-throwin' Top 40 that regularly rattled the big boys in Seattle. He left KNBQ to become the Production/Imaging Director at KFI in Los Angeles for then-PD Jhani Kaye. I respected his willingness to accept this challenge, even though he had never worked a multi-track
machine! After KFI, he wound up at KRBE in Houston, where Scott Shannon discovered him. Scott heard the same thing that I had heard when Matt was 17.. he's a great natural talent, and sounded very seasoned at a very young age.
Matt did afternoons at Z100 in New York for several years. His contract was up at just about the time I came in to program WPLJ, and we tried to get him across the street, but he wound up heading west to KIIS, where he did two stints in afternoon drive.
After leaving KIIS, Matt did something that I thought was terrific: he took his passion for Cigars, great drinks and red meat and created a radio show! At one point, his two-hour Outlaw Radio was on in 14 markets, including L.A., New York, and Miami. These days, Outlaw Radio is still going strong, heard on cable systems, the Internet, and weekends on KLSX in Los Angeles.
Matt also hosts a daily show on the Sirius Satellite Network 70's Channel. His contract is just shy of Howard Stern's $100 million a year! As you'll see from the photos, Matt gets a lot of famous people into his backyard studio. He's a guy who loves his independence, and he's been able to survive and thrive.. with very little compromise.
The Great Richard Kind
GARY BRYAN - You had a meteoric radio career at a very young age. Take us through your beginnings. (And leave out the part where I took you to a bar and got you drunk when you were seventeen!)
MATT ALAN - Although performing as a professional ( that means I got paid) Magician since the age of 9. I began radio at the tender age of 12 as a talk show host on Sunday nights at KRKO Everett Wa. I sounded much older than my age. I had the tenor of a 13 year old.
GARY BRYAN - You worked at what are arguably the two greatest CHRs of the last 20 years, Z100 and KIIS. How did those experiences differ?
MATT ALAN - The electricity at Z100 pulsated through the hallways. Both times at KIIS FM, I felt that I was responsible for turning on the juice!
GARY BRYAN - What is "Outlaw Radio"?
MATT ALAN - A "Drunk Celebrity" driven show all about the good life. We Drink, We Smoke, We Interrupt!
Lou Diamond Phillips
GARY BRYAN - And how do you get these incredible guests in your backyard "studio and bar"?
MATT ALAN - Two words, FREE BOOZE!
GARY BRYAN - You're now on Sirius Satellite Radio's 70s channel. How did you hook up with them?
MATT ALAN - SIRIUS contacted me after Howard turned them down the first time.
GARY BRYAN - Where do you do the show?
MATT ALAN - From my 1876 Virginia City Nevada style Saloon in the backyard of my Hills of Encino Manse.
GARY BRYAN - Have you heard XM? How would you compare the two services?
MATT ALAN - Never heard of 'em!
GARY BRYAN - Last question: Who is the best PD you ever worked for? (Think carefully!)
MATT ALAN-There are no bad PD's, Only Bad DJ's.
CATCH OUTLAW RADIO AND SEE MORE OF MATT AT www.mrcigar.com, and hear Matt on
Sirius Satellite's 70s channel.
Billy Gibbons – ZZ Top
Barry Williams / Ryan Stiles
THE RADIO GENIUS INTERVIEW! SEAN LYNCH
PD/MORNINGS AT 102.7 "DA BOMB"
Sean Lynch's career has been very interesting.. after years of jocking and programming in Seattle, Portland and Sacramento, he crossed over into a very successful record career, with stints with Interscope and Jeff McClusky and Associates. Recently, with the record biz trailing down, he crossed back into radio with a gig in paradise: PD/Mornings at KDDB, Honolulu! How did he do it? Read on:
GARY BRYAN - So.. the music biz goes sideways and you wind up back in radio... in Hawaii! How did that happen?
SEAN LYNCH - I had been consulting KDDB for the past few years, and helped them launch
KQMQ back in July. When PD Leo Baldwin was wooed away to WRDW in Philly, I was in the process of helping them find some candidates for the position. The owners of the company knew that I had a programming background, and had been on the radio here in Honolulu back in the day, so they asked me if I would consider assuming the role of PD for both stations, and help out with the morning show on KDDB. Since it was always a dream of mine to someday be back in Hawaii, and to be back in radio, I didn't have to think long about accepting the position. Within a few weeks, the deal was done and I was back in Paradise!
GARY BRYAN - You've worked in Honolulu before. What's different this time around?
SEAN LYNCH - Honolulu is like a big small town, and that hasn't changed since I was here last. The population has grown exponentially, real estate prices are the most expensive in the USA, having just ramped up 30-40% over the past year and a half. Radio is super competitive. There are three Rhythm/Crossovers, only one CHR, but plenty of highly rated Hawaiian music stations, as well as a number of strong Hot AC's, etc. The caliber of the local talent is great...I am so impressed. There are a few folks at the competition that I would love to get out of town, so if you are looking for a new air personality, give me a call!
GARY BRYAN - Give us the stations in the cluster.. and how are they positioned to compliment each other?
SEAN LYNCH - KDDB is Rhythm Crossover, KQMQ is CHR, KPOI is Classic Rock, KUMU-FM is Hot AC, and KUMU-AM is news/talk. Great news is, they totally complement each other. Even though KDDB and KQMQ do compete, they also have their own unique audiences. I take the approach that Cadillac does in Boston with WXKS and WJMN. Both stations are winning, and while they share some music, they both have their own identities.
GARY BRYAN - You're doing mornings, replacing Kid Leo.. who else is with you on the show?
SEAN LYNCH - Currently working Lisa D, who is a legend in this market, having been on the radio for many years. When I first met her, I asked about her early influences, and discovered that her very first job in radio was at KORL, the station that I had worked at back in the day, for my old PD and mentor Lan Roberts. This really is a small business!
GARY BRYAN - Do you have any specific bechmarks?
SEAN LYNCH - Since the show is still very new, I don't really have specific benchmarks per se. However, we do the obvious, such as pop culture and celebrity oriented stuff, (thanks to radiogeniusshowprep.com for making that so much easier!), we have the Dream Doctor in on Fridays analyzing listeners dreams, which is a huge phone favorite. And you gotta love a station that does regular surf reports!
GARY BRYAN - Mornings and Pd.. very challenging! How are you coping with the workload?
SEAN LYNCH - I am so excited to be back in radio, and to be able to do it in a place I love, that even when I put in a 12 hour day, I am not mad! I do have a lot on my plate, but I am blessed to have a great team of passionate, talented people that make such a difference. I have been at stations where you don't have that with your staff, and believe me, it makes all the difference!
GARY BRYAN - One last question.. anyone remember you from the first time around?
SEAN LYNCH - Amazingly enough, there is a guy here on staff who worked across the street
from me when I was here last. When I heard that, I was shocked. Then, our engineering consultant comes to the station, and I introduce myself to him, and he says, "Oh, I know who you are. I was your engineer back at KORL. I still have transmitter logs that you need to sign from back then!" Once again...small business! So far I haven't heard from any former groupies, but that's probably for the best!
765 Amana St. #206
Honolulu, HI 96814
BRIAN THOMAS, PD OF
"JACK FM" IN NEW YORK!
COULD YOU BE HIS NEXT (FIRST) MORNING SHOW?
Brian Thomas has just signed up for the biggest challenge of his career: re-starting the start-up JACK format in New York. The audience blowback after CBS blew up the beloved WCBS FM has been well-documented. Now the question is.. can it be turned around? Brian is an experienced programmer, with stations in Baltimore, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle under his belt. We've known each other for over ten years, and worked together at KFRC in San Francisco. He appreciates talent, and has given me support and encouragement at several critical points in my career. So.. will there be a morning show and other personalities on the New York JACK? I tried for answers:
GARY BRYAN - JACK FM in L.A. has a big writing and production team. Do you have a similar staff there? Do they have on-air experience?
BRIAN THOMAS - We're lucky to have the services of Bruce Goldberg in house who writes a lot of Jack's material for WCBS-FM, who as you may know helped write and produce AT 40 with Casey for years. We also have the advantage of CBS owning 12 Jack's so we can share the best ideas among these stations. The entire programming staff comes up with liners for Jack. Team effort.
GARY BRYAN - As a PD, do you find it more, or less challenging to create your sound without an airstaff?
BRIAN THOMAS - It's very challenging. We are making Jack more local and more topical. I believe there are a lot more ways for his voice to cut through the clutter and make him more interactive.
GARY BRYAN - The questions about staff and morning shows started immediately when these stations went on the air. Obviously, there have been discussions about what kind of shows / personalities would be appropriate. Can you give us your thoughts?
BRIAN THOMAS - All Jack stations will need to add a second set of value attractions for the future. You'll see some talent end up on some of the Jacks.
GARY BRYAN - Last question: Any idea what's in those hot dogs the sell off the carts in New York?
BRIAN THOMAS - Don't do it! I stick with Gray's Papaya or Nathans and of course if you need a late night snack go with Ray's Pizza!
IF YOU WANT TO REACH OUT TO BRIAN WITH A PACKAGE, SEND IT TO:
101.1 JACK FM
NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10036
KHGE, BIG COUNTRY 102.7 IN FRESNO!
GARY BRYAN - Is this your first time as the lead host of a morning show?
ATHENA - yes and no. The Athena and Jeff show in New Orleans was more of a partnership but MY PD John Roberts wanted me to be the lead so Jeff would get us in and out of the breaks. He would start out the breaks and throw it to me. The Athena show in Santa Rosa was the first time I had a show all to myself, but I had guests, traffic, news and all that to introduce and take off, so it was great practice and a great way to prove to myself that I can do it!!!
GARY BRYAN - How do you think the country audience will react to a hot blonde host?
ATHENA – Well, wait until to see my co-host! She is hotter!!! Country music and country will never be the same! It's 2 blondes in the morning!!!! Kris Daniels is my c-host and her father is the infamous Larry Daniels (PD/country consultant). So I think men will go crazy and want to call in and I try to be everyone's best friend with women, so I hope they feel that we are their friends and embrace us-I've heard that country listeners are like that!!!!
GARY BRYAN - Are you going to do the worm or will you switch to the boot scootin' boogie?
Rusty Humphries is a very funny guy! We first got to know each other when he was the "danger boy" at Z100 in Portland, Oregon. I think his air name was "Booger"! Later, he wound up at WPLJ in New York, followed by a stint running the TM Century comedy service. I lost track of him for awhile, and then, a few years ago, I noticed a story about "Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host, Rusty Humphries"! Since then, his empire has grown to over 250 radio stations. So what does it take to go from sidekick to one of the most-listened-to personalities in America? Read on...
Gary Bryan -How and when did you decide to make the transition from music to Talk radio?
Rusty Humphries -I have always loved talk. When I was a kid and everyone was listening to Hard Rock, I was listening to talk. I used to stay up late at night listening to Larry King, and about twice a year I'd work up the courage to call, "Seattle, Hello!"
As for the transition to talk on air ... I had been working with Mancow to help him start up his syndication business. One of the affiliates Frank and Connie Kovas, owners of WGL in Ft. Wayne, Indiana approached me with the opportunity to replace Rush on their station, I jumped at the chance.
Gary Bryan -What was the biggest challenge in making that change?
Rusty Humphries -It's difficult, at first, to talk without music. It's difficult, when you're having a bad day, not to just play "10 in a row." I hear many new talk show hosts who don't have a firm background in what they are talking about. They think if Rush or Sean or Rusty say it, it must be right. What they don't understand is they aren't very convincing because they don't have a firm
grasp of the entirety of the issues.
To me, "homework" isn't just about being on the internet and looking for stories. It's about reading and understanding the classics, Machiavelli, Plato, Ayn Rand, Franklin, as well as history, economics, philosophy, military strategy, religion. It takes more than a good gift of gab to have an excellent show these days.
Gary Bryan -A lot of people would love to be syndicated, but very few get it done, and fewer still can get to the level you've achieved. What's the secret?
Rusty Humphries -Syndication is much more difficult and complex than most personalities think and when they get into it many quickly return to the local level. Hate having a PD breathing down your back? I have 260 PD's. Most of them are great but you always have a few that want to change this or that. For me, a big frustration is that I get a weekly rundown of station additions and deletions. I see 25 new stations this week and one that drops ... for me it's hard not to focus on the one.
As for what the secret is ... patience. It takes time for stations to get to know you. Very few are willing to take the chance on a new show. You must have the ratings and revenue to back your ambitions. Try to get with a good company that won't just promise to get you into syndication, run one or two ad's and then forget about you, (I see that far too often.) I call my stations on a regular basis to see how I can help them. I love doing liners, promotions, sales calls... anything I can do to help there station succeed with my show. I want my show to be like McDonalds and the station is a franchise. By taking my show, and using the expertise our company gives you in
syndication, you'll always have a successful product.
Gary Bryan -Reaching a large audience has given you access to some very powerful people. Who were some of your more exciting guests?
Rusty Humphries -I just had the Colonel in charge of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He's a good friend of mine and a great guest. He's the kind of guy you hope we have running things down there, really gave it to Jimmy Carter and the UN! Three months ago, I went to Israel and interviewed the leaders of the "Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade" these are the military wing of the Fatah Party, (Yasser Arafats' personal terrorist unit) and they are the one who strap bombs on little kids. I did the interview in their leaders house and at one point they threatened to cut of my head. I don't do a lot of guests but I tend to get the "A" list when I do interviews.
Gary Bryan -You've been overseas with the troops. How is their morale?
Rusty Humphries -They are GREAT! What concerns them most is not the enemy or being attacked or even the horribly slanted reporting we get back here. They're concerned with what their wife is going to do when the dishwasher goes out, they want to be around to fix things for their wife if need be. Does it make them want to leave, or think the President should take them out of Iraq? Absolutely not! They see what is happening for the people everyday. When I was there, we were mobbed by Iraqis who wanted to thank us for giving them their freedom. Remember, the terrorists in Iraq aren't regular Iraqi people, it's Iraqis who did well under Saddam, and terrorists who are being paid by Iran and Syria to try to star a civil war. Our troops see that and it frustrates them that you don't get that story here at home.
Gary Bryan -Last question: We hear a lot about the bright future of Talk Radio. Will there really be a lot of opportunity in this format?
Rusty Humphries -Yes, radio is changing right in front of out eyes. For 25 years we have been forced by poor management to take personality out of radio. 50 in a row, liner cards, automation, voice tracking, bad jocks, hammering home the message "We play 25 songs in a row, without all of that DJ chatter", we have trained the audience to hate talk and commercials on their favorite music station.
Now, that strategy is backfiring. With the advent of music streaming, ipods, video games etc... there is no need nor much interest for music on the radio. When you can go to XM or Sirius and get 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's plus 100 other formats with no commercials, or even better, an ipod with 1000 of your FAVORITE songs and no commercials, why would you turn to the radio?
Ahhhhh the one thing they can't get from many of those other sources is PERSONALITY. Today's generation has very little patience for commercials however they will stick around for their favorite personality and very soon we are going to see a BIG change in the industry. AM's will move to more religious and foreign language programming. On the FM dial, you will see a surge in talk radio ... Conservative, liberal, relationships, money, news you can use, naughty talk, entertainment talk, sports etc... all will be different formats on your radio. Today's talkers have many of these aspects on one station, and as you have seen in the past 5 years, they have become formats unto themselves.
You can become very successful in this new generation of radio. Focus on the product, not on the ego. What can you do to make things more relevant to you audience? Practice talking without a music bed. How can you increase ratings and revenue for your station? Maybe it's time to go to the Sales Manager, patch things up between you two and figure out how you can make some money for your company. It's an exciting time to be in the business, focus on your strengths and those of radio. It's YOU they want to hear, don't give them any reason to go somewhere else.
SEE RUSTY'S WEBSITE: www.talk2rusty.com
Radio Genius Exclusive Interview
With “JOHNSON AND JOHNSON”
K-Bull 93, Salt Lake City, UT
MEET THE JOHNSON’S!
We ran into Tommy Johnson (Or was it Joe?) at Morning Show Boot Camp in New Orleans last August. First, you should check their website at www.kbull93.com.. It’s one of the best we’ve seen. One thing’s for sure.. this is a big station in Salt Lake City! So they must be doing a lot of things right.. and one of the most important things, along with the music, is the morning show. JOHNSON AND JOHNSON.. it’s a catchy name, but who are these guys?
Tommy: Has two kids and a wife at home. He calls her 2 to 3 times a week so they can fight for everyone LIVE on the radio. (Ha Ha Ha!) Editor’s note: nervous laughter is Tommy’s!
Joe: Spends his leisure time doctoring his photos to look younger on Yahoo personals and myspace.com.
Tommy: Two girls in grade school.
Neither has any! Last week, Joe had a girl bring her cat with her on their date.. and we’re not talking about the one in her pants! (true)
Tommy: “Bull Durham”-the first and last good movie that Kevin Costner ever made.
Joe: “Dumb and Dumber”-Jim Carrey
Tommy: “The Proud Family”-The Disney Channel
Joe: “The Bachelor”-ABC
Both: Everyone crazy!
Picabo Street, who is a listener of ours who lives here in Utah. Since she’s in Torino, she calls us with Olympic updates. So far, she says gas costs $7.87 a gallon! And we thought the Olympic medals look like DVD’s with ribbons through them and look like they need to be returned to Blockbuster! Picabo said they are actually heavy and thick!
Gary Bryan-How long has the Johnson and Johnson morning show been together?
Tommy Johnson-12 years. Started in Pittsburgh, then to Charlotte, NC and have spent the last 8 years here in Salt Lake City.
Gary Bryan-Have you spent your entire career in the Country format, or have you worked other formats as well?
Tommy Johnson-Back before we had be guts and had our own hair, we worked in CHR.
Gary Bryan-What are the essential values of a highly-rated Country morning show?
Tommy Johnson-Be real, be local, be topical. We have an opinion on everything. And remember the essence of being on a female-driven format.. we can’t offend women.. so NO DICK JOKES! (Editor-My emphasis)
Gary Bryan-Your “Shotgun Wedding” for Valentine’s Day looked hysterical! Any reaction from the anti-gun crowd? And could Dick Cheney have been the best man?
Tommy Johnson-LOL! No reaction. Believe it or not, Utah is the last of the “wild, wild west”. Our state still uses the FIRING SQUAD for capital punishment, for God’s sake! (true)
Gary Bryan-What are your everyday, benchmark bits?
Tommy Johnson-(BLANK) Price is Right, i.e… Olympic Opening Ceremony Price is Right. Or- “The Current Events Spelling Bee”. Or how about: “Stump The Johnsons”?
Gary Bryan-One last question: Has Johnson and Johnson ever sent you a C&D for copyright infringement?
Tommy Johnson-No. Not yet. After 12 years, good luck! If they ever DO make a run for us; we’ll change it to: JohnSEN & JohnSEN! LOL!
RADIO GENIUS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CHIO!
WHAT THE HELL IS GOIN’ ON!!!!!!????
I first met Chio when he arrived at Z100 in New York as our new night jock! Z100 was legendary for eating talent the way some people eat breath mints.. but Chio had the goods! After trips to Philly, Phoenix and San Diego, he wound up at Q102 in Philly doing afternoons. When they offered him mornings, I was one of the people he called for advice. What did I tell him? “JUST DO IT!”
Late last year, a lot of people in the biz were scratching their heads when Chio announced that he was going to Z90 in San Diego, then left after a day and returned to Philly! This week, we got the good news.. Chio will return to morning drive in Philly on WRDW, WIRED 96.5, working with new PD Kid Leo! Besides being concerned about a good guy and a great talent, we wondered: What the hell happened?
Gary Bryan-What happened in San Diego?
Chio-The San Diego thang was a little crazy but here it goes.. It was a time for a change, so I accepted the gig in San Diego.. It would have been a great situation working with FINEST CITY and XHTZ Z90.3.. I have a close relationship with PD RICK THOMAS and we were both on the same page about what needed to be done. After 1 day on the job I had to make a decision: my career or my marriage and family! What people did not know is that I was having problems with my marriage, which by the way, had nothing to do with the move. To save my marriage I came back to Philly jobless.. family comes first!! My decision has paid off… my wife and I are stronger than ever. She’s an amazing woman.. things are going well!!
Gary Bryan-How did you hook up with Kid Leo at WRDW?
Chio-It was through legendary programmer Bill Tanner that I got a chance to hook up with WRDW. He is close to Rick Thomas and he’s a consultant at WIRED 96.5. He was very familiar with my work, and as they say.. the rest is history!
Gary Bryan-Are you bringing your peeps with you? Or is it a whole new show?
Chio- It’s a whole new show.
Gary Bryan-Have you ever crossed the street before? How does it feel? Is it extra motivation?
Chio-I have never crossed the street before.. it feels amazing!! I have a lot to prove, and you better believe it gives me extra motivation! I think it’s the ULTIMATE to go up against your old station.. I look forward to the challenge!
THE WEBSITE: www.thechioshow.com
THE RADIO GENIUS INTERVIEW WITH "MCFLY"
"THE DOC SHOW"
You constantly hear radio execs bemoaning the fact that we've destroyed the "farm system". Usually they say something like "Where is the young talent coming from?" Well, heads up! We've discovered an energetic, dedicated young talent working at a legendary country station in Pennsylvania. His air name is "McFly", since Frog-related names are pretty common at the "Frog" stations. Watch this guy.. you'll be hearing his name often in the coming years!
GARY BRYAN - Tell us about the "Doc Show". Who are the players?
MCFLY - There’s nothing in Country Radio like THE DOC SHOW.. We are Northeast PAs Morning Show, and strive to be on the pulse of pop culture* Blah Blah Blah* We roll like Elvis Duran (if he only knew how much we’ve Borrowed), Good Morning America, and Ellen.
The three main partners are Doc, Selena, & ME McFly! Doc Medek is a market VET and all around Rock Star. Grandpa (as I affectionately refer to old man Medek) is definitely my radio Yoda and has taught me almost everything I know.. =o) We captured Selena like thieves in the night from WMRV in Binghamton. She's a great mix between Carrie from Sex and the City, Katie Couric, and Kelly Ripa.. ME, Im the young, fun one.. McFly is rude, naďve, opinionated, trendy, shallow, sarcastic, an incredible dresser, flirtatious*.. Stop me ANYTIME* I’m the markets only personality who hits the streets and constantly shakes things up. Joe Thomas is our Voice of Reason and Omnipotent News Man. He’s kinda like Owl from Winnie the Pooh. The Best Laugh In The Business! Rusty Fender, the Traffic Dude, aside from being on 62 other stations in the market finds time to pop in the studio and take the EXTREME Asshole stance that even I wont go near.
GARY BRYAN - You're 20 years old. Is this your first radio job?
MCFLY - I was a radio Virgin until the Frog slipped me a Roofie! Mike Krinik my mentor and former PD plucked me from the fast paced world of grocery store customer service. I started running the Sunday Night Countdown, to weekend overnights, to the All Request Saturday Nite, part-time swing biotch, afternoons for a book, finally I landed in Mornings with Grandpa Medek!! A whole lot of bustin’ my ass for NO cash, missing school dances and football games, and some right place at the right time!
GARY BRYAN - Froggy 101 is a huge station. Was this the first "Froggy" country station in America?
MCFLY - A HISTORY QUESTION* REALLY? I think we were the second after K-FROG! Thank God we don’t do any of the Hoppin’ Here, Jump There Crap! The Betty Croaker, Roger Ribbit, and Leap Erikson names are a thing of the past. Frog-isms No More =o)
GARY BRYAN - What are the benchmarks of the "Doc Show"?
MCFLY - We don’t really do a ton of Benchmarks, our show is mostly topical and personality driven. We do however rip off THE BIG O with our Favorite Things. The twist is we are all in competition to give the listeners the BEST gifts.. It makes the bit more engaging, and we get to make fun of each other.. -MUG SHOUTS.. This rocks my socks. Basically we solicit for mugs from businesses who listen. We give them A MUG SHOUT once an hour for the morning. They usually send MUCH MORE than a mug* LIKE BREAKFAST!!!
GARY BRYAN - Tell us about a stunt that worked for you.
MCFLY - DAY BRIGHTENERS.. I hit the streets and setup shop at random intersections with 101 items that will Brighten someone’s day. Mc. Donald’s Sandwiches, Starbucks Coffee, Cookie, etc. I hand them out to everyone who stops at the light. Its amazing FREE show marketing, because I’m in the face of people who may not be listening to our show. Food is great bribery to get new listeners.
GARY BRYAN - Last question: What's more important.. fame? or money?
MCFLY - Are you offering either? Id have to say fame.. There’s something almost orgasmic about being recognized in public.. =o)
Radio Genius Exclusive Interview
With Paul Anderson
No matter where we are in our careers, we'd all like to make more money. Enter the radio agent. But at what point in your career does hiring an agent become feasible? I decided to reach out to PAUL ANDERSON, who reps some of the biggest shows in radio, to get his point of view. I may be prejudiced, (since he's also MY agent) but I think Paul is the best and brightest in his field. He's also a guy with a tremendous reputation for integrity, which helps when you're in a tough negotiation with a big company. He's moved several big shows across the street, starting with Bob Rivers, who moved from KISW to KZOK in Seattle with Paul's guidance.
GARY BRYAN-Bob Rivers was your first radio client. How did you meet, and what made you interested in this business?
PAUL ANDERSON-Well actually, BJ Shea was my first radio deal. I had been Bob Rivers entertainment lawyer for a number of years and he recommended me to BJ. But it's a funny story how I met Bob. I bought Bob's Range Rover and had never heard of him, nor did I know much about the radio business. It just happened that Bob was looking for a new entertainment lawyer and we just hit it off. The rest is history. I initially became interested in radio because of the legal work I was doing for Bob in television and the recording industry, but quickly became addicted to Bob's passion for radio and developed my own passion for the business.
GARY BRYAN-In the last few years, you've become incredibly connected in the radio business. What's your secret?
PAUL ANDERSON-Telephones and airplanes.
GARY BRYAN-When does an air personality reach the point where they need an agent?
PAUL ANDERSON-That depends. I think the key to career development starts with a solid personal brand strategy and when it comes to deal making, most talent should seek some professional advice because it's too easy to get emotional over what becomes a pure business negotiation. So whether a talent has an agent, a lawyer or a great friend with a good broadcast business background, it's important for the talent to seek objective input.
GARY BRYAN-Being a radio agent, you get a lot of phone calls from needy, nervous people (except for me!).. what is the most common trap morning shows fall into with management?
PAUL ANDERSON-The biggest mistake any talent can make is not taking control and responsibility for his or her own brand strategy. Talent should not assume that anyone in the building has a better handle or better ideas about his or her own show. The best talent in the business are those who understand that the radio companies provide great distribution platforms and that the talent provide great content - and that the successful wedding of these two worlds require agile and focused leadership by people on both sides of the equation.
GARY BRYAN-How is our friend Danny Bonaduce doing?
PAUL ANDERSON-Danny is doing great. Stay tuned.....!
PAUL ANDERSON CONTACT NUMBER:
Radio Genius Exclusive Interview
With Athena Matsikis
KMHX – Santa Rosa
I met Athena Matsikis a couple of years ago. We were introduced by radio agent Paul Anderson, who asked if I would give Athena the benefit of my wise counsel (?). After years as a PD and jock, I enjoy talking to radio people any time, so we spent some quality time on the phone getting to know each other. To get the full "Athena Effect", you must meet her in person, which I did at a Morning Show Boot Camp. She's got energy to burn, and she's worked with some of the coolest people in the business. She's currently doing afternoons at KMHX in Santa Rosa, where Bob and Sheri's syndicated show runs in the morning.
Gary Bryan-Take us through your career to date.
Athena-Wow!! Ok, I always knew that i wanted to do radio-I lived next door to morning personality and as a kid, I would follow her around and finally she took me to the station and I fell in love! I was 10, and I knew that I would go to college for it and be in morning radio, baby!
I went to Emerson College , learned all I could from the FM station there and finally someone gave me a chance in Phoenix, AZ and that BJ Shea..he gave me my first morning gig chance and I was also doing overnights, weekends, music research.anything that I could..I wanted to live and
From Phoenix, I did mornings forever from working with Brother Wease in Rochester, NY , then Fresno, Las Vegas, New Orleans and now here in Santa Rosa. Because of syndicated radio in the mornings, I have been doing personality radio -in the afternoon.
Gary Bryan-How would you describe your on air character/personality?
Athena-I am very real-maybe too real..I get myself into trouble all the time. I am very blunt about my life..I talk about my husband and what we are going through…. my dad used to be in prison and he would call in collect everything that I go through is on the air.
I got into some trouble when I was in Las Vegas with my Greek cousins around x-mas and I met a couple of guys in Vegas and gave out my CELL to them because they made me feel good (telling me that I was pretty, sexy, etc. things that my hubby does not tell me) and played the messages on the air that they left me. Of course I had to call them back and tell them that I was married and that was a mistake but that’s just an example REAL RAW...etc.
Gary Bryan-You worked in New Orleans just before the hurricane hit. What was it like to watch from Santa Rosa as the city went through its crisis? Did you feel as if you wanted to be there?
Athena-New Orleans-yes..I lived in New Orleans for 2 years and the whole thing scared me to death..I made some great friends there and I was worried and it made me realize how screwed up the gov. is over there ..and it was just so sad.
I wanted to volunteer with the red cross..but we jumped on bandwagon of selling beads...and donating the money to the red cross...and helping out anyway that we could. It was frustrating because I wanted to go down there and help so bad..my husband did.
Gary Bryan-Are you finding ways to inject personality into afternoon drive?
Athena-Yes, I am always finding new ways to inject personality-but I think my afternoon show is different. It's not just an air/jock shift. I do like a morning show in the afternoons almost. I bring up topics and put listeners on the radio constantly , interview guests..and THANK YOU to my boot camp buddies that I use for war of roses and other phoners because we cant afford United Stations !!!
Gary Bryan-You're competing with the San Francisco market. How does the station deal with that issue?
Athena-Competing with the SAN FRAN market is hard because we don’t show up in their ratings but they show up on ours. Now, ALICE is going to be online and it makes it harder for us to compete, but you keep on doing your best radio that you can do and I guess it looks good on your radio resume that you competed with market#4!!!!
Gary Bryan-What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in five years?
Athena-Where do i see myself in 5 years? What are career goals?? You know, its funny because if you asked me this same question 5 years ago, I would have said LA, NYC, etc and that's still true, but I have been moving up and down markets so much in the last 3-4 years, I wish I just
could make a decent salary (enough to own a home..I am sick of these damn landlords ripping me off!) and be a top 50 market. I wish I could be there soon and hopefully in 5 years in a top 10 market doing great radio.. being a team or with me in the lead. I always wonder about these radio stations targeting women and there is no woman on the show, never mind leading the show! Let me do it..give me a chance and I will KICK ASS!!!!!!!!
Gary Bryan-Last question: what's this "worm" thing that you do at conventions?
Athena-Ok-I learned to do this worm thing back in the breakdancing days..called the worm centipede..snake..whatever and I can still do it after all these years .. at 35..backwards and forwards..so..some people think its annoying..but I always end up doing it at clubs and bars in
whatever city that I am in.. (a client even put it in the contract that I must do it on the bar on corona thurs in Fresno!!!!)..and of couse at the conventions, like morning show boot camp..I even did it for Rick Dees and I caught him looking at my booty..teeee heeee
THE RADIO GENIUS INTERVIEW:
ZACK JACKSON/"THE MORNIN' THANG",
K92 IN ROANOKE!
I met Zack at Morning Show Boot Camp in New Orleans last August, and the first thing I thought was "I love the name of that show!" K92 (WXLK), is a locally-owned station up against the usual consolidated behemoths. I wanted to find out how they're holding their own.
GARY BRYAN-Give us a snapshot of your career path so far.
ZACK JACKSON-After working for an independent promoter in Boston out of college, I quit and started working for free as a stunt monkey at the now defunct Star 93.7 (WQSX) in Boston where Danny Meyers, my roommate at the time and WPLJ alum, was the night host. The two of us were asked to guest host the morning show for a week, and out of that were offered the morning
gig at Q102 (WKRQ) in Cincinnati by Viacom execs in Boston that heard us fill-in. Following that, Danny and I did both mornings and afternoons at Mix 95.7 (WMWX) in Philadelphia, and then came to K92 (WXLK) in Roanoke in the summer of 2002 and have been here ever since.
GARY BRYAN- You work in a pretty competitive market for a local owner. Does that give you an advantage or put you at a disadvantage against, say a Clear Channel?
ZACK JACKSON-Leonard Wheeler (the owner) is the reason Danny and I came to Roanoke, so I would say it puts us at an advantage in a smaller market like Roanoke. Working for the Wheeler family is like the golden days of radio before large corporate ownership ... they create a fantastic work atmosphere, are community minded, and focus on much more than the immediate bottom line. Here's a man that when he consolidated his properties into one building continued to pay two receptionists because he refused to downsize anybody in the move.
It's not often in this business that you want your show to succeed not only for yourself, but for your boss because of your respect and admiration for the man. Plus, you can walk into his office and ask for $100 for some stupid stunt or piece of equipment without having to go through any
annoying paper trail. With a work atmosphere like that, I'd say we're definitely at an advantage.
GARY BRYAN- How long have you worked with your partner?
ZACK JACKSON-Danny and I met at Ithaca College in 1995 and were roommates before we even became co-hosts. We've now worked in Boston, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Roanoke together since then.
GARY BRYAN-You're recruiting for a sort of "all or nothing" contest where you put someone's savings on one spin of a roulette wheel! How is that going.. and are you concerned about a potential negative?
ZACK JACKSON-It's going well ... we've found a woman who's ready to take the plunge. She's been saving up for various home improvements, and is ready to put that money into the hands of fate. Naturally, we hope she wins and we don't have to worry about the negative at all, but I think we'll be fine either way. Even if she loses, she'll certainly have an amazingly unique experience that she'll remember forever. Plus, we're hoping this will be some extremely compelling radio as the roulette wheel spins, which is really what we want to accomplish more than anything. Hopefully it'll be one of those old school "stare at your radio" moments that we all strive to have.
GARY BRYAN-Great morning shows focus on building characters and telling stories. It looks as if you have a natural talent in those areas. What are the ongoing themes of your show?
ZACK JACKSON-We like to use the motto "Real Life, Only Messier" for the show. We like to do many of the traditional morning show elements ... celebrity gossip, phone scams, and ridiculous stunts ... but the main themes of our show are relationships and character flaws (both ours and the listeners). We're exposing our lives for four hours every single day on the radio, and the real way to make our audience care about what we do is to let them see even the most unflattering things about our characters. They can then relay to us their shared experiences, and together we can be one big dysfunctional family.
We've always felt that the flawed characters of "Seinfeld," and how they interact with the world, is our show Bible so to speak. We also have a lot of admiration for many shows in this business as well (translation: we like to borrow some of their ideas) ... Jeff and Jer in San Diego, Mojo in Detroit, Ace and TJ in Charlotte, Rocky and Sue in Scranton, Kidd Kraddick in Dallas, the Bert Show in Atlanta, and some guy named Stern who can buy and sell all of our asses.
GARY BRYAN-Final question: Who will win the Super Bowl?
ZACK JACKSON-As a recovering Masshole and a lifelong Patriots fan I gotta pull for the Steel Curtain on this one. I don't really like the Steelers at all, but I respect the way their organization is run, the loyalty of their fan base, and their focus on player character before player talent level ...
In August of 1990, I took over as the host of the Z100 Morning Zoo in New York City. Scott Shannon had been gone for almost a year (to Pirate Radio in Los Angeles), and I had been programming and doing mornings at WPLJ. I quickly found that replacing Scott, even though I was the second guy in, (Brian Wilson had been in the slot for about ten months), was sort of like replacing John Lennon in the Beatles! The Zoo was a tight-knit group of intensely talented individuals who had been there from the start: Ross Brittain, Claire Stevens, Mr. Leonard, Doctor Dave and Jonathan B. Bell. Even our production guys were pretty impressive: Bruce Maiman and Tim Putre. One relative newcomer, like myself, was “Coach” Mike Opelka, the executive producer. I soon learned that Mike was a prolific writer and a very funny guy. Shannon knew how to pick ‘em! Working with Mike and Ross was like getting a P.H.D. in morning prep.
Mike is currently the executive producer for “Baltazar and Goumba Johnny In the Morning” on WKTU in New York. I wanted to get his perspective on the current state of BTR (Big Time Radio) in the Big Apple.
Gary Bryan-You produced the Z100 Morning Zoo for several years, starting with the Shannon era. Was that your first radio gig, and how did you land at Z100?
Mike Opelka- My first radio gig was a college gig on KRTU 92.7 in San Antonio.. I was hotlined within the first hour for reporting the scores of my softball team.
While I was VP of programming for a music video network (Hit Video U.S.A.) I was also looking for an outlet for my twisted sense of humor.. David Kolin used my voice and writing talents for several stations in the early 80s.. KKBQ, Z100, etc.. then referred me to Scott Shannon who happened to be looking for a producer. We met and he hired me before the weekend was over! I packed up and drove from Houston to NYC.. that was 4/15/88.
Gary Bryan- The Zoo had a pretty large staff of writers and producers, including yourself, Ross Brittain, Mr. Leonard and Jonathan B. Bell. Do you still have a large staff at WKTU?
Mike Opelka- The days of large morning show staffs seem to be over.. for the moment. Z100 was a very special station.. it was chock-a-block with talent.. like playing on one of those Yankee teams during championship swings. Good times.. good times. We do utilize some production services and some prep services, but minimal.
Gary Bryan- Change is a constant in this business. How are morning shows different now than in the late 80s and early 90s, and how are they the same?
Mike Opelka- At the end of the day we’re still beholden to the numbers.. So it’s always going to be about entertaining a target demo.. no? I do think the talent and the level of competition has increased exponentially. We’re also working earlier as people seem to have started work earlier. Technology is making the editing and remote part of radio easier, which puts pressure on us to be better in the content dept.
Gary Bryan- Does the departure of Howard Stern from New York create new opportunities for your show? Have you done anything specifically to capitalize on the new situation?
Mike Opelka- Howard? I don’t think I know the name? The entitlement gene makes us think we’ll get 20% of his audience.. but reality dictates a little differently to us. The plan is to keep doing what our usual listener wants us to do. It’s about energizing the base!
Gary Bryan- Do you have specific benchmark bits that work for Baltazar and Goumba Johnny?
Mike Opelka- We do a Baltbuster (prank call) every other day… and a War of the Roses (another prank call with a relationship component) every other day.. There is a weekly dumb crook feature and a Dumb Celebrity Quote every Monday morning.. Wednesdays we deal with a listener’s moral dilemma. Friday mornings we go all 80s!
Gary Bryan- Last question: Goumba Johnny has become a fashion critic in the tabloids.. how would you characterize his personal wardrobe?
I MET BJ SHEA about five years ago, just after he was suspended from 100.7 the BUZZ in Seattle for getting a little carried away. Actually, he got a lot carried away: during an anti-religious rant, he said he'd like to bring a machine gun into a Southern Baptist Church! I was PD at KJR FM at the time, so I invited him to lunch.. and informed him that I was a Southern Baptist!
After a few laughs, we became friends, discovered that two of our kids were in the same class at school, and we socialized a bit.
LONG STORY SHORT, he was re-instated by the BUZZ, where his midday show was a stand-out. He was recently tapped to move to mornings at KISW as the show replacing Howard Stern. Besides being thrilled for the success of a good guy, I wanted to get his thoughts on the new challenge.
Gary Bryan- You're part of a select group of people who have been tapped to replace Stern. How does it feel to be following in those footsteps?
BJ- I don't really look at it as just being a show that's following Stern, but instead as a show that gets to do mornings on a heritage station that has had many great talents do mornings on it's airwaves. Howard was one of the many great shows that have graced the morning slot in the 35 years of KISW. We're very excited and humbled to be given the opportunity to be a part of that history.
Gary Bryan- You've developed a following in Seattle on the Buzz.. are you bringing all of those bits to the new show, or completely re-tooling?
BJ- The show will be pretty much the same, but since we will be operating on a morning show budget as opposed to a midday budget, we will be adding some more people and get to do bigger things.
Gary Bryan- Bob Rivers on KZOK is a friend and mentor of yours. If you completely crush him in morning drive, will there be any regrets?
BJ- Bob has done very well in Seattle, even when Howard was here, so I believe there is a distinct possibility that both of our shows could be very successful at the same time. Of course, we are the new guys, and the ones who have to prove that we can win in the morning. If we do indeed do better than Bob's show... we won't have any regrets, because it's not about doing better than just one show... it's about doing better than all of them. That's my goal, and my regrets will come if I can't get that done.
Gary Bryan- Do you feel the FCC unduly restricts what you're able to do?
BJ- Yes. I feel a very small number of people are actually being heard when it comes to community standards. You know I feel about organized religion, and the way some of their puppet organizations boycott and boilerplate gag mail any form of legal entertainment they don't agree with. And for those of you who don't know I feel about... I think it sucks.
Gary Bryan- I know you've had your ups and downs with Entercom, but they obviously believe in you. What are the keys to your longevity in the market with them?
BJ- You hit the nail on the head... they believe in me. When I was brought back after my termination... the first thing the market manager said was the he was happy to have me back so that together could achieve the great things they believed we could achieve when they hired me. That meant a lot at the time. I have a tremendous amount of support from past & present management teams, and they've done it through some difficult situations. That was one of the main reasons I chose to stay with Entercom.
Gary Bryan- Any thoughts on how Howard will do on satellite?
BJ- I think he'll be fine, but to me the better question is how will satellite do with Howard. I'm not a financial expert, but I have heard many different and conflicting scenarios about the financial ramifications of the Siruis/Howard relationship.
Gary Bryan- Do you still want to machine-gun all the Southern Baptists?
BJ- Being a Boston Red Sox fan, I have turned my attention to Johnny Damon... he's dead to me!
JONATHAN WATKINS, PRODUCER/CO-HOST
WITH DAN TOOKER IN THE MORNING, KFDI, WICHITA!
When young people walk through the door of a major market radio station and ask how to break in the business, the standard answer is “Go to a small market and get good!” It’s a little tougher to make that move when you’re already in market #2, and part of the team on a major morning show! But that’s what happened to Jonathan Watkins. He started in L.A., and then decided that he’d get a lot further in his career by going down in market size to Wichita, but taking on a more important role. Even though Wichita is a lot smaller than L.A., it’s still a sizable market, and very competitive. I wanted to get Jon’s thoughts on making this big move.
Gary Bryan: You’ve been in BTR (Big Time Radio) at KZLA here in Los Angeles. Was that your first job, and what did you do there?
Jonathan Watkins: I started as an intern with Uncle Joe Benson at the Arrow. With Uncle Joe, I screened the phones and looked for show prep. After my internship was up, I realized I wanted to stay in radio a little bit longer, and was able to secure an Associate Producer position with the “Peter Tilden Morning Show with Buzz” on KZLA, Los Angeles. This is where I really learned the ropes of radio; how to find and book guests, create bits, find potentially interesting callers, deal with management and develop my on air character.
Gary Bryan: In order to further your career, you’ve moved to the tropical climate of Wichita, Kansas. How was the move?
Jonathan Watkins: This was the scariest move I could ever have done. In Los Angeles, I was an Associate Producer for a morning show and an on air traffic reporter for Clear Channel’s Air Watch. I just wanted to do more on a morning show. When I went to Kansas and met with Dan Tooker, I realized that the move would benefit me in the long run.
Gary Bryan: The show is called Dan Tooker in the Morning. Do you have an on-air role?
Jonathan Watkins: I am the Executive Producer and Co-host of the show, so I have a very strong on-air role. This is the main reason that I decided to move out from Los Angeles. When Dan is on vacation or out sick, I host the show. I would never have been given this opportunity in L.A.
Gary Bryan: How is the competition in Wichita?
Jonathan Watkins: We are the number one rated station and morning show in Wichita. I’d like to say that the competition’s great and the atmosphere makes us strive to do our best, but the quality of shows here are not that great. Most of the shows have been on for ages and are just comfortable with what they do. I miss good radio! The biggest drive for our show is to succeed in the ratings so we can move forward in our career (whatever that may be).
Gary Bryan: Do you have an ultimate career goal? Would you like to wind up back in L.A.?
Jonathan Watkins: I’d like to see my name in the title of the show. That’s my next goal at least. I look at Wichita as a training ground for the rest of my career. I’m able to do everything here; host, produce, jock.. I’m learning tons. I’m not sure if my goal is to return to L.A. My goal is to find a top twenty market, and marry it. I’m currently twenty-two years old. If by twenty-five I can marry a market, what a great career. The next step would be syndication.. then world domination.
Gary Bryan: Last question: why didn’t the Trojans win the Rose Bowl?
Jonathan Watkins: Vince Young knows Voodoo. It’s true.. look it up!