10 Questions with ... Randy "Mudflap" Wilcox
February 13, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
After graduating high school, I spent four years in the Marine Corps (mostly at MCAF Quantico, VA). I returned to NY for a year, then applied for (and got) a job doing sales (no experience necessary) at WESI (Strasburg, VA) . I asked that I be allowed to learn the on-air ropes at the same time, and within months it became evident that was my real passion. I bounced around the Shenandoah Valley for 10 years (WUSQ/Winchester, WKCY/Harrisonburg, a host of others). Whether I wanted to or not, I always ended up at a Country station. In 1998, Steve Waters (now doing mornings, WIWF/Charleston, SC) and I worked at sister stations, and I sat in for his news guy a couple times. Discovering we had similar senses of humor, we decided we wanted to work together, so we sent out tapes of those few shows. Rob Kelley (then PD of WBUB/Charleston, SC) liked what he heard, so he asked for a scoped tape of the next day's show. Panicked, Steve and I ran into the production room after midnight and, by the time the morning shows got in, we had faked one small market morning show. Based on that bogus aircheck, we got the job doing mornings (with Sheree Bernardee) as "Steve, Sheree & Mudflap" for the renamed Cat Country 107-5 (WNKT/Charleston, SC). We worked together a few years, the morning show was split up over three different stations in the building, and in 2003 I moved on to my present position as OM/PD/mornings at WEGX/Florence, SC (Eagle 92.9).
1) How does one go from the United States Marine Corps to the radio business? And does radio ever make you want to join the Marines again?
While I was at Quantico, there was a small AM Country station just off base (WPWC/Dumfries, VA). I was always interested in radio so I started interning there doing local sports. The station was owned by the Country Music Hall of Fame DJ "Cousin Ray" Woolfenden. And no, I'm proud of my time in the Corps, but radio was a childhood dream, and I've gotten to live it for almost 23 years now.
2) Did you grow up listening to Country music or what were you listening to when you were younger?
Oh, no. As a kid on Long Island I would listen to the Top 40 stations out of NYC or Rock on WBAB. When I moved to the Adirondacks, there WERE no Country stations within earshot, just Rock stations from Albany and Montreal. I grew up on Rock and Roll, and in fact had a rather low opinion of Country music until any chance of continued employment demanded I learn it, love it, live it. Garth was just breaking, and I soaked up all the current stuff, then worked my way backwards all the way to Hank Sr. And I found out that I loved it.
3) You got your start at WESI/Strasburg, VA and said that sales only lasted a few months but being on air stuck. What do you love so much about being on air?
As a kid, at school dances, I would hang with the DJs rather than try to dance with the girls. I dug introducing people to music I loved and thought they would love, it was always about the music - and then I found out that I could make people laugh and smile by being on the air. No one laughs and smiles when you try to sell them airtime on an elevator music station. So, that made my mind up rather quickly.
4) You have been doing mornings for WEGX since 2003. Can you tell us about any memorable listener calls you have gotten?
Ohhh, yeah. Josh Turner is from this area and GAC brought him back for a "homecoming" special and concert several years back. He joined me on the air that morning, cameras rolling, etc., and for this one, rare occasion, I decided to take calls live. Josh has tons of friends and family here, so I thought it would be great radio/TV. First call: a listener, obviously, tragically injured at some point, speaking so slowly and painfully (but somehow got through first on the studio lines) hits Josh up for 175K for medical expenses. Right out of the chute. How do you respond to that? Or move on? I will say that was the one and only call we took that morning.
5) I know one artist that does really well in the market is Average Joe's Entertainment artist Colt Ford. Why do you think your listeners gravitated toward his music and did they love him right away?
I'll tell anyone that will listen that Colt's music hits the young Country male listener (and many females) dead-center. It's Hank Jr. meets Kid Rock; it's what they already listened to before they knew who Colt Ford was. Pull up next to any 20-something kid in a 4x4 and what's thumping out of those huge speakers? Could be Jason Aldean, could be Eminem, probably both back to back. Colt takes that and boils it down to something that still comes across as genuine. We have a huge signal and we're right on I-95, and I still regularly get emails from people that drive through our signal asking about 'that Country Rap song" we played a week prior. Think about that for a second. They go all the way home, look my station up on the net, email me, all about a song they heard days earlier. What other artist, what other song, inspires that? And it happens here regularly, because we've been playing Colt's music for three years. Plus, he sells out every time he plays here, from rooms that hold 400 to huge outdoor events that bring in thousands. He's a rock star here. Plain and simple. Oh, there were only a very few complaints early on, and none since. I'm hoping Jason Aldean will release Colt's "Dirt Road Anthem" and it hits huge, so perhaps Colt himself will gain a little more mainstream acceptance. I'm looking at you, programmers!
6) You have the distinct pleasure of being able to pick all your own music locally. Are there any other artists that are working for WEGX that you think aren't getting enough credit nationally?
Maybe not artists, exactly, but we have definitely had songs that worked here that perhaps didn't work elsewhere. We'll play songs other stations don't even know exist or they get to much later than we do. I'll give one example: "You Can Thank Dixie", by Jake Owen with Randy Owen, a couple years back from Jake's debut CD. We played that like a single release and people here LOVED it. I'm always on the lookout for hidden gems that will separate Eagle 92.9 from other Country outlets. I'll get some weird looks sometimes, but there's no confusing Eagle 92.9 with the other Country stations in the region.
7) Tell us about the best or worst promotion that you have ever been apart of.
Billboards with my face on them. What were they thinking? Thank God I have a really attractive morning show partner (Tessa, take a bow!). Oh, and at a previous radio station, we were at a large outdoor festival when someone sent our newsgirl up in a cherry picker high above the crowd to drop down prizes. Great idea, until you realize the prizes were CD six-packs - six CDs wrapped tight in packing tape. People were excited until they started running for cover as these things rocketed to the ground, exploding and throwing shrapnel everywhere. What, we had no turkeys to drop out of helicopters?
8) What do you view as the most important issue facing radio stations today?
How long have you got? There is no talent pool being developed to carry the industry into the next 25 years. Staffing is radically cut while we are asked to maintain our market share in the face of rapidly increasing demands for a slice of the pie: music from the internet, satellite, smartphones, etc. The castle is surrounded and we have a skeleton crew left to defend radio. The big picture has been abandoned as we tip toe from quarter to quarter, month to month, paycheck to paycheck as an industry.
9) If you could add any one full-time position to your staff, what would it be?
Back-scratcher/foot masseuse or someone to handle promotions/internet or a full-time production director who ONLY handles traffic/production. Take your pick!
10) What is your favorite radio station outside of your market and why?
Let me break this down over time, as all of these had a profound impact on me: As a kid, I loved 99X out of New York in the late '70s - Casey Kasem's Top 40 was appointment listening for me. In high school, CHOM/Montreal and WPYX/Albany, for giving me the Rock and Roll I desperately craved, even though picking up either station took 12 wire hangers and two pounds of tin-foil; in my 20s, WAVA/Washington, home of the Don & Mike Show for introducing me to the concept of amazingly entertaining morning show talent; and at present, you'd never believe me, but I listen to live streams from KBRW/Barrow, AK and Saint FM (St. Helena Island), amongst others. I've always been intrigued by remote places and the people that live there, and through the miracle of the internet, I have found these live streams and others. The difference in - or total lack of - formatics I find either refreshing or stress-inducing, depending on my mood. More regularly, though, WFAN/NY and KHTK/Sacramento - I am a NY sports fan and a Don Geronimo fan, so those are two stations I visit frequently.
1) I know you love playing poker. I won't ask how much you have lost before but what is the most you have ever won?
$4000 in one hand. Every card that came made me sicker and sicker. When I realized I had won the hand I nearly passed out.
2) Do your teenage daughters think their dad being on the radio is cool and are they okay with talking about them on the air?
They like being picked up from school in the station van. Outside of that, they grew up this way and it's just dad's job to them.
3) What is the best meal in Florence?
Wow. Actually, 20 miles north of Florence there's a small place in Latta, SC called Shuler's Barbecue. All you can eat for about 10 bucks, THE best ribs, mac and cheese or chicken bog you will ever eat. (Chicken bog: rice, chicken, spices, and sliced sausage. Pure awesomeness.)