10 Questions with ... Gator Harrison
February 20, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- WSMT Sparta, TN - (Nov 1986 - Dec 1990)
- WYHY Nashville, TN - (Dec 1990 - Feb1996)
- WGSQ Cookeville, TN - (Feb 1996 - Aug 2010)
- WUSY Chattanooga, TN - (Aug 2010 - Present)
1) Your bio says you began your broadcasting career with the phrase, "you want fries with that?" - what was your first job, exactly?
I was a Hardee's Burger Boy, but I soon elevated to Breakfast Manager with a shiny name badge, a terry-cloth tie and everything. I was 15, so at the same time I was sneaking into the hometown radio station where my brother worked to pull a night shift as well. I was completely destroying people's cholesterol count by day and hearing by night.
2) Did you always know you wanted to be in radio? What/who influenced your decision to take that route?
The blame completely falls on my brother Hawk Harrison (WFBC/Greenville, SC). I went to work with him one night, saw what he did and figured, if HE can do it, I can do it. Plus, I really wasn't that good at actual manual labor.
3) The year you scored a Billboard magazine Air Personality of the Year nomination (1996), you were also featured in Seventeen magazine. What was the feature about? Do you still have a copy of the magazine somewhere?
Was it '96? Who remembers 1996? I'm sure it was for Loud Obnoxious Screaming Idiot Punk Kids Who Lucked Into Their Job Cause They Were Willing to Work Cheap - or something like that. I do still have a copy if you're extremely bored and need some bathroom reading.
4) You were a part of the long-running, high-rated and award-winning "Gator & The Styckman" morning show at WGSQ/Cookeville, TN for many years. What were some of your personal highlights from that time in your career?
I would be a friggin' liar if I didn't say the awards and industry recognition weren't unbelievably mind blowing for a small town Sparta boy working in Market 257. But, tapping into my inner Oprah, and being perfectly honest, the real personal highlight was getting to wake up every morning, work with my best friend and share my life on-air with the people who had helped me grow into the man God created me to be. It was a completely satisfying time.
5) What are some goals you hope to accomplish as the new Operations Manager at Clear Channel/Chattanooga?
To NOT be the one to tarnish "The Shield" at US-101. There's a rich heritage that I now get to be apart of and help guide through the most uncertain of times in our fast, ever-changing industry. That's just as much true for 103-7 KISS FM, Rock 105.5 and MY 98-1. We have a building full of both veterans and kids. If it's directed correctly, it's a perfect atmosphere to work together, learn from each other and create some truly unique radio. I'm extremely excited about the future of these stations.
6) What do you like most about living in Chattanooga? Has your beautiful wife Tennille and daughter Roman been able to join you yet?
I guess I would have to say, my office, Selector screen and iPhone, 'cause that's pretty much all I've seen for the past five months. Seriously, it's 96.5 miles from home, so it's not a hard adjustment at all. The people are just as sweet and passionate. Chattanooga continues to grow a very unique downtown experience that's only a couple of minutes from God's most beautiful mountains and streams. And I hear you get a purty good deal on a Volkswagon. What's not to like? Missing my girls and being away from them has been the most difficult thing I've ever had to walk through. I'm nothing without Tennille and Roman and not hearing "Daddy's home!!!" at the end of every day SUCKS. There's no other way to say it. Praise God, we just got a contract on our house in Cookeville so they should be here with me by mid-March.
7) Besides radio, what are you most passionate about?
God, family and Country, in that order. God first has been my life mantra since 1995. I had a JC encounter one night looking into a mirror. I saw for the first time, through God's eyes, how I was breaking His heart and how He had created me for a greater purpose. Not a greater position in life, but a greater purpose, a clearer focus. My life has been and will always be focused on HIS greater purpose for my life.
8) What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Don't pick your nose driving over speed bumps. (Kidding!) Professionally it was Clay Hunnicutt and Marc Chase who told A LOT of us. We're not Programmers, we're Listener Advocates; we're not Operations Managers, we're firemen. Personally, I love 1 Corinthians 13:7 - "Beareth ALL things, believeth ALL things, hopeth ALL things, endureth ALL things."
9) Who are some artists you'd like to see break out in 2011?
It depends on your definition of "break out" - but I'll go for some of the lesser known and less obvious. I'm a BIG fan of Randy Montana. "1,000 Faces" is an incredible record and you're an idiot if you don't play it. Also listen later in the year for "Burn These Matches." Brilliant. Craig Campbell is another solid writer and artist I'm looking for in 2011. I love to "Fish." I love Steve Holy's "Love Don't Run." I think that's a break-out hit record if not artist. Others I'm rooting for are Ashton Shepherd, Josh Kelley and Troy Olsen.
10) Where do you see the industry and yourself five years from now?
Myself? Probably back as a Hardee's Burger Boy. Seriously, I see myself here in Chattanooga. This wasn't a career decision, it was a life decision. The industry? I'm not sure anyone really has the answer to that. I can certainly tell you I'm not one of the doom and gloomers. Radio is vibrant and healthy. Like everyone else and all businesses, we have to revisit our business model to adapt to a changing society and industry. But radio IS and WILL BE alive, not because of technology, but connection. No other medium connects on a personal level like radio. If we can maintain the connection, we maintain our relevance.
1) What do you like to do for fun when you aren't working?
Program radio stations - there's no greater fun. But they'll only let me oversee 4 right now, so - I love to play everything from guitar to basketball. If it's competition, I want in and I want to win. I love movie nights with the family. And there's nothing more fun than playing Barbies while watching SpongeBob with my 4-year-old daughter Roman.
2) What was the first concert you ever attended?
The Jacksons' VICTORY Tour in Knoxville with my mom. Thanks Mom, that was extremely cool of you. My passion for Country came (like most of today's Country programmers) after the Garth World Tour show. I went because I was bored and wanted to do something. I left the show blown away and with a newly purchased "Garth World Tour" jacket. I'm in radio. Radio guys DO NOT buy friggin' tour jackets. He was THAT GOOD.
3) First record you ever bought?
I walked into the Cookeville Mall Sound Shop (like I had seen my older brother do thousands of times), walked up to the cool guy with the hairy chest and the gold chain working the register and said, "Get me the Michael Jackson 'Rock With You' single." It was 1979, so I would've been 8. I took it home and played it on my Fonzie record player. It was a great day and a great record. I still have it.