Hollywood Hamilton & Stacey Brady Save New Orleans!
January 27, 2015
Just 7 days after being fired from WEZB New Orleans as PD at the end of 1999, the man who took my job, Jeff Scott, called.
I wasn't bitter about losing my job. In 1991, Jesus had changed my life by truly encompassing my heart; and also giving me a sense of true purpose that God had a plan for my life, so eight years later, being fired was small potatoes to what I knew God had planned. See Jeremiah 29:11
So, when Jeff called, we exchanged pleasantries, then he said, "Hey, would you be free to join me for lunch?"
Less than an hour later, we met at PF Chang's in Metairie, Louisiana.
Jeff didn't mince words. "I have to tell you, in all of my career," he said, "I have NEVER walked into a radio station that is run as well as this one." And with that, he thanked me.
You Could Have Knocked Me Down With A Feather
It was amazing to hear kind words of the job I had done for eighteen months at WEZB, before Entercom swooped in, bought the property from Sinclair and showed me the door.
Jeff said, "We did a market analysis that told us this station was a mess, but the one I walked into and the one we see on paper don't match."
He kept the compliments coming. "Each employee knows their role and continues to do their job, without guidance or waiting to be prompted."
"The marketing and promotions are stellar."
That part was definitely true. We did have an amazing staff, and that was NEVER more apparent than when we'd be ANYWHERE in public. There truly wasn't a radio station that could touch our street game; but a great street tactic with music that is off base will NEVER allow you to see the fruits of your labor.
Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pulled Me Back In
And with that, Jeff Scott asked if I would consider coming back to B97 in some capacity. I was honored. I knew I wasn't staying in New Orleans, but I didn't have a job yet, so I offered my services until I found my next gig.
Jeff put me back on the air at B97, in afternoon drive. I still went by "The Ragman" on air in those days. It was a fun dynamic, as Jeff would just walk in while the mic was on.
One time, he was excited that he just got some Backstreet Boys tickets for us to give away, and during a break, he said, "Why don't you give these away?"
I responded on-air, "My new boss, Jeff Scott, just came in and handed me tickets for the Backstreet Boys," and then I addressed Jeff, "It'll take more than a pair of tickets to make up for what you did, you know, taking my job and all."
Still live, Jeff comes back into the room and says, "FINE, Give them all away."
No TAKE TWO Needed
He leaves me an envelope with a bunch of tickets in it and walks out the door. None of that was planned. It was just the result of mutual respect and now, TRUST.
This would have never been possible, however, if Hollywood Hamilton didn't call me or email me, every time a new listener from B97 would leave them a message about his syndicated weekend Rhythm Countdown.
Although I was misguided in my pop presentation for a New Orleans Top 40, I did put Hollywood on the air there, and it was that fact that saved face for me in my programming debacle that was WEZB.
The sale had gone through where Entercom swallowed Sinclair and there were weeks of downtime where I had no managers, as we just waited for Entercom to come in and tell us if we were good to keep going or not.
Because I wasn't able to get the station better than a half share improvement in my eighteen-month reign, I had called upon an employee who, when I had taken over, I had stripped of MD duties, Stacey Brady.
Tom, NOT THE ONLY Brady With Super Powers
But what I learned in the first month of running the station was that Stacey Brady was extremely smart, and more important than that, outrageously humble.
As I relagated Stacey to overnights, she took on the role with pride and when I'd listen at 2am, I heard sass, commitment and most impressively; real content.
Stacey didn't remain in overnights long. Her wit earned her a deserved spot on the morning show pretty early on, and from there, she became my go-to for anything New Orleans, since it was the city she loved and knew since her parents conceived her. THOSE details will not be part of this story, but we're glad they did it.
Knowing the station wasn't succeeding, I had invited Stacey out for an early morning, weekend brunch near where we both had lived in Harahan. I was telling her of the comments that our listeners were giving Hollywood Hamilton, emphasizing that they were responding to his show with greater passion than our regular programming.
Then, I shared the advice I had blown off from Industry notables; Mike Donovan, Don London, Dave Universal, Kim Stephens and others who tenderly tried to influence me to go in a more Rhythmic direction.
Why You Should Douse Yourself in Your Markets' History
And Stacey said, "New Orleans has always been a Rhythm market," and shared how B97 had gone away from that direction long before I had gotten there, and how it had gone through a series of changes, being one thing for a couple of months, including a talk station, and then another thing for a couple more, then changing back, etc.
Her instincts were that if we went in a Rhythmic direction, we would see the station starting to show signs of growth for the first time in many years.
I had nothing to lose, and there, over bacon and eggs, Stacey and I began to discuss a vision for the new B97.
Two days later, our MD J. Love had the music ready for launch, and we went for it. Immediately, you could just hear that THIS WAS NEW ORLEANS.
Six weeks later, Entercom took over and I was let go, in favor of new PD Jeff Scott.
Saving Face, Even Though It's A Face For Radio
So, truth be told, when Entercom did their research, the station was off track, but by the time they took over, it was closer to being on-track, and when that first book came out in mid-January, the fruit began to show as we had broken the 4 share ceiling with a 4.6, which was three shares less than what would come when the next book came out that April.
If it wasn't for Hollywood Hamilton's vision of where the format was still going, and Stacey Brady's confidence in the results, I would have never heard from Jeff Scott, and my time at WEZB would have been that time that I would question whether or not it should even go on the resume.
It's still on there, btw.