10 Questions with ... Redbeard
July 23, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Stations/markets: WFIN-A/ Findlay OH 1971-72;WHMQ/Findlay OH 1972-75; KFMQ/Lincoln NE for a minute in 1975; WCCC/Hartford 1976-78 (all evenings); ROCK 103/Memphis 1978-83 afternoons/MD/PD; KTXQ/Dallas-Ft.Worth 1984-98 afternoons/MD; XM Satellite Radio "Deep Tracks" XM-40 2000-02; first PD/afternoons; KZPS/Dallas 2007-08; In the Studio producer/host 1988-present
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
First job was Sunday morning sign-on, board op only of course, then babysitting the FM automated Drake-Chenault elevator music, changing those big metal reels of "music to perform lobotomies by" and taking hourly transmitter readings. At $1.15/hr, I made a little less than my all-night janitor job out by the interstate, but pretending to DJ in the deserted AM daytimer studios with my personal album collection was more fun. Had to wait until after sundown to pick up WLS and WCFL out Chicago, and occasionally WABC/New York. Larry Lujack was the best Top 40 jock I ever heard, but Ron Brittain's "Subterranean Circus" Sunday late nights on WCFL changed my life.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
Radio was a total fluke for me. No training, no schooling (which must have been painfully obvious to my listeners). Just in the right place at the right time, because "underground" progressive rock was just gaining a toehold on the otherwise vacant FM band, and the focus on bands and music rather than the DJ and technique was perfect for me. My favorite thing in the world was to discover great new music and share it with people who were not being served by Top 40, then Top 30, shrinking playlists, so what better job for me could there possibly be?
3) You held court for most of the '80s and '90s doing Rock Radio in Dallas. Give us some of the special highlights of your years on the radio there.
I must say that landing at ROCK 103/Memphis exactly 35 years ago was the turning point in my career. The "work smarter and never give up" lessons I learned there from Lee Abrams, the late Lee Michaels, and PD Tom Owens (not the Clear Channel veep) are time-tested truisms that I still use to this day. ROCK 103 Memphis under my leadership was #1 persons 12+ Mon-Sun 6a-midnight three times between 1980-83, with a 14.2 share. That's not a typo! We set and then broke new revenue records every year during my tenure.
In February 1984, Tom "Q" Owens at Q102 Dallas/Ft.Worth hired me again to replicate our Memphis success. Within a year we beat our direct-format competitor, and within three years the "heritage" competitor was driven out of the format. That run of success with Clint Culp managing is the stuff of legend, working briefly with Ted Utz, then almost 15 years with my dear friend Andy Lockridge. I never needed an agent at Q102 to negotiate contracts on my behalf because Andy and Clint were such fine fair-minded managers and honorable, loyal people.
4) You moved over to XM in 2001. How long were you there and tell us about the transition from terrestrial to satellite radio?
The XM Satellite Radio experience was the most intense, exhilarating two years of my career. Believe me, you haven't really lived until you watch a live television launch of your transmitter 22,500 miles into space by a rocket floating in the Pacific! I am so proud to be among the initial "Unfrozen Chosen," the original "Dirty Dozen" programmers that Lee Abrams and Dave Logan hired to pioneer this effort in an impressive talent pool that eventually grew to almost 300. With his famous de-programming "boot camps" (I still have my metal dog tags with our slogan "AFDI" stamped into them ), Lee kept us all off the air while they de-conditioned us from the many clichés and constipated conventional wisdom which had been enslaving our creativity.
5) You made a return to terrestrial radio doing afternoons at the old Lone Star 92.5. When did that happen and how long were you there?
The KZPS/Dallas "Lone Star 92.5" Americana experiment was very short-lived and probably doomed from the start. Seen by corporate programmers as an insurrection, it was treated like a McDonald's franchise that had gone rogue and starting serving Texas barbeque. I was asked to do only afternoon personality, with zero input on concept or execution. Nice try, but "close" only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, so after nine months they bought out my contract and put a stake through the format's heart a few weeks later. I'm pleased to report good healthy ratings at KZPS now.
6) Congratulations on 25 years of In The Studio. Tell us about how that show came about and how you got involved?
Album Network Pres. Stephen R. Smith (a native Texan who was the first PD of KLBJ/Austin when the owner's initials actually were "LBJ," as in POTUS!) was keen to add a weekly long-form rock interview show to his fledgling syndication company. Steve really took a chance on me as producer/host of In the Studio because, as he pointed out, "all of the nationally syndicated shows are hosted by DJs in New York City or Los Angeles." We launched in June 1988 with 60 of the biggest markets in America; within six months that number had grown to 95 of the Top 100; and peaked at 180 market affiliates. In the Studio continues today after 1,310 consecutive weeks (that's 175 in dog years!).
7) You've had the pleasure of interviewing almost every major rock star over the past 25 plus years. What were some of your special interviews and why?
That first dozen featured albums and guests were crucial in establishing In the Studio's targeting and consistency: David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash for their debut; Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull for Aqualung; Gary Rossington and Ed King for Pronounced Lynyrd Skynyrd; The Yes Album with Jon Anderson, Chris Squire and Tony Kaye; Rod Stewart for Every Picture Tells a Story; the late Ray Manzarek at his kitchen table opening The Doors; David Gilmour and Roger Waters exploring The Dark Side of the Moon; Ian Gillan and Roger Glover for Deep Purple's Machine Head; Tom Petty for the Heartbreakers' Damn the Torpedoes.
8) Why do you think the show has been able to maintain its longevity and success?
Certainly the biggest key to In the Studio's 25 years of success is the premise upon which all 1,300 episodes are based: it's the first-person account by the rock star musicians themselves revealing how they made the most popular, most influential, most enduring rock music of the last 50 years. In the Studio with Redbeard is as close to the flame of the creative process as you can get, unfiltered by critics or DJs or self-appointed "experts." By first identifying the timeless rock music that makes up the soundtrack to your life, it allows these rockumentaries to be surprisingly evergreen, and by insisting on one-on-one in-depth interviews with the biggest rock personalities on the planet, we can deliver serious rock journalism for fans who love gaining new insights into their favorite rock bands and songs.
9) When the show started in 1988, the Internet and social media were nowhere as prevalent as they are now. How has In The Studio adapted to the changing Internet and social media world we now live in?
When In the Studio debuted on compact disc for affiliates, it was a real tech marvel, but the Internet, digital downloads, social media, and palm-sized computer smartphones were still a decade into the future. I must credit music promotion veteran Mark Fischer (IDJ VP/Promotion, McGathy Entertainment, Atlantic Records) with seeing the intrinsic value in the vast ITS content, and gently but firmly taking me kicking and screaming into the 21st century with new media and new markets. We had fans in 112 countries listen to In the Studio interviews just last week at www.inthestudio.net . Hundreds of concertgoers every night buy my interviews with Peter Frampton, Simple Minds, and Bad Company right there at the tour T-shirt booth on their way out the door. Listen to In the Studio with Redbeard anywhere in the world on British Airways in-flight entertainment channel (with a million passengers a month and a captive audience for 4-22 hours, that's serious cume plus TSL).
10) Okay, you knew I had to ask, what are YOUR Top 5 personal favorite In The Studio albums?
You are kidding, right?
Are there any Rock Stars you'd like to interview that you haven't had a chance to and why?
That's easy: Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello. Through a third-party opportunity with the BBC, I was able to take Van Morrison of my to-do list. Van was worth the wait, brutally frank and honest. He's the real enchilada.
What do you like to do to relax when you're not in your In The Studio interview mode?
I love music so I collect rather obsessively. I love audiophile quality electronics and am a stickler for fidelity, and am systematically building up a library of 5.1 SACD and DVD-Audio surround favorites. I collect Corvettes and a couple of muscle cars, and I'm a ranch hand for my wife's herd of eight horses on our ranch outside of Dallas.