10 Questions with ... DC
July 12, 2016
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
I was 15. I don't know how it worked but I faked an aircheck and found a guy that "kinda" sounded like me, interviewed with the PD and was hired on the spot at WFFX (now WBHJ/Birmingham, AL). My brother Rick (who later became the Steve & DC syndication director for years) had to drive me to my interview, is still in shock that I got hired that way. It's been 27 years and I don't think my brother, who was waiting outside, can believe I got the job. I grew up in Nashville and Richmond listening to Gerry House and Coyote McCloud in Nashville, and I loved it. I was also heavily influenced by WRVQ (Q94) in Richmond with Corey Deitz and Garret Chester, John King in the afternoon (the first radio guy who let me observe in the Q94 studios) and Flowin' Mike Rivers at night. The impact they had on me changed my life. I just knew that was what I wanted to do! Radio has something that Film, TV, Literature just can't come close to. Radio is a special medium and I fell in love with it.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
Coyote McCloud in the morning, on the Michael St John-programmed Kix 104/Nashville grabbed my attention at seven years old. I listened to that station 24/7 and I knew I had to be on the radio. I loved Coyote McCloud! They did the coolest promotion with a candy apple red Camaro and a side of beef in the trunk that had my friends, teachers, parents and brothers in Nashville all talking about it. That's what I call a good promotion! I will never forget that.
3) You actually started doing mornings in St. Louis back in 1991 as part of the Steve & DC show when you were only 17. Tell us about that awesome beginning to your morning radio career.
I met Steve at WZBQ/Tuscaloosa in 1989 and we started doing mornings, got hired by Marc Chase and Chris Murray in Birmingham on Kix 106.5 (right after the Mason Dixon era) and Mark Todd at WKBQ/St. Louis was interested in meeting with us. We also had an offer from Marc Chase to do the WFLZ/Tampa morning show and WHYT/Detroit with Rick Gillette. It was really overwhelming for a 17-year-old! I was a punk kid who chose St. Louis because Tampa and Detroit DARED to ask for six songs an hour! Mark Todd wanted our act as is from day one. I know, probably not the smartest thing. I should have weighed other factors. I was just thinking "seriously? I can't believe they are letting a teenager do the morning show, goof off for four hours and I get paid?" Mark Todd hadn't informed the current morning guy about our hiring, so he told the staff we were college interns writing a paper on radio. I wasn't even old enough to be in college! The staff told us later they didn't buy it. How many students writing papers come in teams and finish each other's sentences? Yeah, exactly.
4) This August will mark your 25th anniversary in St Louis waking up listeners, which was recently chronicled in the local papers as the youngest morning host in a Top-20 market. Congrats on that achievement. How does it feel?
Amazing and it is the definition of what a blessing is. I remember Jeff and Jer speaking to a morning show convention about "marrying a market" and that's what we wanted to do with St. Louis, and St. Louis said yes! I think they got ripped off on the engagement ring, but the honeymoon is still going strong. I didn't realize it was 25 years until I was contacted by a journalist with the St. Louis Post, so I have nothing to complain about. The people of St. Louis radio and the folks who have listened for so many years are first class in every way. I'm so tired of always hearing about St. Louisans being "slow to change" but I think it's a loyalty trait that is a very positive thing if you have a relationship with the listening audience in this market. They don't want to see a personality who makes their day better suddenly disappear from the dial or digital device in 2016, for that matter. I can count on one hand the negative encounters I've had in St. Louis with the fans or radio community.
5) How long have you been doing mornings for KFNS (100.7 The Viper) and how did this opportunity come about?
June of 2013 was when I started here. The afternoon host then, and still, Jim "Fish" Fishback, contacted me about the job and told me that they were doing something different that sounded fun. Fish was the overnight guy at WKBQ back in 1992 when Steve and I were doing mornings and has been one of the best friends I've ever known. He is one of the best human beings in the world and as creatively talented as anyone I've ever seen in this business. I always tell people that the best thing about any success I have been blessed with is the people I've gotten close to, and I have been fortunate enough to watch and learn from the best this business has to - offer. Fish told the powers-that-be here they should give me a shot at doing a little radio show and they fell for whatever he told them. Everyone trusts Fish, but they don't know he's got a sick sense of humor!
6) Describe a typical morning show for you. a) What is the process? b) How much show prep do you do and what are some of the key benchmarks of your show?
We have a great mix of experience and raw on our show. I love it. Every minute of my day is prep. I always have an outline at 6a and a stack of stuff. I'm joined by four extremely talented people who are willing to let me chart a course and back me up when I get us hopelessly lost. Chris Knight has been around radio since the early '90s and was in artist management. He knows everyone in the Rock format. Chris is like the old joke about the Pope. As the joke goes, Chris and the Pope are standing side by side at the Vatican and people in the crowd are saying "Okay, I know who that guy is, but who's that dude standing next to Chris Knight?" It's a huge advantage when you have a guy like that on your side. Eric Johnson is a huge talent, and also a home run with a rock audience. He played guitar with Bad Company and Shooting Star and has great stories about the core artists in our format. He has lived every guy's dream! Rock star with chicks doing anything to get on the tour bus. Chris "Zav" Razavi is the sports guy and cohost who's really my right hand/Executive Producer when it comes to what is needed to do a show like ours. And Bobby is a great guy who stutters when he gets nervous, but the great thing is he only gets nervous when he has to say something on the air. The listeners love Bobby because he's the average core guy who the average guy can relate.
I struggle with my use of every single moment of my life as "show prep." Occasionally, my family gets a little tired of hearing our lives on the radio but I have the best support any "morning guy" could ask for. The stack of stuff I have planned for the show rarely gets done, because of the intensity of interaction between my co-hosts and the listeners. It's so different in 2016 vs. 1996. Texting, social media and still the phone believe it or not, can take us in a different direction in mid-sentence. And our audience is really freaking funny. I'm really in love with it.
7) How much music, if any, do you play in the morning on KFNS?
Two-three songs an hour, unless all hell breaks loose, which happens about three out of five days. We have had some shows without a song from 610.
8) Tell us some of the best morning show moments during your 25 years doing wake up duties in St. Louis.
Wow. It's just so difficult to narrow it down. Now, the vast majority of what we do is like a bunch of 4th graders with a transmitter. So juvenile and silly but pretty damn funny. But I still come back to the connection we have with our listeners that isn't found in any other medium. Like December a few years back and there's breaking news about a family of seven in a horrific accident with both parents killed instantly. Five children and no mom and dad days before Xmas. We didn't know what we could do. We reacted like anyone would but in less than three hours our lobby was full, floor to ceiling, with enough gifts for 50 kids. The aunt and uncle were so taken by what people were doing. So many moments. I'm so taken with how people are thinking of us in the moments that change your life forever. We're an Active Rock show with tough macho men (play along please) and just three weeks ago we had a mom and dad in studio after their daughter was relentlessly bullied, took her own life and the family listened every day. I cried with that mom openly and honestly live on the air as she told the story of the last 30 minutes she had with her 13-year-old daughter. But so did our listeners. They told me that in hundreds of text messages and tweets. I might forget about we pranked Slash as Axl Rose, and the more angry Slash got the funnier the bit was! But I don't think I will ever forget that mother and that moment.
9) How active with social media like Facebook and Twitter are you with your morning show?
Well, like we talked about earlier, the interaction with the listener in 2016 is so different now and way more intimate. If I am awake, I'm interacting with my reach on social media. And I don't think it's a one-way street. I get involved in their lives and like their stuff and comment etc. I'm told by our listeners frequently on social media that's what separates me from other hosts in the area. The fact that I'm really interacting with them. And it breeds fans, P1s, loyalty and listeners who Lord willing, turn up the volume while listening to your show so the PPM decodes you loud and clear even without a Voltair! Seriously, I'm convinced the biggest adjustment for many long time morning hosts is understanding you can't do your four hours and wait for Saturday 11-1, in two weeks, at your client "Ken Anthony Chevrolet" in downtown Pascagoula to truly interact with your listeners. The battle is won or lost on your iPhone 6/Galaxy S7 24/7.
10) Finally, I understand the crew members of Active Rock KFNS signed a deal with a film/TV producer for a firstofitskind unscripted comedy/drama to begin shooting in early August in the studios of KFNS. How did this all come about?
It's so crazy how it came about because it all began in 2005 when Steve Shannon and I were partners. I was asked to be a part of a two hour reality special on Discovery Channel called "Red State/Blue State." In 2013, one of the producers contacted me and I pitched an idea that I've never seen on television before. I had our afternoon guy, Fish, along for the meeting. So this veteran of TV/film said she wanted to take the idea back to her bosses in LA. It's been three years of meetings with TV/film production companies and individuals from A&E, HBO, Fox and Discovery. I had a bit of an argument with the A&E network rep who said, "I've been pitched a thousand radio reality shows before. Nobody cares about radio anymore." I took a deep breath and fought the impulse to kill him by stuffing the large folded napkin in front of me down his throat. I told him this show is about a group of characters who are extremely fascinating, eccentric, quirky, neurotic, demented, bizarre yet extremely likable people. And they just happen to all work at the same place ... a radio station.
Now, it's actually going to happen. Is it good for our industry? Yeah it's a great commercial for radio and it might make radio cool to the millennials. We shoot for 10 days straight starting August 11th. The show runner is this incredible lady from St. Louis currently working on "Empire" on Fox. The guy who will make it all look great and edit it has an amazing resume and did work on "The Avengers," "Star Trek Into Darkness," "Captain America: Winter Soldier" and "XMen: Days Of Future Past" to name a few. The people we're in business with are first class and hired talented people in the film and television industry to do this right. I just feel blessed to have the opportunity and it be this much fun! I can't give it all away but it is not the typical reality show. It's funny as hell. America will be stunned when they see it. It's not set in New York, L.A. or a Miami type city, it's in Missouri. That's certainly different. Each episode will start with a few minutes shot in studio from our morning show. The story unfolds from that point, and can possibly weave into middays with Thom West (formerly of KPNT afternoons), Fish & The Freak Show in the afternoon and to Cat our night guy. Every staffer, from sales to front office and all of our families are also in the show. Even listeners will be part of the cast and I know that will shock folks! I have never seen a bond with the audience of a station be as strong as this one. I believe it's the secret of why we're resonating and why we're successful. It's the perfect marriage of doing radio from when it was so much fun and adapting that to a PPM, smartphone, digital society. St. Louis is responding to it and they really are loyal and passionate about it! How many stations can say that today? It's a credit to the vision of our ownership group and Chris & Tracey Blevins to have the balls to do something different and then stand behind it. That's pretty rare in 2016.