10 Questions with ... Anthony "Big Ant" Simmons
July 2, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- I started in Normandale-Bloomington, MN as a Theatre Major,
- Brown Institute Minneapolis MN - Intern
- WRNB/Minneapolis - and intern for the following stations: KDWB, KMOJ, KTTB
1) Where and what was your first job in radio?
First gig was with Pete Rhodes in Minneapolis on WRNB cable FM. Brown had a placement program, but being a very large and, at times, hairy black man, I didn't think it would be wise to go to some of the places they could send me. Pete was letting us Brownie grads hit the airwaves right out of school in market #16. I was given the choice of making up some town's only minority population or working three other part-time jobs so I could intern for WRNB and be on-air. I chose the latter.
2) What was/were the most influential radio station(s) growing up?
WGCI and WBMX in Oak Park and Chicago! They were two of the greatest stations in the world to me -- and I'm sure to many others! In the mid-'80s, growing up with Tom Joyner, the Fly Jock on GCI, plus Bob Wall in the morning, Bonnie Dushong and then Doug Banks on BMX with the Hot Mix 5 at night, giving birth to House music: "Jack, Jack, Jack My Body" or "Should I listen what you say, or listen to what my folks say? It's a tough decision to make." You had DJs such as Farly, Jack Master Funk, Mickey "Mixin" Oliver, Ralphie Rosario, Kenny Jammin Jason, Scott Smokin Sils, and who can forget Steve Silk Hurly!
Radio was fun back then. Back then the only time you didn't listen to the radio was when you were listening to the tapes you made from the radio. Then BMX flipped to V-103 and they put on the "Quiet Storm with Raymond Anthony" and every dude came to school the next day trying to talk to every girl in their deepest "Raymond Anthony Voice," reading a "Love Letter" with Lenny Williams playing in the background!
3) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it?
In a heartbeat! If folks reading this don't know why, there are not enough words in any language to ever explain.
4) What stations pre-sets are in your car right now?
92.1, 92.3, 102.9, 103.1, (all belong to my WEUP signal) then there's 94.1 WHRP Urban Contemporary, 103.5 WHWT Rhythmic, 104.3 WZYP Top 40 and 100.3 WQRV Classic Hits
5) How you prefer to be promoted on new records? And how do you feel about waiting on a record you hear until the research validates it?
Huntsville, AL is a five-college town. We have the second-largest research drive in America; we have one of the largest army bases in the U.S. In this town, if you're having a conversation with someone and you jokingly ask them, "Who do you think you are, a rocket scientist or something?" ... they most likely are going to say yes, or they're in school to be one ... no matter what color they are.
With all that being said, technology here is booming. They have new music before I do! Gone are the days of radio breaking new music, with mix tapes, iPods, FB, Twitter, YouTube and other social media and file-sharing sites. We're doing well just to keep up. For the Hip-Hop and R&B format, the only way to win is keep your ears and your feet on the streets.
Keep good young people who understand the game around you and most importantly, people who know the market. National research is good, but we're not Atlanta, Chicago, Memphis or Birmingham. I agree that a hit is a hit no matter where you are, but keeping an ear open for those songs that your streets are calling for will set you apart from the rest.
I have to give major props to my MD, D.J. Illie Ill. He knows the market better than anyone and he lives the lifestyle. He keeps in tune with the local sound as well as the national; he is a MAJOR part of our continued success here in Huntsville.
6) What are your thoughts on today's syndication? What would make it better and more effective and does it affect significantly on the number of hours that you have control over the music that you play?
Syndication is a Catch 22; it's saving the bottom line (money), but at the same time it's killing us off slowly. The more stations that go with syndication, that's one less job for an up-and-coming personality. As a PD, I understand the financial difficulties we have had and are having, but we must reinvest in our future, and our future is the personality.
Currently, we have the Rickey Smiley morning show with our on-air live producer LaShay B. Also in the market. The syndicated shows don't score as well in the market against live shows except ours; we're #1 in our demo and I believe it's due largely to our local elements produced and delivered by LaShay B. She's able to connect to the listeners on a local level. She can give them traffic and weather in a very personable manor. She can offer a local connection to the topic that the show is talking about, and with time she can produce interactive bits with Rickey and the Crew to make The Morning Show sound more involved with our day-to-day promotions.
With LaShay there every morning, it gives her credibility when she speaks on behalf of the morning show. And everyday she's there, she's learning more and more each day, just by being a part of good radio show. It shows in her airchecks; she's learning how to deliver a good break on her own, how to smile on a mic while talking about what's relevant and compelling. Now what if we did that for every station with every syndicated daypart ... wow!
7) Because of callout research are today's Urban and Urban AC programmers going to be slower in adding and playing new music? And what is the maximum number of spins a record in power rotation could be expected to receive in a given week on WEUP?
It depends. Research is good, but the streets don't lie. Power rotation is about 50-55 at WEUP.
8) Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
Organization and memory. I will write something down and then forget where I wrote it.
9) How do you account for and what effect do you feel the continuing ratings dominance WEUP has in Huntsville going to have on the market? Do you feel there are going to be new challengers from other formats?
Because of the owners of the radio station (Hundley Batts and Dr. Virginia Caples) and their commitment to creating wealth for the next generation and giving back and just being in general all-around good people, we have been allowed to take our time and create an atmosphere that would best be described as "The people behind the personalities make the team. Empower the people and the team wins."
Everyone has a personality. Most of us have multiple personalities, but it's the people behind the personalities who make up your team. Teach them the basics, the fundamentals of radio, then empower them with their own imagination and creativity, and then the most important part ... listen to them! Listen to their ideas for promotions, remotes, elements ... whatever!
This is what we do at WEUP. We don't have a high turnover and I believe it's because of this. All of the people here are in the streets and our listeners know them. No one passes the buck when it comes to our listeners and if they have a question about WEUP, everyone is empowered to answer it to the best of their knowledge. If they can't, they find out for them.
How do I account for our ratings? Our people behind the personalities. From traffic to sales and promotions to programming, each and every one of us makes up a winning team. As far as challenges go, we always feel that we'll have challenges and the biggest will always be ourselves. It's hard keeping your edges sharp, staying disciplined and focused, always striving to do your best; that's the real challenge on a daily basis. The most important thing we can all do in this game is remain students of radio, of our industry, and always have a thirst for more knowledge. We believe if we continue to do that here at WEUP, we'll be all right.
10) As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
Nope, for the most part I've always done what I wanted to do. When really cool things came my way that I thought were fun, I did them, so I regret nothing, judge no one and keep moving forward
What would people who think they know Big Ant be surprised to know about you?
Nothing really, I'm an open book (did mornings for years, nothing is sacred in the mornings), so everyone knows that I dressed in drag, don't wear underwear, drink like a fish, dated porn stars and strippers while traveling the nation with porn stars and strippers for the world's largest strip club chain, smoked a joint with Tu-pac, DJ'ed on a cruise ship, like chick flicks, musicals and Classic Rock, taught Country line dancing, rolled a truck five times on three different occasion, had more car accidents than I can remember -- none while drunk ... (except one, but I didn't roll it; I jumped it over a four-foot pile of gravel), I've broken my left ankle twice and the right one three times, I secretly want to be the reincarnation of Evel Knievel, and love being a husband and a Dad. Yeah, everybody knows that's stuff. Oh, and I like anchovies on my pizza.
What are your hobbies?
Riding my Harley Davidson Road Glide 105th anniversary edition, #813 out of 1,500 made with my smoking hot wife on the back. I also like making homemade beef jerky
Minnesota Vikings ... nothing else matters!
Do you feel that Urban stations should be more careful not to blindly copy formats but tailor them specifically to the age and racial make-up of their own markets?
Yes, that's why most of us got into radio. We were originals; we were different than the other kids in the class
How important is consistent marketing to a station's overall success?
Nothing's more important ... nothing! And be creative about it, think outside the box. Hell, throw out the box and think about it. Remember, no one twittered until Twitter twitted its first tweet.