10 Questions with ... Rickey Smiley
August 20, 2013
1) Where and what was your first job in radio? Early influences?
WBHJ (95.7 JAMZ)/Birmingham, AL, the upstart station to I.95.7 JAMZ was my first radio job being a sidekick comedian doing prank phone calls here and there.
2) Since you already had a successful career as a comedian, what led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
I realized it was it for me when I came to 97.9 The Beat in Dallas. That's when I had the opportunity to have my own morning show, do some things my way and to implement some of the things nobody else wanted to do. So it's just been a lot of fun having my own morning show
3) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it?
Yeah, absolutely. Wave changed a lot of lives and helped a lot of people. The main thing in radio is to make sure your motive is straight; don't pimp the station. If you are a radio personality and you are pimping the station, you are just wasting precious air time. The station is not there to help you get club gigs or women. The station is for you to play good music, do community service, and change people lives. Once everybody understands that, we can change the mindset of black America.
4) In addition to being syndicated all over the country and now being featured on television with "Dish Nation," where do you see yourself and the industry five years from now? How do you feel about the current competitive situation with syndicated morning shows?
Hopefully, still here making "Tom and Steve" money. It's a lot of fun. Everybody has their likes; I love being in good competition. Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey have been awesome mentors. We all are "phrat" brothers, so as long as the Qs are running it, it's all good. There's nothing like good competition.
5) How important do you feel music is to a successful, syndicated morning show and how do you personally feel about being asked to wait on a record you hear until the research validates it?
I don't really get into the music too much. I just don't like over-researched PDs who don't go the clubs and don't know what people like. You have some PDs who are not really in the black community, yet choose the music that black people listen to. That can be a problem on the RSMS. We may play a popular song and switch it up; we will go back to the '90s and early 2000s that people generally like. Sometimes you get tired of some songs; then again it depends on the mood of the show, the feel and the flow.
At the same time, we try to make some of the music compatible with what we are talking about, which makes a great show.
What makes a great show means stepping outside of the box. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is to do extra. We are different. I'm not Doug Banks, Tom Joyner or Steve Harvey. We just do things differently; that's why people love our show and that's why we are #1 in all of our affiliate markets -- simply because we are a totally different morning show.
6) There has been some talk from both mainstream press and Wall Street saying radio is in trouble. These observations create an impression that listeners aren't coming to radio and the industry is not building a younger demo base, which translates to problems attracting future listeners. Do you think radio is really in trouble and if so, how do we fix it?
Radio is not in trouble. The Rickey Smiley Morning Show continues to grow. The way we keep it focused is to continue to have people come to radio and bring something interesting. This makes radio interesting again. If we allow people to use their talents and personalities to sell the radio station -- and stop reading liners, it will be fine.
Most programmers are nervous because they don't want anybody to be bigger than the station. The great thing about my show is that people let me be and know that I am going to do my thing! They know I'm going to put together a good show and I have the numbers to back it up. I'm willing to do anything as long as it makes sense. I'm easy to work with; I'm here to serve all the affiliates in all that they need. But you best damn believe we are going to give you a damn good show, whether it's emotional, or political or whether it's just totally hilarious.
7) What were some of the adjustments you had to make from doing mornings on a single station to syndicating your show in many markets across several time zones?
Initially, we had to take the show from 6-10a Central to 5-10a for the East Coast markets. We've done a good job of keeping things moving by playing more music and increasing our laughs per hour! We've also taken our community outreach efforts on a national scale. If something is happening in one of our markets, we cover it.
8) Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
I'd like to improve on being the voice of the community. Everyone, no matter what color they are or how much they make, has the right to be heard and I am on the air to make sure that we're represented well. Radio is the cornerstone of the community and I am here to make sure that our voice is heard!
9) How do you feel the current situation is going to affect future syndicated morning shows? Are air personalities going to be less creative and adventuresome because of the fear of being fired?
I honestly think that people should not be afraid to take risks. I recognize that you should always be respectful of who brought you to the party, but you have to understand that your career can be made or broken off of what you decide to do. Playing it safe all the time may keep you employed, but may not get you to the next level. Fines and research have air personalities shook and it's hurting our business
10) As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
God puts you in situations in order to grow you. There are always missed opportunities, but you shouldn't have regrets because if you had the power to change those passed opportunities, you'd be in a different place than where you are now
What would people who think they know you be surprised to find out about Rickey Smiley?
That I can't function without my Reese's cup and Mountain Dew. But, I've been cutting back on the caffeine lately!
Describe your favorite meal.
I love soul food! Most people don't know that I am a really good cook.
How do you feel about getting involved with community events?
For years, even on a local level, I've been involved with helping in our communities. These events made me realize that above all else, one of my main focuses is to try to take care of the community and fight for civil rights where I can make a difference. There are too many people who died for me to do what I do, and I feel that I owe my community something. I grew up in the cradle of the civil rights movement, and it was incredible being a part of something that was bigger than myself.
Beyond your current show on "Dish Nation," what television reality show could you see yourself appearing on and why?
Honestly, the morning show should have its own reality show. I'm crazy and I have to be surrounded by craziness! Everyone on the show has their own set of issues, but we're a family, so it definitely makes it interesting.