10 Questions with ... Larry Steele
January 20, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I got my first job as a dubber at Top 40 WNOX in Knoxville, TN. For all of you that don't know what a dubber is, we had reel to reel back then, I had to dub about 70 commercials a day to cart for the next day. One day the overnight guy didn't show up for work, and I was asked if I wanted to be on-air! Well, I didn't say no, I was a black man and working on a 10,000-watt blowtorch. After two years, I moved on to my first major-market radio station, Top 40 WHBQ/Memphis TN, where life as I knew it would never be the same. It shaped my personality, the attention to detail at WHBQ; it is something I still use today. When I left Memphis, it was on to 96X/Miami, KMJM (Magic 108)/St Louis, WDIA/Memphis (The Steele & Bill Show), V103/Atlanta, I was first African-American to be #1 in morning drive, Kiss 104/Atlanta, Hot 105.7/Montgomery AL, WTMP/Tampa, Jacksonville, FL and a host of other places, the rest is history.
1) Your synopsis did not do justice to your career; could you tell us more about your radio journey?
I've worked with the best on air personalities in the world -- Rick Dees, Dick Edwards, Bob Landry, Paul Mayer at WHBQ -- which set the stage for my career. And I've had the pleasure of working with some elite programmers: John Long, Jerry Clifton, Mark Driscoll, Randy Lane, Scottie Andrews, Steve Weed and J Michael McKay, who helped me definitely stay ahead of the programming curve; I have a proven track record! My forte is taking average radio stations and making them great radio stations; any station that I have programmed changed for the better, and made money. I can't complain my career has been great.
2) What do you love about radio today and what do you think is missing?
Being connected to my audience, it's great to speaking to them every day, engaging listeners on social media. What missing: Not enough good R&B.
3) How does your station differ from your competitors in Tampa?
We are the Urban AC heritage station; WTMP has been here for over 60 years. I can stop the music and address issues about the community, such as the Ferguson issue, or any local issue, some situations dictate communicating with the audience in real time.
4) Would you tell us the differences between Larry Steele today and Larry Steele 20 years ago?
The Larry Steele today is grateful and thankful and appreciative! For the knowledge and opportunities and to still be in the radio industry today. On the other side, the Larry Steele 20 years ago was a little cranky, and crazy, and had a little too much fun! Believe it!
5) We want to hear about every mentor and persons who have meant something to your career and what they contributed, would you share this with us?
Eddie Roy who gave me my first job; Mike Beach for making me get control of the English language; Scott McCloud who told me I could be the best! A living legend, my hero who taught me the art of sounding good on the radio, "It's an art" Thanks! Scottie Andrews who preached morning-drive discipline. Mitch Faulkner, my friend and brother for sharing his production secrets. Linda Fructuoso, who stuck with me through the good and bad times. The Dr. Jerry Boulding, who made sure I learned Arbitron/Nielson. And this guy named Sam Weaver helped along the way, too.
6) Could you give us your opinion on the old school Hip-Hop trend in Urban AC radio?
There is someone who turns 25 years old every day. If you're programming a 25-44 radio station where hip-hop was a part of their culture growing up, there will always be a progression of change with this audience. Urban AC Stations must be cautious and play the hits! Hip-hop is not going anywhere; the Urban AC format is changing again, stations will have to make adjustments. Play the hits make sure you have your sound, tempo, texture are right, balance is also important.
7) Regardless of format, who are your top-three morning shows of all time and why?
John Mason in the morning 105.9/Detroit; this cat is incredible, naturally funny and his mechanics are great! Back in the day, KFRC/San Francisco Dr. Don Rose; the man was crazy, funny as hell, and the execution was always flawless. WHBQ -- Rick Dee's in the morning the master of characters on the radio! I can't leave the Greaseman out. And I wasn't half bad, either. Sorry that's more than three....
8) What advice do you have for those just starting out in broadcasting?
Most young guns in this new age of radio want instant success without learning the basics, which are many. Six months to a year on the air does not mean you have arrived. Stay put and get your act together; don't be your own worst enemy, this is a business first, fun second; relax, your PD will tell you when to move on. Maturity will make you better for the next job.
9) Okay Larry, prediction time, what is the future for Urban radio and radio in general?
We must continue to nurture new talent and PDs, be creative try new ways to captivate your audience. The radio industry faces several challenges from fragmenting audiences, but it remains the dominant audio medium.
10) Would you share a couple of your funnier moments in radio?
I was so nervous my first night on the air at WHBQ; I was screwing up so bad! I broke down and cried on the air, boo-wooing. The next day John Long called me in the office, I just knew I was going to get fired, and he said, "I heard you *@#$ing up last night," he laughed and said now tonight can you sound like that aircheck you brought me? Another one is when Uncle Luke of the 2 Live Crew brought all of his strippers in while I was on the air; In Tampa it was hard to concentrate, really! Bob Marley firing up in the studio at 96X in Miami, during an interview!
What does the future hold for Internet Radio?
Internet radio will be part of your life if not now, later. Smartphones and cars are equipped for the future ... get used to it. SiriusXM Radio is Sirius.
How has radio helped you with other parts of your life?
I'm in the ministry now; it's helped a lot getting the attention of lost souls
What is the most important thing anyone has ever said to you?
- It's more important to have a job, even if it's not the one you want, don't let your ego stand in the way of your stomach.
- Don't burn bridges.