10 Questions with ... Ron Chavis (aka "Rockin' Ron", "The Nighttime Dog")
August 26, 2008
NAME:Ron Chavis (aka "Rockin' Ron", "The Nighttime Dog")TITLE:Host, 'Quiet Storm'STATION:KRNBMARKET:Dallas/Fort WorthCOMPANY:Service BroadcastingBORN:In the basement of US Steel, McKeesport, PARAISED:Along the Monongahela River. And baptized therein
Please outline your career path.
'70s: WQED TV (PBS), WDVE/Pittsburgh. WYDD/Pittsburgh. WKLS/Atlanta.
'80s: City of Pittsburgh TV. Sheridan Broadcasting Network. WAMO/Pittsburgh (through 1992).
'90s: WRRK/Pittsburgh. WBZZ/Pittsburgh.
1997: I founded a Multi-Media Production Group: Chavis/Sterling Media Partners. We develop, create and produce for clients everything from Brochures to Web Design, Audio and Video materials.
2003: I purchased time to create an R&B/Smooth Jazz Show @ WLSW/Connellesville PA.
2006 to Present: KRNB/Dallas.
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
I was recruited from college station WPPJ to do nights at ABC's WDVE in Pittsburgh. The greatest single influence on my early career was Dwight Douglas who taught me radio basics, including, and most precious, the art of "working a mic."
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
I stumbled into radio. My first week at college I bumped into a childhood friend who was working at the school station. I visited there, and it's been Radio ever since.
3) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it?
It would have been impossible to predict in the '70s what radio would be in the '90s and beyond. The whole world changed and radio came along for the ride. I only know that I love what I do ... and that means it beats working.
4) Where do you see yourself and the industry five years from now?
Wherever radio is in five years, I'd love to be still riding the coat-tails of Hymen Childs and Ken Dowe, respectively the primary owner and CEO of Service Broadcasting. These men aren't in the Texas Radio Hall of Fame for nothing. They are radio visionaries and artists. Their genius and focus, combined with my meager talents, have propelled my show (on relatively low-powered KRNB) to as far as #1 in our target 25 to 54 demo, and I remain consistently in the top three. Our sister station, KKDA, is one of very few -ndependents that has consistently hit #1 in 12-plus ratings.
Beyond radio, I've been privileged to perform as a freelance commercial voice here, in Ireland and the U.K. I will expand the "imaging" voice work I'm currently doing for KRNB to other stations around the Western World as well.
5) How you feel about show prep sources, many now available on the Internet?
I'm constantly researching for info on everything from artist information, to poetry (The Quiet Storm is basically a love song show), to urgent, breaking news. Fifteen years ago, I was using an encyclopedia instead of Wikipedia; and the UPI or AP wire instead of Google news stories. Pretty amazing. Also, radio coach Sam Weaver opened up a plethora of accurate, condensed artist information for me when he pointed me to allmusic.com.
6) How do you feel about syndication? Does it affect significantly on the number of hours that you have control over the music that you play?
That sounds like a question for programmers. To my mind, it appears that syndication is today near completely about big names, from Rush Limbaugh to Steve Harvey; so this is clearly a turn, not just away from first-run new talent and music, but a turn completely to hosts with established national name recognition. The major contrast to the heyday of Westwood One is that since "deregulation," big corporate radio is syndicating in-house. The long-term future for music-driven independents is the Internet. I believe we'll see some smart, savvy major players in the next 10 years, as the Web enters cars.
7) Because of voicetracking and syndication, are there going to be not only fewer jobs available, but also fewer people to train the next generation of air personalities and programmers?
Obviously. I emphasize to younger radio artists the importance of getting adept at production, gaining a strong general knowledge of how every department in a radio station operates, becoming adept as voice actors, and learning how to work on-camera. It scares me that some of these (now) kids will hit 40 before they discover they're not in Kansas anymore. And neither is Radio.
8) Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
People skills. When all is said and done, success in a career is definitely about talent, focus and execution. But I know lots of folks thus enabled who are unhappy, unemployed or both. I think Lennon and McCartney got it right: "And in the end, the love we take, is equal to the love we make."
9) How do you account for and what effect do you feel the shifting ratings pattern that is currently happening in the Dallas market? Do you feel there are going to be new challengers from other formats?
The huge shift of recent in Dallas/Fort Worth is, of course, the emergence and rise of some very fine Hispanic stations here. As far as other and forthcoming new challengers, the name of the game, always, is finding a point of need in the market and meeting it. The team that excels prevails.
10) As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
I was offered a job at CD101 New York, in the early '90s. I stayed in Pittsburgh 'cause I was "comfortable." Oops.
What would people who think they know Ron Chavis be surprised to know about you?
How much I care about the people around me.
What's been your biggest disappointment in radio today?
That great talent in newer people is not encouraged or nurtured at most radio organizations. Ironically, a major complaint in the industry is the "shallow talent pool."
Guys: If you're fortunate to have a genuine "announcer" anywhere in house, please have them teach your "air personalities" what the diaphragm in a mic is ... and how it responds to the human voice. Your ratings may well rise!
What's your favorite reading material?
I enjoy read news, blogs and George Noory's web site front page articles daily. An occasional novel. I like film scripts from unknowns.And I don't think there's a finer contemporary poet than Rod McKuen. Radio-wise ... any and every page at kentburkhart.com.
How do you feel about Arbitron's PPM eventually replacing the diary?
I see/ hear lots of justifiable concerns. I understand the change has been and will be wrestled with because of those concerns. Meantime, the reality is ... the change is here. As with any major change, it's only going to be a problem for those who don't know how to or refuse to adapt. The days of passively accepting listeners jumping around the dial are over. At key is turning listeners into LOYAL listeners.
Do you feel that Urban stations should support new artists?
Yes. And there ways of doing so without twisting the format into knots just because the artists are local. For example, incorporating "hot" local acts into station promotional events not only helps a band, but plugs the station into the bands own marketing (websites, posters, stage mentions, etc), and positively impacts the band's sometimes very significant fan base.