Most people miss their careers well after they’ve long retired. So why am I sitting back being so nostalgic about mine?
I know for a fact that I’ll be working at the very least another three and a half years. I have a contract that says so and there’s plenty of proof that I can go on well past that. Howard Stern, Bob and Tom, Kevin and Bean, Johnboy and Billy and many others have all been at it longer than I/we (Lex and Terry) have and are a little older in age too.
A lot has changed over the years. There were the “radio fights” with shows like Bubba the Love Sponge whom I am now friendly with. In fact, the state of the industry has brought everybody who is on the air closer together. The uncertainty has united us. We now talk to one another on a regular basis. We theorize. We hope. We pray. We gain inspiration when someone has a success story thinking that just maybe we will be next.
Competition was fierce. The bigger our platform grew the more people took shots at us. Including Howard Stern and O & A, not to mention all the shows in every city who felt threatened by us. You didn’t need coffee to get your blood pumping when you had people trying to disrupt your show on a daily basis. I don’t necessarily miss these manifested exchanges, I really just wanted to do my best show. But I have to admit, it was fun knowing when you got under their skin. I just miss the competition. We still have that killer instinct, but you need to channel it in different ways now. To compete at a high level you need to get creative and find new ways to fire yourself up. For the moment the unpredictability of my future works just fine. I study hard. I take notes on others successes and failures and try to arm myself with as much knowledge as possible.
We’ve have had to do like everybody else in the industry and get by with much less. Program Directors used to sit with us after shows giving support and help you bring some of the crazy ideas to life. The results were people talking about us on the streets, which led to picking up new listeners who became invested in the radio station and it’s sponsors. Now sports or just a few reality shows are the only thing that bring people to the water cooler anymore. People used to watch a TV show as a nation and discuss it the following morning. Radio still has the ability to do that. I have the ability to do that. The ideas haven’t dried up. The company support has. Now there are overworked executives in charge of way too many markets. They don’t have the time to invest in talent and especially the listeners. I’m sure they’re frustrated as well.
This has always been a business built on relationships. You could always find a shoulder to cry on or someone to go into a meeting and fight for you. But now the few people who are left that can make decisions are just as frightened as I am. It’s safer not to fight. In fact they seem to get rewarded for it. It’s hard for me to stomach that one executives decision can now effect your livelihood, dash years of hard work and kill your dreams. In the case of Lex and Terry, people we’ve never met are going off preconceived notions on who you were ten years ago. They simply don’t have time to make up their own minds about your product. Saying no never gets you in trouble. Saying yes puts your neck on the line and who has time for that?
Before Lex and Terry I actually got out of radio to pursue a career in acting and stand-up comedy. I enjoyed some success, but I never felt more at home and happier then when I got back into the business. This is what I do and I’m just now getting good. I’m finally not trying to be someone else.
I believe that radio made me a better man. I have enjoyed some material success which brought about it’s own set of lessons. I’ve remained married while my ego got blown up and deflated many times over. I have learned that I love this business so much and I’ll do anything within my power to keep living my dream.
The best part is that I’m still learning. One of the greatest things that has ever happened to me was Larry Gifford offering me a weekend shift at KIRO FM in Seattle. While continuing my weekday morning show, I quietly went about my business there being scared shitless to do a solo broadcast. It was there that I developed a whole new work ethic. I learned how to really prepare for a show and I got to watch how other professionals did theirs. I was challenged to be creative, topical and to find my voice. That year and a half experience was like a continued education course, one that gave me my doctorate in broadcasting. I only quit because my wife wanted to see me on weekends. It was a great experience. I’m not sure if I was what KIRO needed, but KIRO was exactly what I needed. I now have even more passion to make the Lex and Terry show the best it can be not everyday, but every segment.
The industry and my agent Paul Anderson like to say, “Content is king!” Really? We’re dying to create. So much so that a majority of us do podcasts now just for the privilege of doing so. I have met and got to work with some super talented people. There’s Rick Lewis whom I’ve been great friends with well before either of us got into the business. My agent Paul Anderson and Steve Stockman who lie to me and tell me that everything is going to be ok. They have helped us brand and focus on doing the best show possible. Andy Denemark and Jim Higgins and the other great people at United Stations who see value in what we do. The late Andrew Reimer who hired a guy to do mornings for the first time knowing there would be moments of failure, you talk about balls. That wouldn’t happen in today’s world. There’s the always motivating Roger Mayer and Russ Mottla from the KTYD days. Drew Hilles, who to this day believes and supports me and is helping guide me through what the next possibilities may be. The entire KTYD staff who were the most talented and inspirational group of people I have ever met. The friendships from the Santa Barbara days still remain. There’s Pierre Bouvard who singlehandedly saved my job and used his research to fight for me. I think about that a lot. David Moore who was the most energetic and focused PD I have ever worked with and the entire city of Jacksonville who cheered us on and still supports the show even though we’re no longer on there (We were #1 in PPM when our station was recently sold and we still can’t find a home. Crazy). Fred Jacobs was instrumental in not just my success, but the success of many others. I watched Cat Thomas from afar and tried to treat others as respectful as he did. He’s a true professional. COX Broadcasting was a cool company to work for and Bob Neil and Marc Morgan supported the show which helped us rise within the industry. Same thing goes for competitors like Linda Byrd who I eventually got to work with for a short time. I even have some new Seattle radio friends. Bob Rivers, BJ Shea and Brad Nolan. When I first moved to Seattle I got in touch with Gene “Bean” Baxter who couldn’t have been more helpful. There were some people that I had the pleasure to work with for only a short time like James Howard. I was so excited to work with him and then things blew up. I still cheer him on from a distance. There have been people that I have only interviewed with who I really wanted to work with like Bruce Gilbert. I was heartbroken that I didn’t get to learn from a guy like that. Another guy who falls into that exact same category is John Peake. He and I had one lunch one day and I walked away jealous of everybody who gets to work with him. I could go on for days about the passionate, creative people I’ve met and learned from. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
The detractors have been just as important. My two time miserable experience in Dallas where it seemed like everyone was against us. We actually earned a great following and had some success but there was one guy who went way out of his way to hurt our reputation within our company. Damaging type of stuff. Stuff you don’t recover from. But here I stand loving radio more than I ever have before. I even love him. He keeps falling upward too. Which gives me hope. There were some bright spots in DFW. People like Tom Owens, Kelly Kibler and JD Freeman. I miss the teamwork and support and find myself envious of people in this business who still get to experience it. We still have something to prove in Dallas, but I have given up hope on a new opportunity.
It’s weird to sit here thinking about such things while I’m still creating and working hard. I understand that this looks like I’m in some sort of 12 Step Program. The reality is that I/we have been working hard behind the scenes and are ready for the rest of the ride, no matter what radio looks like. I bet everybody in radio feels the same way. We’ve been working close with advertising agencies to see how we can best serve them. Through these conversations the show has evolved into a much more topical, still edgy product that is pulling ratings and revenue.
I miss what radio used to be. I remember parking the station van at competitors events. The battles to be known as “The Concert Station” or whatever we’re heated and fun. I miss getting a new station tee shirt and having people stop me in the streets when I wore it. You would throw yourself in front of a bullet for your station. That’s why I love being syndicated right now. The smaller, locally owned stations still have that competitive feel. It’s radio in it’s purist form. They take it personal. They care. Our personal appearances energize my love for radio with every visit.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to radio or it’s new title, “Media.” I have learned to set a goal and remain focused while not being tied down to any specific outcome. I’m cheering actual radio stations on though!
I really don’t have anything to complain about. I live in a great city and work with talented people whom I will always consider friends. Lex, Dee, Sarah and Ian are stars and we all share the same goal. We have a chip on our shoulder and challenge one another to be better every break.
There are so many more people who have made an impact in my life and career. I hope that I can be a positive impact on others as a way to honor them. We in radio are a special bread. It’s a tribe I’m proud to be a part of. There’s nothing more exciting than live radio where anything can and usually does happen. You can’t replace that intimacy. When people say, “I was late to work because I couldn’t get out of my car.” I know I’ve done something right and take note so I can do it again the next day.
God speed to all of us who love and know how to create a show. We’re not going anywhere.