Straight From The Mouth
The Morning Mouth's February Interview with Kidd Kraddick
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2009 Talentmasters Inc.)
Let's start at the very beginning -- the very beginning. At what
point in your life did you decide you were going to be a deejay?
I'm old. I can't remember. It was when I was in high school. I remember
always being the one to host the talent shows and pep rallies at school.
(Yeah, that guy got all the chicks.) I worked at a teen club when I was 14
called "Papa's Dream." It was a Christian youth meeting place disguised as a
night club. My dad or brother would drive me 20 miles each way twice a week
so I could spin records for three or four hours every weekend. Back then,
being a club DJ was not about mixing...it wasn't like I was spinning deep
trance or anything like that. It was more about personality and getting the
other kids up to dance. I also announced when the police were on their way.
That experience revealed the passion I had for being behind a mic, so I
really got focused after that.
I got to know the night guy at my hometown station; Q105 in Tampa, "Uncle
Johnny". He was the nicest guy ever and really got me pointed in the right
direction. Little did I know that just three years later I would have his
And you got your first break when?
My first break was not very impressive, but it was a job on the radio. It
was running the "God Squad" at Y100 in Miami. They were preacher tapes played
in the middle of the night on Sunday night. After a couple weeks, those tapes
always found some way to break, so I had to go on live instead. They finally
caught me after about 2 months but I had enough tape to put together an
aircheck and get a job...at the legendary WKXY in the legendary Sarasota,
No "Shotgun," Scooter" etc."
Was it always two d's at the end? Were you almost any other
I was another name in Sarasota for a very short time. The "PD" (meaning
the owner) thought I would make a great "Dave Dees". Yeah, Rick knows about
that and it's a beating every time he brings it up. When I got to Q105, Mason
Dixon thought I should use my real last name and choose a first name that
highlights how young I was (19 at the time). That's where Kidd Kraddick came
I've always found that behind every great success story in radio,
there's someone who can be credited with either providing the inspiration, or
for giving them the key break that paved the way to their success. Did you
I mentioned Uncle Johnny already but there have been countless "helpers"
along the way. I hate mentioning them by name in interviews because the one I
leave out will call and leave me a horribly hateful VM. Screw it, I'll throw
out a few. Jeff and Jer, Jim Sumpter, Tom Owens, Brenda Adriance, Patrick
Davis, Joel Folger, and the great Dick Clark.
On the show, your joined by longtime co-host Kellie Rasberry (who
joined in '94), Big Al (now known following last year's Boot Camp as Really
Big Al), JC, Shanon & Cappy. Did I forget anyone?
JC is actually J-Si (get the clever spanish hook?) and Cappy is actually
my production director but comes on the air with us occasionally. Of course
Kellie and Al are the primary players and they've been with me for over 12
years... it's to the point where I can barely imagine coming in and them not
being there. I can't tell you the last time either of them missed a day.
Seriously, it's been at least five years. they know exactly what the show is,
why it works, and give me such a huge comfort level every morning no matter
how tired I am. J-Si we got from San Diego almost three years ago and he's
becoming a star, which is cool. Shanon is the world's greatest producer and
has been with me since she was a teenager, moving up from intern to phone
screener, to assistant producer to producer over the years. Pretty much
young newbies... "Sexy Jack" is a British import who went to college in the
area and chicks dig his suave sophistication, and Jenna Owen is our new
early-twenties girl who helps me continue the charade of relating to teens
and 18-24 women. Oops, PPM. Sorry! 6-24 year olds.
Who else behind the scenes would you like to recognize?
As the owner of a small company and the host, I wish I could give props to
every single employee. I'm a mess, they know it, they cover for me, and
usually it all works out. Josh Medlock is my marketing guy who tolerates my
midnight phone calls that always start out "What if...?" and Rob Chickering
is my engineer I got from "The Ticket" and discovered he's not only a
brilliant engineer and sound guy but also has amazing ideas. Cappy has gone
from being a first-time production director to a freaking wizard who can
create amazing bits during commercial breaks. I would talk them all up more
but if I did, they would get stolen away from me and I would be revealed for
the hack that I am. So I rarely talk about them (or their rampant drug
problems that makes each of them virtually un-hireable).
At some point along the way, you figured out doing a female-targeted
show was a winning formula. Was this a natural progression, or had you always
leaned in this direction?
This is truly a case of the formula fitting the guy. I've always been more
interested in talking to women...maybe because that's ALL I did in high
school was talk to them. I was the best friend that would help them through a
break up but when it came to dating them they always threw-up in their
mouths, apparently. I know it's popular for every show to have a metrosexual
on board but with me, it wasn't a conscious choice. At parties I was the one
who didn't have much to add to the deer-gutting discussion so I usually found
myself talking to the women, sharing feelings. I'm not particularly proud of
that but it's who I am. I just find it more interesting to talk to someone
who's not just like me. Women are so mysterious and emotional and hard to
figure out. Guy radio never appealed to me. I never thought bathroom or sex
humor was that funny.
When Did Syndication Come Into Play?
Right when Clear Channel took over KISS-FM back in 2001. I'd been talking
to Kraig Kitchin and with all the changes that were going on, it seemed like
the best way to insure that my show wouldn't change intrinsically. I moved
into the new studio just for our show two days after 9/11.
And then you bought your show from Premiere. How did that come
Actually, it's a little more complicated than that. Premiere syndicated
the show for about three years. Then Clear Channel took over the syndication.
To be totally honest, I'm not sure why that happened except to say there were
some new people at the helm of KISS-FM and it was their play to try and bring
me back in to the local fold. None of those people are still with the
company. That's when I really got into the syndication business because all
my network infrastructure went away. There wasn't even anyone selling the
show until I hired someone myself to do it from my building. It was an
extremely challenging time but looking back, I learned so much about the
syndication and network business as a result. In 2007, with the Bain Capital
deal looming, John Hogan and I started discussions about me owning the show.
A short time later I signed a deal that gave me full ownership of my show and
also a long-term contract with KISS-FM. I always said I wanted to "retire my
jersey" at KISS so I was thrilled to get that done. That's when the
relationship with Clear Channel took a dramatic upward turn. They became my
biggest customer instead of my employer and that worked so much better for
both sides. I can be pretty stubborn sometimes and I don't think I was ever
very suited to work for a large corporation. My dad was a wildcat
entrepreneur and instilled that spirit in each of his kids, so the big
company thing was always a struggle for me. Now, owning my own business (just
like I did with BitBoard and Morning Mouth) feels totally right for me. It's
hard as hell. I just lost my CEO (Brenda Adriance) and I'm not gifted at
managing people (to say the least) but I LOVE the fact that I control my own
destiny and have no one to blame but myself when things don't go the way I
Last year you started the YEA NETWORK. What are some of your plans
Being a small independent network is not ideal in this environment of
"synergy" and corporate partnerships. We have no "distribution"a..meaning,
we're not owned by a company that owns a bunch of stations they can throw us
on. We have to scrap for every affiliate and prove ourselves each and every
time. But that fact has made us a better company and has made Kidd Kraddick
in the Morning a better show. If morning shows continue to be judged by how
good their ratings are and how much revenue they generate, we'll continue to
do great. The fear of course is that the big owners will ignore us regardless
of our success and only put on shows they own. But hey, even if that becomes
the case, we're a small company and don't have to be on a thousand stations
to make a profit. I'd rather perform at a high level on the affiliates we get
and let that be our calling card. I think there will always be owners who
make decisions based on results, not politics, etc.
When someone comes up to you and says they want to syndicate their
show, what advice do you offer?
First I would say, be careful what you wish for. If you like to have a
life outside your job, I strongly discourage it. If you're doing it because
you don't like being told what to do, see how you like being told what to do
by 50 or 100 different bosses. On the other hand, if you truly want to be a
national show and will work hard to make it happen... If you will compromise
only when every other option is exhausted, if you won't be satisfied with
just having a bunch of affiliates...but won't rest unless ALL of them are
winning and doing well, then I say go for it.
I won't lie. Syndication has taken a toll on all of us from a personal
standpoint. The three key players on the morning show (me included) are all
divorced now and syndication definitely played a part in that. We travel all
the time. We work all the time. I get up before 4am and sometimes I don't
leave the office until after 4pm. The work is never done. There's also a
learning curve that should be factored in...the technology now allows you to
be both national and local, but learning how to maximize it takes time.
Having said all that, I think we are at an apex. It's like 1960 in
television when all the local shows started to get replaced by network
offerings. The old adage that good local beats national simply isn't holding
water anymore. At least not on a universal scale. Could you imagine the ABC
affiliate in Boise deciding that "Hello Idaho" is a better option than
Desperate Housewives because it's local?
Go into a local television station and the only "talent" in the building
are the news anchors and reporters. Many major market stations now have only
2 or 3 air talent in-house. The writing is on the wall and if you want to
stay in the business, syndication should definitely be a consideration.
Last summer I heard you speak at a convention in Austin. The session
was built on the premise "If I were elected president of radio." In recalling
the gist of your comments, you suggested that "great radio" is, and always
will be, the only real solution.
Alternatives such as HD or Internet Radio, plus driving more listeners to
your website were with merit, but paled compared to just doing better radio.
Do you think most companies really get that message?
To varying degrees. I think big companies are looking for cost-effective
alternatives to high-priced, mediocre talent. There's been this enormous
distraction with delivery of our product while we've watched a mass exodus of
our most talented content people. That's just bad lookin' out and I think
it's the primary reason radio had seven down years before this economic
crisis we're in now. It's as if we sat around and thought of all the
different ways and places we could sell cookies and didn't notice that the
cookies all went bad. We've got to recognize that PPM will no longer allow us
to kick back on live off our reputations. We have to be great right now, and
the next time, and the time after that or we're going to get left behind. I
spend half of my day just trying to create...create content for my show,
create excitement for my listeners, create promotions that haven't been done,
create NEW shows that my company can put out, create a reason for me and my
company to continue to exist.
Last year you were one of the first shows to get then President
Elect Obama on your show. How nerve-racking was that? Did you really get
Jonas Brothers Concert tickets for his daughters?
We DID hook up now President Obama with the Jonas Brothers but Malia and
Sasha couldn't go to that particular show. I'm hearing that they will be
screening their movie for the first family at the White House this month. The
Jonas Brothers live just a few miles from us in Westlake, Texas and we've
been lucky to forge a strong relationship with them.
Interviewing Obama (twice) was a little nerve-wracking. My show's reach is
definitely conservative-heavy and I didn't want to pander to him, nor did I
want to try and be some newsy political analyst. That's why we focused on the
family and the kids for a good part of the interviews. The Jonas Brothers
poster revelation was picked up by hundreds of news sources and reported
around the world. I'm still getting emails from faraway lands about it.
Has there ever been a guest that made you nervous? Have you ever had
a Joaquin Phoenix moment such as his appearance on Letterman?
Yes, many many times in all these years but I'll mention three of them.
First, Blu Cantrell came in to sing "Hit 'Em Up Style" but changed her mind
when the track started. So I decided that one of us was going to sing it and
if it wasn't going to be her, I would do it. She glared at me while I sang
badly and glared back. Awkward. One of the handful to ever leave during the
interview. The other one is a little hard to talk about because he's no
longer with us. Heath Ledger was having a very bad day when he came in to the
studio to talk about "A Knight's Tale". He was only 22 at the time and not
well-versed in the radio interview game apparently because he read the
newspaper the entire interview and every answer was one or two words. I've
heard from others that he was a great guy so I choose to believe we caught
him on a bad day. Finally, shortly after Mel Gibson's arrest for DUI, we had
him on and were having a great discussion about forgiveness and making
amends. When I brought up his father and some of the anti-Semitic things he'd
been quoted as saying, Mel hung up on me. He called back immediately and
claimed the phone disconnected. We're not a confrontational show very often
so that was ridiculously uncomfortable. It caused a ton of talk though.
It's fair to say you've had a storybook career and I'm sure jocks
just starting out would love to pick your brain. What are the one or two
things you always suggest to young talent. Specifically, those who want to do
First would be, rid yourself of the fear gene when you're on the air.
After all these years I still like to think that I take ridiculous chances on
the air with unplanned bits...for example, I have a "fake phone" I can pick
up and launch into a character or celebrity impression (usually a bad one)
without a script. The other day Kellie was doing a story about a French
dolphin that washed ashore while in the process of mating. Big Al said,
"We've got the french dolphin on the phone right now!" and I just picked up
the fake phone and went for it. I think you can't be afraid to look stupid or
you will become this uptight, safe show that never creates memorable moments.
I've found that studying improv and doing it a lot makes you a much better
radio personality. Secondly, I would tell them to spend very little time
learning about their audience and an enormous amount of time learning about
Perspective is the only thing we possess that is truly unique from
everyone else. Finally, I would tell them to think twice before they play a
trick on their audience, lie to their audience, or pass off something fake as
real. Those mistakes may make for great radio for awhile but when you're
caught, they're really hard to recover from.
Kidd's Kids is one of radio's most recognized and modeled after
community events (an annual trip for terminally ill children to Disney
World). Recently, you began "My turn day." With no pun intended, how did that
According to our monitoring service, over a million people participated in
My Turn Day, by mentioning it in their status on Facebook, Twitter, and other
social networks. The idea is that one day a year we would all tell what we're
doing or going to do to help other people. My hope was that it would spread
like a good samaritan "virus" and others would feel compelled to do something
too. Somebody told Demi Mooore about it and she embraced it and started
twittering it to her massive follower list. We had other celebrities get on
board too. Like a typical Kidd Kraddick idea, there was no time to truly
flesh it out but like Kidd's Kids, I hope it grows every year and eventually
becomes something that's here for a long time and does some good.
You have one of the most successful shows in radio, you started a
comedy service, published a magazine and now run a network. Is there any one
thing you would still like to accomplish before retiring?
I don't want to sound greedy because I truly have been blessed. It could
end right now and would have exceeded my wildest dreams...in fact, it would
have far exceeded what my talent level would dictate.
I don't think I can continue though without having goals still unrealized.
Aside from our home market of Dallas, we have no exposure in top-ten markets
and I'd like to have a shot at that before I go. I really think our show
could do well in a New York or Los Angeles...maybe even better than in
smaller cities...because I think "local" is less important when you live in a
metropolis. Another goal was to explore having a TV talk show and I've been
down that path a couple times in the past year, even going so far as to do a
development deal and start to shoot a pilot. Not wanting to move out of
Dallas always makes that one a tough goal to hit. Aside from work stuff, I
have a whole "bucket list" of things I'd like to do before I'm out of here. I
don't have much control over some of them, like seeing my daughter on
Broadway, but it would sure be cool if they happened. Like everyone else,
regardless of age, I'm still a work in progress and there are a bunch of
personal issues I'd like to overcome at some point. My therapist is hoping
that goal waits until he's retired.
Read previous Morning Mouth interviews.
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