Straight From the Mouth
The Morning Mouth's January Interview with Moby
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2009 Talentmasters Inc.)
Quick background check?
From Crossville Tennessee in 1969 to Top 10 markets, and now back to small and medium markets. Climbed some big mountains, and enjoyed the view. Climbing several small mountains all at once now.'69 WCSV-Crossville, TN - 72-73 WAEW Crossville - '74 WKRM Columbia TN - '75 WAMB Nashville - '75-'79 WKDA-FM/WKDF Nashville - '79-'80 WKQB (WLAC-FM) Nashville - '81 WQXM (98 Rock) Tampa Bay - 81-86 KSRR (97 Rock) Houston - 86-88 KEGL Dallas - 88-91 KLOL Houston - 91-02 WKHX (KICKS 101.5) Atlanta - '02 WZGC (Z-93) Atlanta (Contract horse hockey) '04-Now the Moby Network
Who Were Your Mentors?
Honestly, most of the individuals that have helped make me the Moby I am today had little if anything to do with radio. They were just good human beings. There were the people near me with integrity, honor, honesty, an unshakable sense of dedication and determination. They were people from all walks of life: the military, law enforcement, the clergy. People of character with strong moral fiber. True leaders one and all. These were the type people I most wanted to emulate, and to bring what I'd taken from them to any show I was on, just as I tried to bring their lessons into my life at home. Of course there were broadcasters I loved and learned from. Jack Crawford, PD...first hired me out of Big Band WAMB & into a competitive situation at WKDA-FM in Nashville. Alan Sneed...as PD of WKDF hired me into Houston to do afternoons, then mornings, & now owns one of my affiliate stations on the Moby Network. Jeff Trumper..GM 97 Rock in Houston in the 80's...the gentleman that put me into the 50% tax bracket. Ed Wodka...GM in Dallas. Norm Schrutt...ABC Pres/GM KICKS, Atlanta....then my agent after he retired from KICKS. Dene Hallam, more of a confidant/advisor than mentor, and my current PD on the Moby Network. Sanders Hickey-Owner Golden Isles Broadcasting-great businessman, inspirational leader and kind heart. John Halford-West Virginia Radio..for the past few years no one has believed in me more
My GM decided he and I were never gonna laugh at the same jokes, and I would never go golfing or drinking so he opted to not renew my contract. "You're firing me?" "No, we're just not renewing your contract." "Am I on the air Monday?" "Oh, no!" "Then I'm fired!!" "No, your contact just isn't being renewed." "How's that different than bring fired?" "Trust me, it is different." "Can I stay in Atlanta?" "After we quit paying you, yes you can." "If I stay in Atlanta, I'm going to kick your ass." "(chuckle) I know you will."
While this was going on, I discovered that my business manager, charged with saving and protecting my CEO money (hitting up around 7 figures), had apparently been stealing from me the past eight years. None of it was left. Of course there was a lawsuit, there would have probably been jail time, and he decided the world was a better place without him, so, ending his life seemed to be his better choice.
At that point, I was no longer Moby the victim (and stupid businessman) trying to recover what had been taken. I was Moby the villain, attacking the widow and orphans. From 8 figures to Jack Schidt at the speed of light.
When you finally left the air in Atlanta, did you ever begin to think: "Crap, maybe I've gone the cycle; Maybe I've got to look at an alternate airport?
Not really, no. I didn't want to move out of Atlanta. We all know radio makes nomads out of its personalities, and I'd honestly had my fill of that. I had a plan.
How much did this screw with your head?
Sure it did. Who could say no to that question? I don't even want to address all the thoughts that went through my mind. I kept thinking about that business manager, the millions he'd stolen, and that dark hole he was in now. There were days he seemed like the winner. But my dear, sweet, beautiful, loving wife stood devotedly at my side. We'd just adopted an 8 month old baby girl, Grace Marie Carney. So, I wasn't at a "give up" place even if that had been my style. Ego? Totally in check. Thank you for asking.
So how did the whole, home-grown syndication thing begin?
Like I said, I'd really grown weary of the nomadic lifestyle air personalities have to become accustomed to. My son was raised in Houston, Dallas, back to Houston, and then in Atlanta. 11 years at KICKS in Atlanta almost let me get him through high school, but not quite. His mom and I had divorced, and it wouldn't have been fair to make him choose between us, and I couldn't imagine living in a different city than him. So, leaving the biggest city in the south wasn't an option for me. At the time, both of the Atlanta area country stations were owned by ABC/Disney. So, I couldn't stay in Atlanta, and stay in country. So, I chose family, & future over format, and made what for me was one of the worst decisions of my career, and agreed to get back into Rock n' Roll. It wasn't anywhere near KICKS $$$$, but it was 6 figures, and it really wasn't bad money. It was a living, and I did have history in the format. So, why not? The "Why not" part became obvious all too soon. I was lost really, and didn't know what I was going to do. Your question about an alternate airport seemed like it might make sense.
I had over a decade in country radio, and had been pretty darned successful doing it. I'd won 4 or 5 Billboard/Monitor DJ of the year awards. I had won the ACM. (never got a CMA...that's another story unto itself).
While at KICKS, ABC syndicated my show, and their sales force had gotten it picked up in 38 markets. The most successful of those were small & medium markets. Moby in the Morning was huge in Albany, Ga. we kicked butt in Alpena, Mich. & points in between. Morgantown, W.V., Crossville, Tennessee (my home town), Natchez, Mississippi, Oakland, Maryland....and on and on. I felt like I could rebuild that on my own. (and keep all the money). My wife asked me if I wouldn't rather try and fail, than not try and spend the rest of my life wondering if it would have worked. And here we are nearly 5 years later.
Did you ever consider having it picked up by a large syndicator?
That would certainly be something we'd look at. We did speak to a big player a year or two ago, but they wanted too much control over what I do. proud of it, and if somebody wants it, I'd be happy to talk to them.
How does your syndication work?
We uplink on a KU Band satellite. The show starts at 6:00 AM (ET) and starting in February, we'll be voice tracking the 5:00 hour, which will allow affiliates to to join us an hour early, & sell triple A. In the wake of that, we'll begin voice tracking the 11:00 hour, which will allow affiliates in Central Time to carry the show till 10:00 their time. We have a hard break each hour at 59:50 allowing 10 second for an ID before the top of the hour. That's a 6 minute break. There's also a 6 minute break at the bottom of the hour, and 5 minute breaks at :15 & :45. We start instrumental rejoin music 10 seconds prior to the end of every break. There are 3 second Magic Calls I manually hit at all times of the show over intros and fades of the songs. I gladly record and send the affiliates current local temps, and cut station promos at no extra charge. There are 6 to 8 songs every hour, and benchmark features.The affiliates have 22 minutes every hour to do with as they will. I retain no more than 2 minutes each hour for network spots.
With all the changes in Atlanta over the past couple of years, have you been approached to take over another show?
Yes, I was approached. I might have made them the flagship of my network, just like I had during the days I was syndicated on KICKS, but I insisted on doing it from the new studio I was just finishing. They asked me why, and I told them that if the marriage didn't work out, and I was in my studio, I'd lost my biggest affiliate, but if I was in their place, and it didn't work, I would lose my entire business.
Let's talk about your show: How is it different from what you last did on a stand-alone?
At a stand-alone, there's a staff to help with loose ends. Here it's just me & my little bunch. The job description has broadened. Like Harry Truman, the buck stops here. In many ways though, it hasn't changed very much at all. I still call the audience the Moby in the Morning radio family. We laugh together, we cry together, we get mad together. We hold each other when we hurt. We pray for each other when it helps. On the markedly plus side, there's never anyone calling me to an ivory tower after my show, & telling me I should say "slacks" instead of "britches", or to sip my long-neck with my pinkie out.
Who else does the show with you?
For the first couple of years, my old PD from KICKS, Neil McGinley was in there with me as PD & on-air partner. Then we were able to bring Ron Michaels on board. Ron had produced the Moby Show for years on KICKS. We can communicate with our hands, and without speaking a word, know the direction the ship's headin'. My news lady from from Moby in the Morning at KICKS, Jill Kelly does a daily entertainment feature called Tabloid Tales, and adds female input & perspective into what would otherwise be a boys club. Also, former KICKS engineer, Charlie Nettleman is on board making sure the wires are all in the right place, and things work. He was the conductor of the orchestra of tech-heads that built the place.
I understand you just built the Moby Broadcast Center. Nice! Is this strictly for the show, or are there other plans?
Close, but not exactly right, and honestly, that's very tongue in cheek. I call it the Moby Broadcasting Complex (MBC). For now, it's just for the show, but in the future certainly, as we continue to collect call letters, grow affiliates and bring in advertisers we do have plans. We did have from day one. I want to add other dayparts, ultimately establish another satellite stream, and put up another format. (Si, buenas dias muy bueno, amigo) That might make some extra pesos, don't you think?
Let's talk about your career. Specifically, things you've done on the air. If I were a biographer, what would you tell me were the 5 biggest highlights of your career, i.e. things you did on the air, accomplishments, funniest bit, stunt, etc.
We're talking approaching 40 years here. That's a tougher question than I ever thought it could be. There's been so very much. Killin' Glen Campbell was a biggie. I lost a pretty big law suit over that one in the late 80's. Spending 10 days in Europe with The Rolling Stones during their Steel Wheels tour was really cool. I was in the crowd in Copenhagen, Denmark with thousands of people I couldn't understand their language, but we were all huggin each other, and singing "You Can't Always Get What You Want" in English. I'll not forget that.
There were German broadcasts, London broadcasts, Hawaiian Broadcasts.Then, this past spring on the Moby network, we took some winners, and some folks that had bought in on the Moby Cruise in the Eastern Caribbean. We broadcast from the cruise ship for five consecutive days. It was stuff the big boys do.
I remember a grieving mother who couldn't afford to bury her son that had been killed by a drunk driver. So, I left the air at the end of the show, gathered the listeners, and raised enough money to keep the county from having to bury him. Handing that mother a canvas bag full of cash was a real moment.
Singing the National Anthem at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the huge NASCAR race in the spring of '01 was something not many morning guys get to do. I got email from Korea after that one. There were 200,000 people there, and Lord only knows how many watching.
Singing the Anthem at the Peach Bowl two consecutive years was pretty cool, too. As well as doing it 15 times for the Braves, & several times for the Atlanta Hawks & Thrashers.
Being on CBS television and receiving the Academy of Country Music DJ of the Year Award is something I ought to include in my diary too, don't you think?
Going back over your career, is there anything you'd do differently?
I believe anybody that's been doing anything for this long would look back, and see the things they would have changed. I easily admit that's true for me. I'm sure there have been people I've hurt I didn't mean to hurt, things I've let go of that I should have held onto, and things I've held on to, I should have let go. No doubt, there have been times I've turned left when turning right would have made more sense, looking back. Then again, my wife's grandfather told her, "Things are the way they are because that's the way they're supposed to be."Whatever it is I would have changed or done differently, here I am, with a great family, people I love working with, and a radio family that loves me & let's me love them back. I'm fine.
And what about home-growing your own show, if there's someone reading this that would like to try it themselves, what do they need to know, i.e., start-up costs, how many stations to see daylight, best business model, etc.
Paul Stone, former owner of WNGC & Southern Broadcasting asked about my plans for life after KICKS. I grinned and told this powerful & wealthy man that I was going to start my own independent network, and he said to me, "Moby, that is a monumental undertaking."I told him I understood that, but I was dedicated to it. Had we have known how right he was, we might not have done it. It sure the heck ain't been easy. This, far and away, has been the most difficult thing I've ever attempted. Over the years, many have tried this, and few have succeeded. It's like I tell young artists with stars in their eyes, "You're not going to make it. You'll fail, and regret having tried. If those words dampen your fire to do it, then I'm absolutely right." We made the decision to try, yet to be prepared to fail, but we would never have that wonder of what would it have been like.
What they need to know? Close your eyes and just do it if you think you got the balls.
Start up costs? Many times more than you would ever have projected.
How many stations before you launch ? Fewer than you would think you would, or should have.
Best business model? Understand that many before you have tried and failed, but that wasn't you, and you'll never know unless you go to the deep end of the pool and jump in. Don't forget to hold your breath, and good luck.