Straight From the Mouth
The Morning Mouth's June Interview with Johnjay & Rick Berra
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2001 Talentmasters Inc.)
We're often asked what our process is for selecting personalities to be interviewed in The Mouth. The fact is, there really isn't a process. We do however, aim to showcase new talent that we believe are destined for success. This month's interview with Johnjay Van Es and Rich Berra is an example of such. While no strangers to morning radio, their teaming has quickly created a whole new awareness. The following interview should prove our point.
This is the first time we've covered a show so early in their act. But there's a good reason...
R: Okay, you liked the photo for the cover and number two, you're out of morning shows.
Actually, I did like the picture. How did you become a team? there looking for a partner and I put the word out to some people. You know that exercise, when you had Dr. Phil McGraw there and he made everybody pair up?
You sat next to Rich?
J: No, I was sitting next to Glenn Goldstein, Rich's agent. So Glenn's there and we are doing the exercise, and we started talking. He asks me what's going on with my show and blah blah blah. I said that I was looking for a partner and he said he knew a guy. Later that night I met him at a card game. Anyway, Rich and I exchanged numbers and we talked 2 days later. We talked everyday, literally everyday from that moment on. And that's how we started.
He was in Houston at KKBQ and you were in Dallas at the Eagle.
R: Yes. We met in Austin. We went to Stub's, this barbecue place and pretty much hammered out all our dreams and desires. It's like if you were to date somebody and decided whether you were going to marry them right then. We
How did two people who never did a show together get hired by a company, without a show or tape?
R: Well, you audition on the station. Then, you just pull out all your big guns and do everything that you can. You're just a dancing monkey for them. And hopefully they start digging it.
What was it like talking with someone for over a year about doing a show, and then finally doing it?
J: It was great. How did we grade it? We gave it a C+ or something.
Having worked in markets like Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, etc., did moving to a city like Tucson hinder your ability to produce shows the way you were accustomed.
R: I think that market size has become like penis size in this industry. It doesn't matter. You need to be where you are happy. There are shows like Dwyer & Michaels, Brother Wease, who have done very well in the markets because they just wrap their arms around those cities. The places where I have worked, with the exception of my hometown, have been so colossal, so giant, that it is really hard to get the feel of the town. You are just a minuscule part of that. If you become the biggest thing in town, well then you can accomplish a lot more.
J: My side is similar, but I had kind of this moment about a year and a half ago. I don't know if you knew this, but my wife and I lost our twin girls. They were born three months premature, and one died right away. The other lived nine days. It was the worst moment of my life. Before that my whole life was, 'I want to get to New York and LA.' After that, I realized what was important to me. It wasn't about the big dough. Essentially, I had already been doing that. So, I sat down with my wife and I said, 'We need to make some decisions here. What's important to us?' And she said, 'We need to be happy.' Her whole family is in Phoenix and my whole family is in Tucson. I was raised in Tucson. So, I said, 'Let's get back.' So we met with stations in Phoenix and I met with people here. I lived in San Diego for a while, we met with stations there. My mom and dad are in San Diego, but everyone else
Who decided who was going to be the main guy. I mean you both came from being the main guy?
J: This is going to sound spiritual but God has definitely been involved. Everything has worked out perfectly for us. If we have a decision to make, Rich and I talk about it. There hasn't been any arguments yet. It's just been really smooth. Knock on wood.
R: The only thing that we really discussed is like, we got to know each other's personalities a lot. So, I know what is going to crack him up, so I'm going to lean towards that. He knows the kind of stuff, that I respond to, so we just start playing to those sides. As you get familiar with that, all these other personality aspects open up.
Between gigs, did you ever have any doubt that you were going to get what you wanted?
R: I have to tell you something. Two years ago when I left Kidd Kraddick's show, the people who wanted to hire me were like people waiting in line to have sex with Claudia Schiffer. This time around, radio has changed. There aren't as many jobs. The ones that are out there were usually stations in trouble. So, there are moments of doubt in every second that we don't get a phone call, and every damn Program Director that doesn't call you back. You are sitting on pins and needles.
J: What I experienced when KKBQ, didn't pick up my contract, and I sat out was I had a boatload of phone calls. I thought that this was going to be a piece of cake. Then I started to think about where I wanted to go, and then I got a little picky, and then I got a little attitude. Then my experience, like Rich just said, with PD's. It was like, 'Hey we heard you are available. Send us all your stuff right now. And then you don't hear from them.
What did you learn most from your inactivity? actor, or a radio disc jockey, once you decide you are in, stay in. Don't look in a different direction. I think that's easy to do. You say to yourself, 'This didn't happen for me here, so I'm out.' Once you commit to being in, you have just got to drive straight ahead and not look back until you find something.
How did you hit the ground running in Tucson
J: We started off with local celebrities. We had Coach Lou Olsen of the U of A Wildcats, and I'm sure that means not much to other people reading this, but here in Tucson he's the biggest celebrity in town. We had the Mayor of Tucson call us. We set up all this up before. We acknowledged the past morning shows, and we said, 'What bits do you like?' And Rich had this great idea. We had a listener from 5:30 in the morning, Jennifer was her name, she sat on the air with us all morning long and critiqued everything we did.
R: An interesting little twist to this whole thing is that my baby-sitter when I was a little kid is now the number one news anchor in town. So, it was a trip. We had her on the show.
J: One thing that we didn't do was make all these giant announcements on the station about this great new morning shows that was coming in. You know, there have been some amazing morning shows on this station. We figured we would approach it with a little bit of humility and people will decide whether we are great or not. Fortunately, they have been very embracing.
If you were going to write a manual on what to do when you are launching a new morning show, what would you write?
R: Well, that's going to be a little different for the markets you go into and the shows that you replace. I think that some people underestimate the simplicity of a good story about yourself that gets people to call in and share something about themselves. We will stop the show at any time for a good humiliation story. You kind of present your flawed side and people will start calling up and sharing their flawed side with you. You don't just say, where do you go to get a good hamburger in town? You can open up the yellow pages and find that out. You want to get a vibe for what people are feeling. What kind of money they're making. Where they hang out. What kind of cars they like to drive.
Who else is on the show with you?
J: Shannon Black, she's this stunningly beautiful woman. We have a producer, he's 'The New Guy'. He's been here five years, but he's our "New Guy."
You recently had a surprise call from Lionel Richie and a rather unusual interview with Glenn Campbell. To say the least, these wasn't your typical Q&A. I'll let you share the details.
R: We had another one today.
J: Jeff & Jer' had Colby from Survivor in the studio. So we shot Tommy (Sablan) an e-mail and said, 'Can we get a second.' He said, 'Guys, there are so many people from other stations that want to do this.' So we kept calling this morning. We were on hold listening to Jeff & Jer' interview Colby. That was half our show this morning, their interview. After being on hold for such a long time, Tommy just put him on. So we had Colby for about 10 minutes on our own show.
R: With Glenn Campbell, we just had his cellphone and called him. I had his cellphone and we called him. Sure enough he was in the airport in Burbank on the plane about the Taxi. He had just been given the Kenny Rogers Lifetime Achievement Award the night before at the Academy of Country Music Awards. So, we were topical. We changed our format for the occasion. We were Country for half an hour (KRQQ is CHR). He believed it and cut liners for us. It was the funniest thing. The best thing in the world is Glenn Campbell doing a liner for "Monkey Country."
Why Monkey Country?
R: All the other animals in Country in Tucson. You've got the Coyote, the Cat. There are just so many animals. We told him, 'You are live on KRQ the Monkey Country.' And then Shannon and Rich would yell 'The Monkey!' every time I said Monkey. We had a monkey sound effect. Glenn Campbell played along famously, even though I think he really believed that he was on the Monkey. It was very funny. He got the dial position...
R: Laugh if you want, but I will be shocked if there is not a couple of Monkey Country's popping up right after this interview.
What was the deal with Lionel Richie?
J: Well, we had his pager number, never thinking that it was his pager number. We just cold called him on the air, and Rich just started to talking to me on his machine as if we were recording Lionel songs back and forth. Like, 'Hello, is it me you're looking for?' And I was like, 'Wow, you are the sun, you are the rain.'
R: 'I had a dream last night, it was an awesome dream.'
J: 'Were there people in the park? Playing games in the dark?' We were just quoting his songs. We gave him the number. It was on the air. Then we get a call on the request line and it's Lionel laughing his ass off.
R: It was a trip.
Rich, was working with Steve & DC your first morning gig? Big Ron O'Brien? His producer OD'd on coke and I was the overnight guy.
If somebody out there reading this is looking for a new partner or maybe looking to partner with someone, any advice?
J: I would say go to Boot Camp.
Well, that would come off like a cheap shameless plug and God knows we would never do that in our magazine.
J: But hey, that's the truth. That's where I met Rich, and now we're in love.
R: I know as well as anybody else, the only reason you are doing this article with us is so that we'll subscribe to The Mouth.
True. In fact, we have 3,000 interviews planned later this month.
Johnjay, if you got an industry award tomorrow, who would be the people you'd want to thank.
J: First I would thank Yvonne Friedman, who's at KIIS/LA. Jimmy Steele who's at Power 106. I would thank Grace Taylor in New York, Jeff& Jer' and Little Tommy. I would thank my Mom, my Dad and my wife.
Rich, who would you thank? R: I would like to thank that producer that OD'd on coke.