Straight From the Mouth
The Morning Mouth's September Interview with JB & Sandy
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2009 Talentmasters Inc.)
How about a quick background check?
Sandy: JB was in Dallas and I was in Syracuse. We met through a pre-Internet, Bulletin Board System. We both like what each other was doing. We finally met at Morning Show Bootcamp in Atlanta, had a few beers and thought we could put together a pretty good show. I knew that JB was good at things that I wasn't and I was good at things that he wasn't. We shopped some tape and got lucky when American Radio Systems gave us a shot, having never heard us on the air together.
JB: I was specifically looking for someone that was about my age, great radio skills, but didn't sound like a jock. Sandy is a great story teller and immediately likable.... and he can kick everyone's ass...literally! To this going to kick everyone's ass while I fix myself a martini.
So you just re-up'd for 5 years, how many years now in Austin?
Sandy: We did and we are thrilled about it. Our deal wasn't up until the end of the year, so for Entercom to put this deal together with months to spare made us feel pretty good. We are also flattered that they want to keep us for 5 years. With so many companies doing only 2 year deals, we feel very lucky. Our agent, Bob Eatman, handled it. January will be 13 years in Austin.
JB: This deal has made me realize we were just punk kids when we started. We thought we knew everything, but looking back, we were pretty clueless, but gutsy. It's scary to think that at the end of this deal, it will be 18 years working together. That's a long run for anyone at any career. I think it works because we both adopted the attitude, "if push comes to shove, don't shove". That means letting go of an idea your big on, but they aren't sold on it or being supportive of an idea they have because you k now it's important to them.
Sandy: The radio gods have blessed us, but one thing I have noticed is that those same gods seem to bless the people in bigger markets a lot more. I remember when I got my first full-time gig (Overnights in Omaha) my goal was to make $20k that year. I worked every used car remote, bar gig, pig roast, or furniture remote I could and fell $70 short of my goal. I am still pissed about that.
JB: It was similar for me. I remember wanting a full time salary of 20k. I really just wanted to go to the Christmas party and get an official station satin jacket with my name on it. I went to the Christmas party and they didn't hand out jackets that year. They gave out gold medals to the entire staff to remind us we're all champions. It was very "special Olympics"
Finish this line: "I was so poor back then that..."?
Sandy: Where I went depended on whether or not they had free food.
JB: ...that I lived off of whatever summer promotional food we had in the prize closet, like Pizzaria Pizza Chips, Cornnuts, Krusteez ready made pancakes and a warm Pepsi! One sales rep was dumb enough to give me Grandy's gift cards to hand out at remotes. I ate there every day for about six months.
Got into a conversation recently about lame trades we got as morning guys back-in-the-day. I confessed I once had trade at a burger joint, plus a $10 a month laundry trade. Any unusual trades come to mind?
JB: I don't do trades. Cash is king and trades always fall apart. Although I did get lasik. Who hasn't traded out that deal? Show me a DJ in glasses and I'll show you a BAD DJ.
Sandy: I traded out a gambling debt I had. I voiced over spots for a guy that ran a used car dealership in front and a sportsbook in the back. I'm not a very good gambler, but man I could voice some spots.
Also had fun with remote horror stories. Any you can share?
In this month's Time & Temp, Dave Ryan talks about his "firsts," like first appearance, first bit, first break, first groupie, first jailbait, etc. Any "firsts" come to mind? Sandy: I remember my first ever shift by myself. It was a nightmare. I almost said, "Screw it, I hope I can get my old job at UPS back." I had to run Bob Kingsley's American Country Countdown. It was like a 5 hour show that was on vinyl. The only thing I had to do was follow the cue sheet, hit the spots, cue the record up and hit start when the spots ended. That seems pretty simple, right? Well, at the end of the first hour of my first ever radio shift, I had to change records. Let's just say the countdown went from #39 to number 10 during the news at the top of the hour. I cued the wrong hour. To this day, it was the worst headache I have ever had in my life. A friend called and told me everything was going to be okay, because no one is listening at 1am on Sunday morning. He was right, I never heard a word about it.
JB: I'll never forget our first show in Austin. They wanted us to do some run throughs. We lied and said we were all good and didn't need it. For the first two hours we played all disco and trashed the format. It sounded like shit and a horrible way to launch a show. The goal we had in mind wasn't so much with the listener, it was more to show management that we were in charge from 6-10 and going to do whatever we wanted. We didn't want to be in an office after the show looking at clock drawings and listeni ng to our airchecks. We felt like we had to be a bit arrogant and defiant to ever get a chance to really do a show. We got lucky.
Speaking of first, weren't you part of the original Morning Mouth writing crew when Kidd Kraddick started it?
JB: I was and I loved it. I still have the very first manilla paper copy. I did a bit starters column. When I go back and look at that column it was so hack and predictable. I thought I was brilliant and creative. I was a moron spitting out ideas that I'm sure the veterans laughed at. Eventually, I got to do the interviews with morning shows. That was an incredible experience. I would do some prep, plan some questions and if all went well, my questions got thrown on the floor. I would roll tape in a product ion studio. I think I learned to really listen by doing those interviews and it gave me skills I use in on air interviews today. If I was too pre-planned, I got murdered. I remember Lamont and Tonnelli steamrolling me in an interview. Lewis and Floorwax also had me for lunch in another. They had me in the fetal position ready to cry. I was flattered to be able to talk to great talent for an hour.
Speaking of Kidd (Kraddick), it's impressive how many personalities who were part of his show in Dallas have gone on to such success; Rusty Humphries, Steve Harmon, Bert Weiss, Rich Berra, Rich Shertenlieb and some young curly-headed kid named JB. What did you learn from that experience? I think Kidd is great at lifting up every rock and finding talent, then giving them time and a forum to grow. A lot of Programmers could learn from that. I think that ability has passed on to our show. We absolutely love gi ving young people encouragement and an opportunity to succeed or fail, but also to show them how great this business is. I think a lot of young talent pass through radio doors but don't stick around because they aren't given the opportunity or no one sees their talent potential. I think it's a badge of honor to have someone from your show go bigger things.
Who was the first morning show you heard that got you hooked?
JB: I remember listening to JR Edwards (aka Johnny) in Austin. I loved that he was such a big star in Austin. Every chick in Austin wanted to sleep with him. I spent a summer in Dallas with my dad and would set the alarm for 6am to listen to Walton and Johnson on KISS. I was blown away by how consistently funny they were. This is going to come back to haunt me, but I used to listen to Dale Dudley while I was in college. He's now been my competitor and a nasty rival for 13 years. We've said some horrific things about each other over the years. He and I both write for Austin Monthly magazine, so I finally decided to bury the hatchet with him at their Christmas party. I pulled him aside by the bar and said I was sorry for the terrible things I've said about him over the years. In particular, taking jabs at mental issues that he's very open about. After about 10 years in morning radio, we all start to get a bit mental. I understood him better after some time with the job and the pressu re. I just about cried when I was coming clean with him. We've been good friends since then.
Sandy: It was probably the late Don Glaze at KOIL in Omaha. I ended up working with him years later. He was completely out of his mind. A shameless self-promoter, a great jock (a craft that seems to have disappeared in the last 10 years), a hard worker and great guy. He edited my first aircheck that I sent out when I was ready to move on. After I got into radio, I was a big fan of The Greaseman. I never heard him live, but I had one aircheck from when he was at The Ape in Jacksonville. I remember listening to it and thinking I have never heard anything like this before. I knew I could never do what he did, but man I loved listening to him.
Name someone on the air (outside of people you work with) whose phone call you'd jump over desks to answer?
Sandy: Damn Don, that's a tough question. There are a few people whose call I would take immediately because I would love to tell them I was too busy to take their call. There are monsters in the business that you would be a fool to not talk to. Honestly, would anyone reading this article, not pick up the phone if you knew it was Rush Limbaugh on the other end? Whether you agree with Rush or not, that bastard has figured out how to make 40 million a year and not have to wake up at 4am. I know Rush is never going to call me, so for the sake of this article, when John Desjardins of Q98 in Omaha or Jay Daniels at The Cat in Spokane names show up on my Caller ID, I answer. John is with out a doubt the most talented and creative people I have met in this business. The dude is sick. He is an idea machine. I love the way he thinks BIG. I love John, but at the end of a conversation with him, I am exhausted and feel like a no-talent loser. If anyone sees his name on their Caller ID, answer the phone. Jay is a pro's, pro. Jay knows the business and will call bullshit when he smells it. I would bet that in Jay's 20+ years, he has never forgotten to sign a log, check off a spot, or shown up late for a meeting.
JB: Rick Moorten for sure. He gives me hope that there's some sanity and good people in this business. He always gives me a great idea before the phone call ends. I thinks he's a great talent ready to explode on the scene. I also would crash my car to answer a phone call from John Gehron or John Cullen. These two guys have forgotten more than I could ever know about radio and have been the absolute voice of reason doing some horrible station situations. I would do anything for those guys and I can never pay them back for what they have taught me. FYI, John Gehron is running Harpo radio and John Cullen is with Capstar and DMX.
If you could swap jobs with anyone in radio it would be?
Sandy: Anyone that Art Volo has ever filmed. I just want to see how our show looks on TV.
JB: I would swap jobs with Sandy. Running the board looks like so much fun.
Most fun bit you've ever done?
Sandy: It has to be "Breakfast with Midgets." It is a very long story that no one reading this will ever be able to do.
JB: The Tiny Asian Girl spicy Buffalo Wing eating Contest in-Studio -- the
Most surprising answer you ever got from a celebrity?
JB: Longhorn Coach Mack Brown telling us he tunes in to hear me do my Coach Brown impression. He said it was very funny and dead on. People ask him all the time if he's heard it.
Interview that turned ugly?
Sandy: Back in the Lilith Fair days we had Shawn Colvin on. At the time, her song, "Sunny Came Home" was #1, a huge hit. Shawn lives in Austin and she was playing a show for us that night. We had her come in to pimp the gig, we also had some bagels in the studio. Shawn never got the memo about eating on the air and ate bagels while we interviewed her. After a couple of minutes, I had enough and asked her if she would mind putting down the bagel long enough for us to chat. She got pissed and told me to go to hell, I told her she was rude and that the rest of her album sucked. She kept eating, interview over. We made up that night at the show, but everyone remembers when I told Shawn Colvin to stop eating. Some things never go away.
Scariest moment ever on air?
JB: We sent our old producer, the Original Thongman to a high school pep rally. He, of course, was wearing just a thong and a backpack to conceal the phone. Security and staff took him into the office to hold him until the Police came. The students were calling us from outside the office and from the gymasium. They were all chanting "Let Thongman Go" and threatening to bust him out. Parents were calling that hate the school administration.
A book that every morning show should read?
Sandy: I know it is very 90's but it is still holds up, Tony Robbins "Awaken The Giant Within" The next one probably won't help your show, but if you want to know what the hell is going on in the Middle East and you only have time for one book, read Thomas Friedmans "From Beirut to Jerusalem"
JB: "The Likeability Factor" by Tim Sanders. "Born Standing Up" by Steve Martin.
Someone every morning jock should spend at least one hour with?
JB: A therapist, one hour every single week.
Sandy: A guy that pours concrete for a living. You will find out what hard work is and how lucky you are to do a morning show.
The NAB/R&R are in Austin this month: If you could get an audience with every major CEO in radio, two things you'd tell them about radio.
Sandy: I would encourage them to follow the baseball model of developing a farm system within their own companies. Develop young talent, encourage them and support them. I would also encourage them to be visible. If they are visiting a market, take 10 minutes and say hello to the air staff. Talent loves knowing that they are part of the big picture
JB: Let the personalities grow on your stations. That can cut through more than any format. Also, talk to your talent and include them on some company ideas. They might be surprised at how interested we are in company business. We were shocked when we sold to Entercom and management really listens to their staff. Bill Pasha was the first VP since John Gehron to ever ask "How are you guys doing? Are you having fun? Do you need anything? Is there anything we can do?" It's refreshing, encouraging and makes you want to work harder. Also, Melissa Forrest, our GM, has been equally positive.
Things that young jocks do that make their show suck?
JB: Not listen to anyone else in the room. They talk and wait to talk. The conversation never develops on it's own so they are cramming their thoughts on the audience. It's like they are barking at the audience. It's just annoying.
Sandy: Not having good basics. I'm probably old school, but saying the call letters is still important. You have to have good fundamentals or you will never get anywhere. This is why David Lee Roth and Whoopi couldn't hang.They had no basics. They had no idea how to tease a bit, how to build cume, or build a great promotion. They thought they were bigger than the radio station -- .they were wrong.
Most important thing a first-time producer should know right from the start?
JB: Don't be defensive. You are going to get direction and learn right from wrong in the heat of the moment. It's not personal, learn from it. The worse thing you can do is make excuses. Also, never, never, never make disparaging remarks about the show you work on -- even if you hate it. That reflects poorly on you.
How you're preparing for life with PPM?
JB: We're definitely moving into more material that's relatable to everyone. You don't want to give the audience reasons to punch away. We probably go off on less tangents than we used to.
Something someone told you a long time ago that still holds true?
Sandy: DJ's are quickly forgotten.
JB: The sexiest sounding listeners are always the fattest.
Something about radio that you no longer believe?
Sandy: I used to believe that the people in the biggest markets were the most talented and creative. I thought they were the guys with all the great ideas. The truth is, they got the ideas from guys in smaller markets and took the credit.
JB: I don't believe in the same mentors I had years ago. Many of them let me down or turned out to be phonies. Now, I'm able to filter better for good quality people in our industry.
Most important thing I ever learned about doing a morning show came from _____ who said ____?
Sandy: Brother Wease, "Live your life on the radio and you will never run out of material."
JB: Bo Reynolds once said to me "Just stick with it and do what you do and the money will eventually come"
Tim Sanders spoke at BC this year regarding doing a purpose driven show. Tell us about your show's personal cause.
JB:We do some big projects. We raised $600,000 for a family activity center at the new hospital. We've raised well over a million dollars and given away over 10,000 bikes for bikes for kids. Also, Lance Armstrong said he liked this yellow rubber bracelet I had on. My daughter had made it for me. He said he might have an idea of something cool he could do with it.
Speaking of BC, nice seeing you again as always. What's your favorite all-time BC memory (that we can print?)
JB: Jay Thomas owned the room and blew me away. It made me feel so talentless.
Sandy: We hosted the first and second ever "Battle of the Bits" The second year, we gave away T-shirts for a great bit, at the end of the session we had extra T-Shirts. We offered them to anyone that wanted one. Watching DJ's kill each other for a T-Shirt was irony I will never forget. Oh, and for all you Old School Bootcampers, when we brought Craig Shuregold in for the Battle of the Bits. I guess I was the only one that thought those were funny moments because we haven't been asked back to host the "Battle of the Bits" (enter guilt here)