Straight From the Mouth
The Morning Mouth's November interview with Fitz in the Morning
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2009 Talentmasters Inc.)
Quick Background check: where you started and all the steps to getting to Seattle.
I was 17 years old and I started doing a weekend shift in market 3000 at 92.9 KNIN in Wichita Falls, TX. I was playing college basketball, doing a TV internship, and a radio internship. I was doing the weather on the weekends at the NBC affiliate, but I wanted to be a reporter. They thought I was too young, I disagreed so I quit the TV internship and focused all my attention on radio. During that time, a guy named Bruce Holberg that once worked at WNBC in New York, bought the station and heard one of my weekend shows. He said he liked my sound and wanted me to be a part of the morning show there. After a year of working with the morning show at KNIN, I was asked to be the host of the show. I was 18 years old and Fitz In The Morning was born. I finally figured out what an aircheck was, sent my stuff to 93Q KKBQ in Houston, TX, and got a call from JohnJay of JohnJay and Rich. They said I was exactly what they needed on the show so I was off to Houston to be a part of the JohnJay Morning Show. After about a year, I was 19 and I got the itch to have my own thing. Against the advice of many, I took a massive pay cut and moved to Oklahoma City to do the night show at KJYO KJ103. Within a year, my show had a 29 share and it wasn’t long before I got a call from Todd Shannon who was the PD at KHKS 106.1 KISS FM in Dallas, TX. He called me on the hotline and said he wanted me to tape that night’s show to send to him later in the week. I recorded that night’s show but decided to hand deliver the aircheck myself. I drove all night from Oklahoma City to Dallas and was sitting outside the KISS FM studios with coffee and doughnuts when Todd Shannon arrived the next day for work. I was hired to do nights at KISS FM in Dallas and then graduated to mornings when John Cook hired me at KRBV WILD 100.3. I had great success at WILD but the problem was that the station had no identity. They had changed the name of the station something like five times within a six year period. The station changed again, this time to JACK FM, in June of 2004. Shortly after that, John Cook asked me to join 99.5 The Wolf in Dallas, TX. They already had an established morning show in place so I continued searching for my next opportunity. Within a few months, I felt
stations. I met so many great programmers and talent during that time. Scott Mahalick called in October of 2005 and after all was said and done I was in Seattle, WA launching a brand new morning show on KKWF 100.7 The Wolf. It was the perfect fit.
The Name Fitz: your idea or someone else?
Even though I have two brothers, I have been “FITZ,” which is part of my last name, since I was five years old. Growing up playing sports, soccer, basketball, etc, people always called me FITZ and it’s stuck.
Your height: aren't you like 7' tall? Center or guard on the basketball team?
I was a WWF wrestler for 3 years before blowing out a knee. Kidding! I played basketball for Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, TX. I was a forward. I’m 6’7” but I love to shoot the “three pointer” and they hated that about me. They wanted me down below, posting up...LOL.
Love your show. And you were just voted Seattle's Best. Seems like you're a different brand of country morning radio. You describe it?
Wow... what an honor. I go head to head every morning with some of the greatest heritage morning shows in the country. Bob Rivers, BJ Shea, Kent and Alan, and Ichabod...NBC has presented me with the award two years straight. Certainly someone miscounted the votes somewhere...LOL.
Although I am on a country station, I strive to make my show as mass appeal as possible. From relationships, to family, to my custody battle...we live our lives on the air. I believe that so many people love Rascall Flatts and Keith Urban but they wouldn’t be caught dead in cowboy boots or a cowboy hat. A Fitz In The Morning P-1 can’t wait to crank up Kenny on their way to work and they’ll buy their US magazine at the grocery store on their way home to watch Oprah. After Oprah, they log on to TMZ!!
Video is a big part of your show. Is there a TV angle brewing?
Aaaahhhh...all I can say is, absolutely! Let’s just say we’ve had
How about syndication? Is it in the works?
Right now I host the weekend show, Fitz on FOX All Access USA which combines the biggest country hits with the happenings in Hollywood. It can be heard on a station near you.
I am fortunate to work for one of the greatest radio companies in the industry, Entercom, and their have been talks of distributing “Fitz In The Morning” in a variety of ways. I am really psyched about an upcoming project that will bring change the way you think of your standard country countdown show. Dang it...I’ve said too much again.
How do you and your crew plan for each show? Who does what?
I have to admit that I am a bit of a control freak. I do all of the prep and I am lucky to have amazing cast members who can just bounce off of me during the show. I walk in, throw something out, and they react. They are complete professionals and we have such a great chemistry. We simply bring our lives to the air and do our best to come up with creative and funny bits daily. I have been working with my co-host Tony Russell for almost 10 years and we can improv well together. Tony does a lot of crazy and wacky voices so he has been everything from a 70 year old woman who was stuck in a tree to a beached whale! Tony also does our comedy writing and stupid news bit. He may be one of the most creative and unbelievable writers in the country. We are all so different and it makes for such a compelling and unique cast. I am 31, a single father of three, with a really hot girlfriend, struggling with adulthood. My side kick Tony, is 42 and a pastor who loves to drink beer. Mary White is the female side kick. She is a twenty year Seattle radio veteran, who is 56 years old, with purple and pink hair. She is a tree hugging liberal meets Mother Earth. I ask for a daily one sheet from each of them so I can pull things that are happening in their lives to incorporate in the show. Other than that, I handle all the prep. My life is prep...seriously, the greatest show prep is LIFE. A day I haven’t spent prepping is a day I hand over to the competition.
Sorry, have to ask. Being an Entercom station in the north west, I'm sure the whole Wee for Wii thing has been discussed. Have you been given new guidelines for contests since that whole thing came down?
I haven’t been given “guidelines” necessarily but any promotion that I try to execute now has to be approved by legal. Fortunately, Entercom still believes in great radio and if it makes sense, we’ll find a way for it to be done. They just don’t want me to lose the lisense...LOL.
Let's go back to Dallas for a moment. You're always pictured with a Texas Baseball Cap. I realize that's home, but is there a special connection there?
God bless Texas! When you are born and raised in Texas it is always home. It is hard to explain to you lesser mortals, but I love the lone star state! My heart is there and I will always love Texas. It’s really tough being in Seattle with the Seahawks and I’m the biggest Cowboys fan there is. Go Cowboys! All my family, my Mom, Dad, brothers, sister, nieces and nephews live in Texas and I try to get back home to Dallas at least every other month. Matter of fact, I just bought some land there. Did I mention, Go Cowboys!
Who do you give credit for discovering you?
I have so many people to thank. I gotta say a big thank you to JohnJay from the JohnJay and Rich show because I was 19 years old when he called me to be a part of his show in Houston TX. Mike McCoy, from KJ103 in Oklahoma City, is one of the greatest program directors ever. John Cook, for giving me my first morning show at the age of 23 in Dallas, TX going against Kidd Kraddick. Dan Kieley, for teaching me the TRUE formula of morning radio. I was very fortunate to spend time with this incredible program director who took me under his wing when I needed help most. His knowledge of morning radio was immeasurable and I can still hear him saying every morning “Fitzy...consistency breeds content.” I love you Dan. I miss you everyday and I hope I have made you proud. AND last but definitely not least, Scott Mahalick, who chose me as his morning guy to launch The Wolf in Seattle WA. He taught me to think big and to be predictably unpredictable. He is “The Godfather” of the country format.
Who's show's inspired you?
Wow, there are so many! Scott Shannon, Kidd Kraddick, Jeff and Jer, Johnson and Johnson in Salt Lake City. They are all fantastic and reinvented the wheel in so many ways.
Name someone (in the business) you'd love to get to know, but haven't met?
So many people with so much talent in the industry today. Rick Dees, I’ve talked to him on the phone several times but have never met him in person. I would love to have lunch with Ed Hill from KBULL in Salt Lake City to pick his brain for a day.
If I got them to call you, would you send me a Fitz T-shirt?
Definitely! You can also get the Fitz Happens speedo! Wait a second, the station is out of t-shirts right now...you know, the recession and everything. What about a CD from the Wolftastic prize closet? LOL
We've been honored to have you as a regular for our Morning Show Boot Camp. Who are some of the shows you look forward to hanging out with each year?
There are so many. I always look forward to seeing Ace and TJ, Kevin Rolston, my buddy Atom Smasher, Eric Rowe, and Roula and Ryan. I love seeing the people that I’ve worked with in the past like my old side kick Big Gay Steven, who is now Randy Spears on WBLI Long Island. Of course I can’t forget about my Seattle peeps..love ya BJ and crew.
What would an interview be without a PPM question? What are doing differently in the PPM world?
I haven’t really changed a whole lot between the hours of 6 and 9. Content is always KING and as far as morning radio is concerned, I feel it’s the stuff between the records that matters. Between 6 and 9 , I completely focus on teasing and breathing. TEASE, TEASE, TEASE, TEASE, TEASE! Sometimes the first part of my break will be teasing what is coming up in the next couple of minutes. I have also been focused on my interviews. You know, we’re told that interviews don’t matter in the PPM world, but I disagree, especially if you make the interview COMPELLING. Ask a question that no one has ever asked before. When I stump an artist with a question then I know that I’ve done something right. After 9, the music rules, and I have just bought into that. My ego wants to talk the entire 9 oclock hour but we all must understand that the majority of our listeners are at work and it is our job to make the radio as consumable as possible.
Okay, back to the show: "Best thing you've ever done on the air."
Tough question. I have been a part of so many great promotions over the years. Recently, I obtained full custody of my children, I talked about everything on the air, so my listeners were there every step of the way. It brought a closeness between me and my listeners that I’ve never experienced before. Living my life on the air and letting my listeners know me on a personal level has created a bond with my audience that has taken my show to the next level.
Most surprising answer an on-air guest ever gave you.
I interviewed the Black Eyed Peas at WILD 100.3 in Dallas, TX and they came in drunk from the night before. Apparently, they had been out all night, they still wreaked of alcohol, every answer they gave me was surprising and was followed by a tribal chant that I joined in from time to time. Then there was Rascall Flatts who had WAAAAY too much knowledge about Canadian massage parlors. LOL
Female celebrity who hit on you.
Jessica Simpson, Mary J Blige, and Jo Dee Messina. I have witnesses...call me for the details. Jessica’s dog, DAISY would have never been ripped to shreds under my watch!
Most shocking thing that ever happened in your studio.
The most shocking for me, was when I was in the process of getting a life insurance policy and I had to get a physical. Now, there are lots of practical jokes that go on in our hallways and I was long over due for the joke to be on me. I had just had extensive blood tests done earlier in the week. My side kick Tony and the midday host, Lola, had someone call me on the air to tell me that I had to get to the doctor’s office immediately after the show to discuss the outcome of my blood work. I started to panic. It was literally the most frightening moment of my life. LOL I still plan on getting them back.
Mike Preston just became your new PD. What's the best advice any PD reading this should know about coming in a working with an established/successful morning show? What would be the biggest mistake they could make?
Today we just got our numbers!! Fitz in the Morning was #1 Women 18-34, #1 Persons 18-34, #1 Persons 18-49, and #1 Women 18-49! To any new programmer going in to a station with an established, winning morning show, I would say that just because you are the new guy doesn’t mean that you have to start changing things. I would ask any new programmer to study the history of the radio station, from annual promotions to jingle packages. I think so many programmers feel the need to put their “blueprint” on a radio station that they have just taken over. Sometimes the best strategy is not change, but consistency. I can’t wait for Mike Preston to arrive. He has an amazing Programming mind and is a STREET WARRIOR!! Plus, I hear he is an amazing person and great Dad.