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Plant Radio first started webcasting January 1, 2010, opening with Shooting Stars’ Breakout, and Kansas’s Song for America. I have only been listening for a few days and the play list is so wonderfully diverse that I hesitate to list anything for fear of leaving out important artists or songs. Hear it for yourself by tuning in at http://www.PlanetRadio.us.
Last week Randy talked to OnStl.com about radio: past, present, and future.
Part I of 2
OnStl: – You started at KSHE in 1985. I guess I was 25 years old so you were 29 or so?
RR: – Yes it was 1985 so I was 29 and the thing about it is that I would have never, ever, ever ,ever -- and let me put another ever in there -- left Kansas City for any other radio station than KSHE. I had cousins who grew up in St. Charles, so whenever I would come down to visit on vacation or whatever, just as soon as I could get KSHE on the radio, I would turn it on. DJs like Ted Habeck, Ron & Joy, and Gary Kolander -- I knew who they were before I even got to St. Louis. And it was guys like Habeck who turned me on to such great music.
The first time I ever heard Jackson Browne and Springsteen was on KSHE. Living in the Quad Cities, we didn’t have a station like KSHE, so the funny thing about it is the way I arrived at KSHE is that John Beck, the GM of KSHE at that time, had been the GM of a competing station I was working at in Kansas City, and he had a really fine station and a really good staff. He never knocked KY(102) off the throne but I always appreciated the efforts that those guys put into it. So when John got the GM position at KSHE, it just kind of blew me away a little bit. So I guess I wrote him a letter, about a 6-paragraph letter, basically saying "please please please please please". I think there were probably a million "pleases" in it and I said if you ever have an opening at KSHE, my God man, I ... that (would be) the pinnacle of my career. I don’t know … I’d probably pee my pants if I ever got an opportunity. I didn’t hear anything from John for about 9 months or so.
Then I got a call from Rick Balis one day and he wanted to know if I had anything (on air) I could send. I said no but I’ll record today's show for you because you know, like I said, I was happy in Kansas City, I wasn’t looking for a job or anything like that. So I didn’t have an air check or an audition tape or anything like that so I recorded my show that day and sent it off to Balis and didn’t hear anything for a while. I just kind of forgot about it and one day got a call from Rick and he said, “Hey, ah ... you want to come in and let’s talk?” It was like one thing led to another and then in June of 1985, I reached one of my lifelong dreams and one of the things that got me in the business by joining the staff at KSHE.
OnStl: And a polished show you did have there. I have to tell you, to this day, I still listen to Life Sucks Then You Die on Mondays.
RR: The national anthem of Monday nights.
OnStl: It really was and is.
RR: You know it wasn’t an easy transition for me and I think for some of the listeners too. I’m not going say (I was) your typical KSHE jock . I liked doing a show. I liked incorporating a bunch of different stuff. Whether it was fake phone calls or bits or stuff like that, I was always kind of doing a show. But I never wanted to take away the meaning of the music. Because when you listen to a station, the number one thing is the music. What I wanted to do and what I tried to do, without taking away from the music, was to add kind of a circus, kind of an atmosphere where you just didn’t know what was coming next. I would play a Monty Python bit, or I would play Life Sucks Then You Die. Or I would do some different things. I always wanted to turn it into a show and I think for the long-time KSHE listener who was about the music, I think it was a little bit of a difference. I think the first couple of phone calls I took at KSHE were “Oh my god man, who the hell are you?” And that’s fine. I got it and I know that St. Louis is that type of town, and I knew this going into it, that you have to earn your way.
I don’t want to make this sound negative or anything like that, because if you’re an outsider, the people of St. Louis want to make sure you’re one of them. I always was a KSHE fan from 1970 and all I wanted was just to entertain a little bit so it was a little bit of ah … let’s just say the transition wasn’t quite as smooth as I hoped it would be, but within a couple of months after listening to me, I think people got it. I think they realized that I, slowly but surely, became one of them. And it‘s funny, I always say to some of my friends that St. Louis is a tough market to break into. I was the new guy for 5 years. And so that is kind of what it was. I always wanted to turn it into a show.
OnStl: Myself, I was one of those kids that laid in bed at 8 or 9 years old with a transistor radio and we had a little am station here (KXOK) when a DJ very much like you came into town. His on-air name was Mason Lee Dixon and he’s still working in Florida, I think. He had a formatted radio show and he had bits and it was different and I loved every minute of it. But he was only here about a year and a half, so I totally understand the point that you’re making.
RR: I understood coming into St. Louis that it might take a while but I really appreciate the fact that Rick Balis and John Beck never said, “Hey dude you need to tone it down”, because I think they kind of got it. It was , "Ok let’s see how this thing works." And after my first rating period, the numbers were through the roof. So you have to understand that you’re bound to get people who will call up and say negative stuff but the vast majority of the people who like what you do will never pick up the phone and say “hey man I like what you do." They give you their vote by listening.
All I wanted to be then and throughout my entire radio career.... and I’m proud to say that I’m a trained broadcaster, I went to school to learn how to do this .... the only thing that I ever wanted to be was your friend (while you were) driving home.
You know the guy that when you turn on the radio, he’s a friendly voice and he is talking about something (going on) that I’m thinking about, he’s not an asshole, he doesn’t put everybody else down, he’s a real positive, uplifting kind of guy. I like having him in my car with me and that’s all I ever wanted to do.
OnStl: And that’s exactly what you were to millions of listeners and 13 years at KSHE proves that.
RR: Like I said, it was a great time. Some of the greatest memories I had was the stuff we did at KSHE like putting together a softball team & playing in Sullivan, Missouri or Mulberry Grove, Illinois, and shaking hands with the people who never got to see the guys from KSHE and to me that was always fun. The way that I always looked at radio was that you’re always running for election every day. I was always humbled and honored to go out and do an unpaid gig. Whether it was at Colonel Days, or Glik’s, a game for charity, or going out for whatever it was, I always enjoyed meeting people and I always enjoyed having fun with them.
So I really tried to represent KSHE professionally, and myself, and be positive. I think that was a real part of my success.
Next week in Part 2 Randy talks about the end of his tenure at KSHE, the illness that sidelined him, and his new project Planet Radio.us.