Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
The Move Into Radio
February 7, 2003
"I'm feelin' focused man, my money on my mind
I got a mill out the deal and I'm still on the grind"
-50 Cent "In Da Club"
To tell this story, we have to go back to November 25, 2002. I woke up from a day of sleep and checked my Hotmail account. Between the spam and the friends saying hello, I had an e-mail that said "saw your hot talk website" in the subject line. I opened it up, and saw that it was from none other than Bubba the Love Sponge. For those of you who haven't heard of him, you'd better educate yourself -- he's the next big thing in radio. I've been familiar with his program since before I moved to Tampa. Being a wrestling fan, I'd read about him in some of the insider sheets (Wrestling Observer, Pro Wrestling Torch, etc.) Bubba is good friends with Hulk Hogan, so quite often there would be news stemming from something said on Bubba's show. But when I moved to Tampa I was able to hear his show, and I quickly became a fan. I'd heard Stern and Bob & Tom and the rest, but Bubba's show stood out to me. The non-conformist style, the edginess, the world-class quality bits, the absolute ruthlessness with callers -- Bubba's show represented to me a high quality program. I began listening as much as I could. So, to be sure, I knew who Bubba was and was glad to hear from him.
He'd found my Hot Talk webpage, which chronicles some of the best syndicated shows in the genre. It's actually an unfinished project -- some of the widely non-morning syndicated shows (Tom Leykis, Phil Hendrie, etc.) still need their own page. But Bubba's was complete, and he'd found it through the power of the internet.
Just the week before, I'd filed a complaint at WTSP against the Executive Meddler (later found to be "unsubstantiated" by what I consider to be one of the most one-sided "investigations" I've ever witnessed). Things there were not happy. Far from it. I was stuck in a contract with a horrible supervisor, an awful shift and not one ounce of legitamite opportunity for advancement. The daily tormenting made things uncomfortable. Bad times.
The problem was, as unhappy as the situation at work made me, I loved Tampa. Still do. This city is about as good as it gets, in my opinion. I'll always have love for Nashville. And I've never been to California, so I can't include it in any comparisons. But Tampa works well for me.
Unfortunately, as a TV news producer, there were only four other places where I could ply my craft in Tampa. Hardly a situation working to my advantage. Further complicating it was a stipulation in my deal with WTSP that I'm contractually obligated not to reveal. But point is, it didn't look like I was going to be able to stay in town.
Bubba and I talked off and on, sending e-mails back and forth. 2002 came to a close.
Last month, my friend Scott Massey was over here playing against me in NCAA 2003 football. Bubba called and we shot the shit. Then he mentioned that he was interested in possibly bringing me in to become his head of syndication. There was no hesitation -- I told him that would be great.
See, I've always liked radio. Part of the reason I chose the University of Evansville for college was because its excellent radio station (WUEV). You know, the one with the tower on top of Olmsted Hall that the school airbrushes out of its promotional photos? (Don't get me started on THAT...) I ultimately ended up in TV, but radio always had my interest. I spent four years of college working for WUEV and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
I actually called the person who works as the Head of Syndication for Lex & Terry. Confidentiality precluded me from revealing the offer that Bubba had extended to me, but I did my best to find out what I could about what the job entailed. It sounded to me like something I could enjoy doing and perform well. My mind was made up.
So when my tenure at WTSP came to an end, there was no anguish -- I literally left Channel 10 and drove over to Bubba's office. Believe me, I was one happy cat yesterday. Going from producing a female-geared morning news program to syndicating the best radio show in America. I'll take that trade, thank you very much.
This is a HUGE opportunity. I can't emphasize that enough. I'm going to perform a salesman role of sorts, but it's a very nice situation. I firmly believe in the quality of the product, and the hard part has already been done, getting it established in the first few markets. The show has done amazingly well, particularly in the Men 18-34 range. Bubba has beaten Lex & Terry in Jacksonville in that demographic the past two books, and in his last book in West Palm he beat Stern in the demo (and tripled Bob & Tom in the demo). So there's a success pattern established already.
That's not to say this will be easy. Keep in mind that Bob & Tom and John Boy & Billy have a company called Premiere that is responsible for their syndication. Even Lex & Terry have a three-person staff. Bubba has... me. But Bubba also has national name recognition and more than 15 years of work invested in the business. Program Directors and General Managers know who I'm talking about when I say who I represent.
So let me put every struggling rock or male-skewing morning show in America on notice right now... get your resume tapes ready. Don't extend the lease on that apartment. We're ready to roll the Bubba the Love Sponge show out nationwide. And I look forward to helping to make it happen.
That's how we got to where we are today. And let me tell you, my first full day working for Bubba was a good one. Woke up at 7 AM and flipped on the show. They were talking about a voice mail left by a woman at WKTE, this 1,000 watt AM southern gospel station in King, NC. In the voice mail the woman claimed that we had called and left a message inquiring about getting the show on there. She retorted that she found our show repulsive and that they'd never bring in the program. She asked that we never call back again.
Of course, the guys had some fun with it on the air. I scrambled in my half-awake mode to figure out what the hell this was. I thought perhaps I had somehow written down the wrong call letters or numbers or something. But I checked my database and my master list and nothing came up. Meanwhile I had Ned busting on me, as only Ned can do:
Ned: Who hired this guy?
Bubba: (angry) I did...
The message was hilarious and of course they played it a few times. Priceless stuff. The only thing that could explain it is that this one guy called and left a message with a number yesterday that turned out to be a cell phone number (no info given, just a "leave your name at the tone" deal). But besides that, I have no idea where that came from. We talked about it after the show... I assured them that I'm not soliciting AM gospel stations that turn their stick off at night. And they laughed about it and told me that they enjoyed how it played out into a really good bit. So all is well on that.
One thing is, everybody on the show takes a busting sometimes. Everybody. I knew that going in. That's part of what makes the show so great, nothing is off limits.
Tonight was great, too. Got a haircut over at Supercuts, which was my first haircut in two years (since I shaved my head in that timespan). This wonderful, beautiful woman named Kristen cut my hair... and we ended up exchanging phone numbers. Yet another reason to keep the hair grown out :)
Time now for a workout, once I finish digesting dinner from Chick-Fil-A...