Host: Sunday Nite Slow Jams / Program Director: iHeart Radio’s Slow Jam Channel
Company: Benztown Radio Networks / Clear Channel
Born: Chicago, IL
Raised: Los Angeles, CA and Tucson, AZ
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
My dreams started to come true my first summer in Tucson when I started my radio career at just 15 years old. I started off at KJYK-A, then KOHT and KSJM. I went on to KRQQ and then back to KOHT while doing nights simultaneously at KZZP in Phoenix. From ’07 to ’09, I programmed KHHT in Los Angeles. In January of 2009, I began concentrating on my syndicated Sunday Nite Slow Jams show full-time.
1. You started hosting your first Slow Jams show in 1994. What drew you to Slow Jams?
I used to stay up late at night listening to various late night “Quiet Storm” storm shows as a kid. I was fortunate to live in a few cities that had some amazing Urban stations, and even more amazing Quiet Storms; like WGCI/Chicago and WJHM/Orlando. My inspiration and idol was Kevin “Slow Jammin’”James at KKBT/Los Angeles. You could say I was a “different” kid. While all the other white kids in 8th grade were listening to Guns N Roses and Metallica, I was groovin’ to Keith Sweat and Jodeci. I’d always been somewhat of a romantic kid…I think the first Slow Jams mix tape I made for a girl was in the third grade! Slow Jams just seemed to speak to me.
2. Now that you’ve been doing this for half of your life, do you still get the same kind of rush when you open the mic or schedule the music for your show?
Nothing’s ever as special as the first time, but is the magic still there? Definitely. I get the biggest thrill still every time I answer the phone — finding out who’s on the other end, where they are calling from, and what their story is. I still remember, to this day, the first night my show went national. Even though it launched with only three radio stations at first, picking up my phone (at home!) in Tucson, and hearing a caller on the other end from Tulsa, OK just blew my mind. Today, on in over 50 markets, 5 nights a week, I still get a kick out of taking calls from listeners — you never know what’s waiting for you on the other end.
3. If you had to pick two celebrity vacation week hosts, one male and one female, who would you pick?
You know, I have never, ever, ever had a fill-in. I am so passionate and so serious about my show, having someone else host it would be comparable to me letting someone else sleep with my wife. I just couldn’t imagine it happening.
4. What’s the highlight of your radio career to date?
I’ve been lucky to have many. A few that stand out are: doing nights on KRQQ/Tucson and having record numbers (and record FUN!), my first programming gig as PD of KOHT/Tucson, taking Sunday Nite Slow Jams from local to internationally syndicated, and programming KHHT/Los Angeles. I couldn’t forget to mention working with some of the best in the industry, from Bruce St. James, to Mark Medina, Tim Richards, John Ivey, Greg Ashlock, Dave “Chachi” Denes and Masa Patterson and the team at Benztown and Mark Wilson and my Westwood One family. There are so many, many more, including my stations’ staffs and support teams. I’ve been blessed to work with so many good people that I consider friends today.
But perhaps one of the most amazing highlights was actually hiring Kevin “Slow Jammin’” James at KHHT/Los Angeles — the same person I was writing fan letters to 15 years ago, and now I’m calling him to come work for me?! It just goes to show you how what goes around really comes around: when I was 17 years old Kevin let me “sit in” on his show at The Beat in L.A. Being new in the business, I received the cold shoulder from many PDs and jocks that I called on for advice, asked to see the station, etc. From day one Kevin extended his hand to me without a second thought. He’s like that with everybody. Being able to return the favor by helping initiate his comeback to L.A. radio was an honor. It’s stuff like that that still blows my mind.
5. Do you miss the vibe of being in a radio station all day?
Sometimes I do . I’m not going to lie. I miss seeing hot sales chicks walking around, I miss grubbing on all the free food brought in by clients, and I miss having V.I.P. status at all the club nights. I miss working with talented people and winning as a team.
I don’t miss the office politics, the long (and many) meetings that waste time, and the ongoing sales vs. programming battle. Often, in a radio station environment, we as PDs are punished for sticking up for our station, trying to do bigger and better radio, and putting our listeners and on-air product first. I hate that many times PDs are punished for doing that, instead of rewarded. I always thought that if I owned a factory, I would want people who constantly strived to put out a better product. Seems that today, all too often upper management at radio stations would rather have a “yes man” and a “go with the flow” kind of PD, than someone who’ll make noise, stir things up, and win. Too many stations these days just go through the motions; what seems like an endless rotation of meaningless liners and irrelevant sales promotions. And that makes me sad. We have got to turn this thing around, and quick.
I love having my own hours, being my own boss, coming in when I want to, leaving when I want to, taking vacations when I want to. Now that doesn’t mean I work any less. On the contrary, I find myself working harder than I’ve ever worked before. But the difference is that I see the payoff. When I stay late or go the extra mile for a client or affiliate, I benefit from the results. And that’s a pretty amazing feeling. If I want something approved in the budget for Sunday Nite Slow Jams, I sign off on it (unfortunately that means that I pay for it too!) I am in charge of my own destiny and I love it!
I encourage any jock who has a successful show to think about syndicating it. It’s a lot of work, and a long, long road – but the payoff is worth it. This year I put together a complete “how-to” manual on syndicating your show: everything from the ground up, A to Z, including the stories of dozens of other syndicated personalities from The Baka Boyz to Dr. Laura. You can grab some free advice and syndication secrets by going to www.rdub.com
6. What took you to Brazil?
Allaccess.com does not have enough bandwidth for my Brasil “story!” It would take days! The quick version is that I absolutely fell in love with Brasil my first trip there. I met lifelong friends during my first 24 hours in Brasil. I felt an indescribable sadness leaving Brasil that first time. I was absolutely enamored with everything about the place, from the people to the food, the weather, the beaches, the music and the language.
After my second trip I was even more in love. Brasil had taken over my soul. One day I realized that as long as I had a studio to produce Sunday Nite Slow Jams, I could live anywhere in the world. I found a condo on the 25th floor overlooking the beach, set-up shop, and the rest is history. Today I do the show looking out the window at the water and Brasilian babes in bikinis. Not a bad life! When I’m not in Brasil, I’m back home at the North American Slow Jams Headquarters, in Tucson, AZ.
If you feel like hearing the whole Brasil story, from start to finish, head over to www.slowjams.com and click the “Brasil” link.
By the way, all my affiliates have an open invitation to the casa in Brasil.
7. Top 40/Rhythm radio has taken a decidedly uptempo turn in the last few years. How has that affected you and your Slow Jams show?
It sure has! There is definitely not the R&B presence in Top 40 like there used to be. It wasn’t too long ago that we’d complain that scheduling music was tough because of all the ballads! Remember how tricky separation of slow songs in Selector was? Boy has that changed!
As far as affecting Sunday Nite Slow Jams, it just means that there just aren’t as many Slow Jam currents to pick from. But good Slow Jams shows, in general, are usually gold-based anyway, so it’s no problem relying on the many Slow Jam smashes of yesterday–from artists like Boyz II Men, Aaliyah, and the classic Mariah and R Kelly joints that carry the show. Currents have never been the backbone of Slow Jams shows, so the recent shift in the format is almost non-applicable. There are still enough Usher, Trey Songz, and Monica current hits out there to balance the eras and keep the show fresh.
8. Over 16 years, what’s probably your most played Slow Jams song?
Well, on the old-school tip, Heatwave’s Always And Forever will always be the biggest. That song never gets old — listeners from ages 7 to 77 still request that song like it’s a current! Other “most played” songs include Keith Sweat’s Nobody, K-Ci & JoJo All My Life, Usher’s Nice & Slow, and Boyz II Men’s I’ll Make Love To You. There are so many good, familiar, timeless Slow Jams smashes, which is one reason the show is so successful. You can see a list of my Top 50 Most Requested Slow Jams here:
9. You’re a busy guy…what do you like to do with your downtime?
There’s not much downtime. I chuckle when non-industry folks assume that we DJs just work a couple hours a day, when we’re on the air. As any radio person knows, the job is never done, and there’s always something to do next!
Any downtime that I had before is now officially gone…I decided to go back to school this summer. I get my associates from the community college in December, and start the University of Arizona as a junior in January, majoring in journalism with a minor in Portuguese.
10. You started in radio very young. Any aspect of your youth that may have been lost by starting your profession so young?
It was definitely a trade-off, but a trade-off that I don’t regret. It was worth it. If anything, I might have missed taking part in some after school activities, clubs and sports…but nothing was more fun than doing nights on the local hip-hop radio station while going to high school. It actually made the high school experience ten times better. I remember being a senior and actually contemplating failing a class or two so they’d hold me back — I didn’t want to graduate! Being in radio as a high school student was too much fun!
What’s new with the Sunday Nite Slow Jams?
I am excited to announce that I am launching a Pop/Mainstream version of Sunday Nite Slow Jams! The Rhythm version I do now continues to knock down shares in the 30s, 40s, even 50s and 60s, and break records, on Rhythm, Urban AND Pop stations! I felt that the Mainstream format deserved their own “special” version of Slow Jams, so here it is! It’s the same winning formula of Sunday Nite Slow Jams, with a more mainstream library. You can call the folks at Benztown to grab it before your competition does: 818-842-4600.
Who’s the biggest, new star of Slow Jams?
Without a doubt, Trey Songz. He was part of our annual Sunday Nite Slow Jams LIVE concert tour in 2008, and these past two years he’s gotten bigger than ever.