Thursday, June 9, 2011

Celebrating Success

The two shady characters pictured above are John Flint and Tammy Lee. Those aren’t their real names, but it’s the names they’ve used since they teamed up several years ago to do the best and most popular morning show that’s ever been done on country-music radio in Madison.

This dynamic duo has just rocketed into the stratosphere of broadcasting, and next month they’ll move their show from Star Country in Madison (radio market #98) to KSON-FM in San Diego (radio market #17). Making a “top-20” market in radio is as good as it gets, and these two are as good as it gets.

Congratulations, my friends.

Those who don’t work in broadcasting may not realize how much just plain hard work goes into putting on a top-notch morning radio program. All the elements have to mesh perfectly. For every hour on-the-air there’s at least that much time spent preparing for it, and there’s the intangible element of “chemistry” between or among the players that radio managers and consultants so desperately strive for….and so seldom achieve. It either happens, or it doesn’t.

Case in point: the lady who lives with me went from being my morning radio partner to being my wife. That’s chemistry.

I’m sure more than a few listeners to John and Tammy’s program think they’re married. They’re not. John has a smart, talented, beautiful wife (Stephanie) and Tammy has a smart, talented, handsome husband (Kurt). But when John and Tammy are in the studio together, they click like beans and rice, peas and carrots, whatever analogy you want to use. They can finish each other’s sentences, laugh out loud together, and snark at each other like old married folks. It just comes naturally. You can’t coach it, you can’t force it, you can’t buy it. Chemistry.

When they worked at Mid-West’s Q-106, I was a small part of their morning show. I did news and sports twice an hour. I was in a different studio, doing news on as many as five separate stations every morning, but no show was more fun to be on than John and Tammy’s. When they were nominated by the Country Music Association and the Association of Country Radio Broadcasters as best morning show in the nation, they were kind enough to include my name on the nomination. (We finished 2nd in the balloting.) That’s the kind of folks they are – the kind of talent that’s operating at SuperStar level, but as down-to-earth as can be. Country folk. No attitude; hard-working; share the wealth.

Mid-West, in a display of its usual corporate inability to manage people with true talent, let John and Tammy move their number-one rated morning show across town to Clear Channel’s Star Country a few years ago, because at annual review time, they didn’t want to give them a few more bucks. It was a mistake that Mid-West never really recovered from, a mistake which cost Mid-West untold amounts of advertising dollars…and tens of thousands of listeners…who just made the move down the dial with John and Tammy from 106.3 FM to 96.3 FM.

I knew Tammy before she was teamed up with John to do the Q-106 morning show, because I knew Tammy’s dad – the godfather of radio news in Madison, John Colbert – and Tammy’s sister, Robin Colbert, another former colleague who now runs the best radio news team in Madison. Tammy grew up hanging around her dad’s on-air buddies at WTSO-AM like J.D. Barber, Andy Witt, Chuck Mercury, and other legendary Madison radio personalities, when WTSO-AM was THE country-radio powerhouse in Madison.

And John? Well, a buddy of mine who works in the Eau Claire market, Mike Sullivan, tipped me that Jon was headed from Eau Claire to Madison to partner up with Tammy to do the Q-106 morning show. So, the first time John set foot in the news on-air studio to introduce himself to me, I gave him the sternest look I could muster and said “Get the f#@k out of my newsroom!” I still remember the stunned look on his face as he turned and left abruptly. And, of course, after he learned from Tammy that the grumpy old man in the newsroom was just putting on an act, we got to be really good buddies.

My friends John and Tammy have “made the big-time” and it couldn’t have happened to two nicer, talented, hard-working, professionals. I’m honored to say “I knew them back when…..”


  1. Good story.

    Did Midwest actually, really, truly, think that country-music was NOT a moneymaker?

  2. Thanks, Dad29.

    Mid-West knew/knows there's money to be made in country music. Mid-West thought/thinks that it's "the station" that's important....not the people who are on-air.

    It's a culture of assets and liabilities, not people and performers. They didn't know that the difference between Star 96.3 and Q 106 was not the music....both played the same songs at the was the people who talked in between the songs.

    All told, mid-seven-figure lesson which could have been avoided with an $8K pay bump.

  3. Heh.

    $8K is peanuts versus revenue-loss of (say) $500K, no?

    I had a client who insisted that they could NOT spend more than $XX for a manufacturing-tech manager. Market for that critter was $XX+20%.

    So we asked them what that Manager was expected to save them in direct costs over 5 years; the answer was $1 million--a realistic assessment.

    We then asked, with $1 million on the table, what was their problem with paying an extra $20K/year....

    They got the hint, sprung the money, and grew profits.

    Some management, however, is more dense, eh?

  4. Well-done article, Tim. (And unassailable logic, Mr. Dad.) Those Colberts are a pestilence, aren't they? (Old man Colbert and I share Sparta haunts and habits.)