“Exciting and unpredictable!” That makes a great baseball game but if you see it on someone’s on-line dating profile, change your name and burn off your fingerprints. I’ve done “exciting and unpredictable” and one morning woke up and realized that I needed to leave town. Quickly.
I hastily put together a creative mailer to send out. Instead of marketing myself, I was selling my desk and all of its fine qualities. And because the desk’s owners were highly motivated to find it a good home, they’d even throw in a Promotion Director to go with it.
Bing. Bang. Boom. Printed up 250 and blindly mailed them to every station I could find.
If you doubt that God has a sense of humor, then consider that the woman I was fleeing was named “Charlotte” and the first truly serious nibble I got was from Kiss 102…in Charlotte. As Paula, the Business Manager at the station I was fleeing said, “This was meant to be.”
Best damn move I ever made.
My first day on the job I was unpacking my Jack Daniels box of mementos and the PD was showing the new night guy who was also starting that day, around the station: Jo Jo Wright.He’d done some Radio in Anaheim, tried Salt Lake City, it wasn’t a great fit so he returned to So Cal where he taught at the Columbia School Of Broadcasting until fate (and Mark Shands) called.
The LSM at the station looked him over and said, and I quote, “These southern girls are gonna eat him up like a Moon Pie.”
And they did. At one point our little night guy (he’s like 4’ 2” max) had something like a 30 share He and I ended up moving to San Francisco the same week and later launched a small station called Wild 107. And at some point he married our (smoking hot) receptionist and occasional Promo Assistant at Kiss 102. Bastard.
So why the history lesson? Because in a lot of places, the night show has become this sterile, chlorinated, dumbed down, music intensive four hours of wall paper. As one of the GM’s recently described his night talent: “He’s un-noticeable and un-remarkable”.
The complete and polar opposite of Jo Jo who is flatout, the best night show I’ve ever heard.
Why? How? Where and how often?
He’s Himself As talented as he is, he’s actually even nicer. He has never tried to be cool because if you have to try, then you aren’t. One of the night shows emailed me about something and commented “I’m myself. I’m Real.” Well, then Real is not being afraid to make fun of yourself. Jo Jo was my wife and my roommate for awhile. He had Batman sheets and bedding. And he had no problem with occasionally referring to that on the air. He once ran out of clean clothes in San Francisco so he did his show from a Laundromat and invited listeners to join him and he’d provide the quarters.
He’s Accessible Our first Thanksgiving in North Carolina he had dinner with some prize pigs. Why? They knew he was alone and they invited him.
Every new technology that has come along that should improve the way we connect with listeners, we’ve pretty much screwed up. Posting spam about a remote is not connecting. Think WAY back to when everyone had a pager. And every DJ went and got a pager (in an apptempt to sound cool and appear to be relevant) Jo Jo would come in a couple of hours before his show and return pages.
I was at a hotel pool in Honolulu and the waitress at the pool bar had a KIIS shirt. We talked, I mentioned I knew someone who worked there, she asked who and when I said “Jo Jo Wright” her head almost spun off its axis and she launched into this story about how, six years before, she’d emailed him and asked him to say happy birthday to her sister, and instead he called the sister up on the air and had some artist who was in the studio sing to her.
He Inspires People You’ll see that still where you’ll ask people “So why did you go into Radio…” and they’ll start talking about how they had met this DJ…and “Well, here I am.” Sarah Lee Owensby from CBS in Tampa and New York? Met Jo Jo at an event in Charlotte and still has his autograph.
At one NKOTB show in Charlotte he so inspired the crowd that he was smashed up against a chainlink fence by a mob of about 400 girls wanting autographs. Not from the freaking band, but from HIM.
He Understands That Great Radio Is Theater Speaking of The Kids, one night we were trying to find our way out of the bowels of the Charlotte Coliseum following a concert and going past an empty Production office he spotted a pizza box sitting on a table. He ran in, grabbed it and the next night gave it away as “a pizza box from Donnie’s dressing room that we had to create a distraction with security so that we could sneak in and steal it.” The phones melted and you know that somewhere in the Carolina’s there a woman in her 40’s with a grease-stained pizza box in her closet that she pulls out and shows to friends a few times a year.
He Understands That We’re In Show Business And that people listen to us to share that experience. And not “share” as in a link to a corporate dictated story about how Nicki Minaj finds that stripes make her look hippy.
So, in San Francisco on days of big concerts he and I would take a cell phone, get into the Oakland Coliseum and starting at about 11 am he would do breaks every 30 minutes as he painted this amazing picture of the trucks unloading, the stage being built, the “thump thump” of the soundcheck. No one sitting at work suddenly goes at 5 pm, “Oh, yeah, I have Taylor Swift tickets for tonight!”. They’re thinking about it all day, and when they listened to Jo Jo, they were taken behind the scenes to hear the production coming together.
At one of these, he I were wandering around the mezzanine level of the arena in the middle of the day and a woman with a neck load of laminates and a dog on a leash went strolling past. I suggested that she might be worth talking to so he raced after her…and scored an interview with Janet Jackson’s dogwalker. It sounds stupid but it beat the Hell out of whatever KMEL was doing since they didn’t roll up until 5 pm.
He Thinks Outside Of The Studio There’s a reason everyone sounds the same: it’s pretty hard to be unique and capture the vibe of the market when you’re sealed in a 10X10 studio cut off from the world. With Jo Jo, everything was an excuse to get out and sound local.
There was some ginormous lottery jackpot so he got 50 tennis balls, wrote numbers on them, went to yet another corner Laundromat, put them in a dryer and hit spin. The first seven were the numbers he was going to play, he went and bought a ticket and was back in the studio all within an hour. He then opened up the phones and took 94 listeners names to share his winnings if it hit. My memory was that he actually won $1 and people DID show up for their penny, or more importantly, a chance to meet him.
In the summer he did Friday Night Live and the last two hours of his show were a series of live breaks from places all around the market. Nothing fancy. Maybe a grad party. Or a go cart track. Or street cruise. He’d do two breaks on a cell phone and move on to the next place.
“A cell phone?! That’s not studio quality!” Yes. Because life is studio quality.
When you listened to the station on Friday nights you heard the Bay Area. What an amazing concept.
He’s Not Afraid To Look Stupid As evidenced with his passion for taking photos of celebrity’s feet.
One night he asked a listener to come in and wash his hair in the bathroom sink? Why? Who cares? This is Radio. Stop over-thinking things.
He once came into my office at Wild, plopped down and joked that “When we were in Charlotte you used to be great at putting me in situations where I got to hang out with hot girls. Now? Nothing. What gives?”
So I suggested that with colleges returning in a couple of weeks, he should rush a sorority. He did and he became an official member of some house at San Francisco State. It was fun content and he always had sisters answering his phones. But really, it was just an excuse to do something stupid.
In 2015 I could see talent repelling in horror that someone would ask them to do something silly like that. “They might think….I’m gay!!!!”
And finally, and most importantly….
He’s Never Said ‘No’ To Anything Involving Meeting Listeners I asked a talent a couple of years ago what he did to meet listeners and he replied that he had a weekly club gig and had x gazillion numbers of social media followers. Yes. Because that translates to loyalty.
I don’t care how many clubs he had, or appearances, if someone reached out and asked him to come to their school or ride in their parade or do, well, anything, he’d do it. And if people didn’t reach out to him, we reached out to them. This is a 365 day non-stop campaign and sitting at election headquarters sending out tweets never won anyone anything.
The Charlotte market is huge, spread out and with our signal off Kings Mountain people on Mars probably were listening. So some TINY high school in the foothills of the Smokeys reached out and asked if he could come out for some all-night event they were having but because of his commitment to a club, he had to decline. And he was truly disappointed that he couldn’t make it.
The school came back to us with an offer of a ride in a State Police helicopter; it was a DARE event and someone knew someone with some juice and they could pick him up at 2 am.
He made the event and was home by 7 am to sleep for two hours before doing mid-days on a Saturday.
Maybe what makes Jo Jo so successful is a politician’s sense of immediacy when it comes to one-on-one marketing, plus the talent and personality to seal the deal and get the vote when he gets the 8 seconds that truly matter, with a potential listener.
I of course credit the promotions.