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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Houston radio's Laurie Kendrick talks to Mike McGuff


Laurie Kendrick has been a staple of the Houston radio dial, having appeared on Rock 101 KLOL's "The Stevens and Pruett Show" and on FM News Channel 97.5 KFNC. She talks to the mikemcguff blog about those experiences and her new blog at lauriekendrick.wordpress.com

MM) You recently worked at 97.5 KFNC. That was a novel approach to news
radio, why do you think it ultimately did not work out?

LK) FM News Channel 97.5 was a novel approach. Times were changing and people were listening to radio differently. So, we figured we had to make necessary changes to accommodate. No one was combining humor with news and talk (at least not on purpose) and we determined that a large number of Houstonians were getting the bulk their news and information from "The Daily Show and Saturday Night Lives' "Weekend Update", so we figured why not? We had the cast of characters who could certainly pull it off. I mean think about KFNC's original pedigree? Some of the most venerable radio icons in Houston radio history. The format was popular...the ratings may never have fully reflected it, but we knew it was working. What didn't work was the station's signal. That was problematic. Very much so and in my opinion, made all the difference.

But what can I say? I refuse to cry over spilled megawatts.

Anyway, we knew we'd have our detractors and we did, but that was OK. The more our competitors pointed out our flaws, the better we felt. We "bothered" them. That was great and a huge victory in and of itself.

The one thing I wanted to make clear to everyone...staffers and listeners alike, is that we weren't afraid to laugh at ourselves. We were very serious about not taking ourselves so seriously and that worked to our favor. I would get countless e-mails from listeners who said listening to us was like to listening to family and friends talking about life as they gathered in someone's living room.

It was truly a familial atmosphere. Everyone who worked there--especially at 97.5's incarnation as FM News Channel, had a great time. It was fun..in every sense of the word. It wasn't a job.

Still, I put a lot of myself in 97.5. I allowed it to become such a dominate force in my life. I lived and breathed it. While I will NEVER do that again, I must say, having it ripped out from under me, from us, as it was, made me very sad. I still miss the magic we created there on a daily basis. And based on the e-mail I still receive, I'm not the only one..

MM) How did you come up with the idea for a show on that station about the supernatural?

LK) I've always had more than just a passing interest in the paranormal and there was a niche for that here in Houston. We also did it in a very novel way. Why I have actually heard a few inexplicable things "that went bump in the night", I was never a huge zealot. There are a lot of people who are though--to a ridiculous extreme in some cases. While I'm a firm believer in the old adage, "Whatever floats your boat", but some of the subject matter we covered and the guests we had on made for hilarious fodder. So yeah, my approach to "Supernatural Saturday Night" was the same as it was for the rest of the programming on 97.5..poking good natured fun at everything. I learned early on that laughter was real magic. It's so restorative. The show was gaining real momentum when 97.5 flipped formats. I'll bring it back the first chance I get.

MM) You were a part of the very big Houston morning show, The Stevens and Pruett Show on the now defunct Rock 101 KLOL, what was that like?

LK) There have been three incredibly, magical times in my life up to this point: when I was in Jr. High; 1986 when I was a News Anchor for the CBS affiliate in Laredo, Texas and my years with Stevens and Pruett on KLOL. I learned a great deal from Mark Stevens and Jim Pruett--namely what NOT to do in radio.

I'm kidding...or am I?.

In all seriousness, while working there I learned an amazing amount, not just about radio, but about comedy. Mark, Jim and Brian Shannon (Boner) were comedic masters in every sense of the word. Stevens had this uncanny ability to see talent and promise. He was very shrewed in surrounding himself with exceptional people. Jim Pruett is hilarious and Brian still has some the best timing in the business. He'll always be one of the best reactive comics working. He's the consummate second banana; brilliant in his own right.

I also learned a great deal from the Grand Dame herself, the legendary Martha Martinez. I took over when she left and those were some hard pumps to fill!

MM) I bet you have some memorable stories you can and can't share after being with those guys!

LK) Well, let me put it this way: during my six year tenure with S&P, my very evangelical father prayed for my soul.....hourly.

MM) There is always talk about that show reforming with ALL of the players, could that ever happen and the magic still be there?

You're night there's always talk of bringing back the show. I'll just say this: it's hardly out of the realm of possibilities at this point.

As for the show still retaining it's magic? It would still be a very funny show, but it would be an entirely different show. For one thing, we've all evolved. By that I mean, we different people than we were when we were all last together six seven years ago. The same applies to our core audience. I'd like to think we've all grown up..

Times have changed, The show's blatant forays into sexuality were fine for radio as it was say...10-15 years ago. I mean Stevens and Pruett essentially invented "blue radio"..and were doing long before Howard Stern came on the scene. Working blue is so out of date. Any jock or host who still thinks interviewing hookers and strippers makes for good radio, is delusional.

In addition to that, the show has lost two vital components. Sadly, Kevin Dorsey died in 2003 and the legendary Chuck Shramek died in 2000. So no, the show could never, ever really be the same without them. But it would still be a funny show, in tribute to them.

MM) I'm not joking when I say someone literally complained to me last week about Rock 101 KLOL being gone. Why are people still talking about that station? Why was it so important to its listeners?

LK) Because Rock 101 KLOL was an institution. It provided the soundtrack for a generation. It was real and in your face and thought so damn outside the box, that only NASA could track it. It's effected were tentacled, too. When I was a taking radio classes in college back in the early 80's, my professor was playing audio samples of various types of morning show genres from all across the country. As the blue radio show representative, he played a clip from the Stevens and Pruett show--from their days at KEGL in Dallas. I was born and raised with San Antonio radio, so I'd never heard of Stevens or Pruett or Hudson and Harrigan, so they were new to me and so was their filthy, nasty style. I laughed my head off in class that morning and thought that my sense of humor would blend so well with theirs. I remember thinking that I would work with these two animals someday.

Lo and behold, seven years later, I was. Supernatural elements are at work, all around us. See what I mean?

MM) In today's iPod, satellite radio, Internet world, can a station ever be as big as Rock 101 KLOL ever again?

LK) Yes, but only if your take corporate ownership out of the equation. That's probably more wishful thinking than anything else. I hate what deregulation has done to radio, but in an odd way, it also kept radio afloat. By the mid 90's, "Mr. and Mrs. Privately Owned Station"..-which was the norm for years and years...started to die on the vine. Deregulation saved them and in do so, allowed a lot of private owners to retire early and profitably.

The down side of that was the sinful homogenization of radio. If one format was good for one market, corporations thought it'd be good in 16 others. I can assure you that what works in Eugene, Oregon WON'T work in Cleveland, Ohio. For that matter, what works in Dallas won't necessarily work in Houston. Why these corporate idiots can't this is beyond beyond me.

There are times when good radio can't be determined by the numbers in the profit margin side of a balance sheet.

So with that said, if anyone reading this wants radio to be the way it used to be, pray for the mass return of private ownership. And then support the station; listen to it--constantly; frequent it's events and by all means, buy the goods and services advertised on the station.

You see, the other thing that's killing terrestrial radio is options. iPods and iTunes and Yahoo Music and Rhapsody and Satellite pay per listen and burnable CD's have all plunged knives in the backs of radio and continue to slice away at audience numbers. .

If things continue at this pace, FM will suffer the same fate it dealt AM when it came into vogue. FM will soon be home to news and talk and sports and AM will be relegated to ethnic programming and religious broadcasts.


MM) Tell us about your entrance into the blogosphere, what are you writing about?

LK) Well, I'm still looking for meaningful employment (hint..hint) and my blog has kept me sane. Radio and TV jobs have come and gone but the one thing that's always stayed with me is my love of writing. Its served me well in ALL broadcast mediums. I began my blog in late March and it's already getting amazing feedback and an readership that's grown each week. It's comprised mostly of observational humor mostly..some political satire. I wrote a piece recently called "The Crisper" in which took standard items normally found in a refrigerator and juxtaposed turned them into key players in the Bush White House in the days before we invaded Iraq in 2003. That story got rave reviews.

My blog is mostly comedy but there are a few "think piece" I've thrown in as "literary sorbet". It's certainly fun and definitely keeping me sane in this crazy period of ABJECT unemployment.

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