Career Capsule: When people say what did you want to be when you grew up, I can honestly say Radio and love it everyday. I’ve had the opportunity to work for some great stations over the years. From Heritage WZYP in the early days to WAY FM, STAR in Fort Wayne, JQ 99 in Grand Rapids and now WDJC in Birmingham. I started in this market career 27 years ago while in college and it’s been a great ride. I love it as much today as I did the first day. The opportunities God has given me from on air to programming as been a blast.
Ace, tell us what’s new at WDJC… news, changes, & new with YOU… etc?
We’ve had some great additions and changes over the last few months. I am honored to be co hosting mornings with Birmingham’s Sweetheart and radio legend Roxanne Richardson. As God brought this show together, He also orchestrated the return of Russell P Wall back to the DJC family to host the WAYHOME show in the afternoon and legendary voice Brother John Tidwell is hosting nights. Weekends have also beefed up with another Birmingham legend Jill Friday, who I worked with back in the early days at WMJJ/Magic 96 with friend and WDJC team mate Justin Brown. We now have the largest live and local talent in the market.
Christian Radio has become very competitive… what do you do to stand out from the crowd?
As of April, WDJC turned 50! As a heritage station in this market, we have built trust with the listeners and constancy. Our listeners know that we all live here and can relate to southern living, Bible Belt lifestyle and worship and serve in the local churches together. That kind of trust runs deep. We also have a great community of businesses that have been with us for decades that believe in what we stand for in faith and service to the community.
We all have marketing plans and station apparel or social media pages but building a genuine trust with the listeners through authentic vulnerability has created a lasting impression that we as a team take very seriously. We also don’t “blow smoke” at the listeners pretending to have it all together just because we have faith in God. We share about our struggles from our past and own it. We all are a part God’s unique plan for the station and “seeking first the Kingdom of God” in all aspects our are station trumps anything marketing or otherwise could ever do. We can’t hide behind our secrets or short comings. Being vulnerable on the air keeps the enemy from creeping in and when you’re listeners start holding you accountable in life, it’s a beautiful experience.
We also have Justin Brown at the helm as music director. With 3 other stations in this market, we not only have to be playing the best songs but relating to the audience and meeting them right where they are and that is what has made this station the heritage station that it is. Justin does a great job in helping us stand out with a great mix.
What is the best show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
The best was just this year and not to sound super spiritual but it came from the Lord. He said, “be the person on the air that you needed in your life early in your faith.” That was mind-blowing for me. I mean I’ve worked with Tommy Kramer and John Frost and learned tons from those guys on how to shape a great show. I’m on the air with the best partner any radio host could share the mic with in Roxanne but when you are back at home and grew up here resisting the rituals of the church, finding your voice among families can make you feel like a kid again and like you have nothing to offer. Maybe not everyone would feel that way, but thats where I was in returning home a year ago. So now being back trying to be a voice into someone’s life that is trying to figure out their own relationship with God is empowering. I’ll never take that peace or that calling for granted. The Worst advice was subscribe to a show prep service. I can’t be THAT kind of host. My approach to radio has always and even more so now with Roxanne is to be real, talk about what’s happening in the world/community and share what we are all growing through, thats not a typeo. We are all growing together on the air and that’s from the music to the content. It ALL matters. (Note: No offense to those who use show prep services or create them. It’s just not my style.)
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
The sobering thought is with streaming services, it doesn’t matter how many stations are in any market. People don’t need us anymore for music. They can create a station without commercials and DJ banter. They get new music before any of us, most of the time, so honestly it doesn’t matter how many stations we have playing Christian music. People will find what they are seeking so when they DO find you, play the songs they love and say something that matters.
What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your show?
My time with God. He has orchestrated the best show of my career and after all the junk I have been through in my life, most at my hand, but God still chose to use me in this format so constant communication with Him helps me have the focus I need to be my best for Him, Roxanne and the listeners each day.
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
I believe if we don’t stock the barn on weekends or part time, it’ll be hard to cultivate the next generation. However, since the invention of podcast, there is great talent developing on their own and if we just get outside the normal bubble of looking and scooping the same pool of hopefuls, we might just find the next BIG talent.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
Honestly, I think every station has a different climate so to make a blanket statement over the industry would be pompous and rude. I will say, like in our faith or talents, we are constantly looking at what other stations are doing and every time we look over the fence into their yard, we feel like we have to copy that in order to succeed. I mean what is God’s thumbprint on your ministry/station? How’s that thumbprint challenging other stations? We shouldn’t have to duplicate each other so feel like a winner. However, we should be challenged by stations doing great things because they let God direct their growth and their success. The amount of money we bring in or ratings has nothing to do with God’s kingdom and true ministry success can’t be measured. God will stir us if we need to up our game and surrounding ourselves with people who are talented makes our team stronger. It makes radio greater and God gets the glory for all of that.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why
Well hands down Birmingham Legend Bill ‘The Birdman’ Thomas. He was a lover of radio who knew how to have fun and care about people. That’s Christian radio in a nut shell for me. In addition to bringing God’s word and truth, we also have to help people laugh and entertain them. We can do that along side of caring for them. They are truly hurting and often times alone. If the radio was their only friend in moments of darkness, would they want to turn our stations on and find hope and authenticity? I truly believe so and I’m excited to keep the Birdman’s synergy alive.
I also look up to my co host Roxanne. She’s been a friend to me in this last year and one of the best talent radio has ever seen. When I started in radio, I looked up to her talent then and now to be across the room from her every morning just makes me up my game so we can celebrate our friendship with the listeners and radiate Christ to Birmingham.