Career Capsule: I have listened to Southern Gospel Music for as long as I could remember. Groups like the Blackwood Brothers, Speer Family, Cathedral Quartet, Gold City and so many more. I remember around the age of 9 years old, asking my parents if I could walk across the street to the local neighborhood church to hear the Blackwood Brothers in concert. I was so excited to go and loved every minute of the concert. I was mesmerized by the tight harmonies and passion the guys had for the music and the message.
I was saved in my early twenties and went on to announce my calling into ministry. I was eventually ordained and have had the privilege of pastoring two churches totaling 11 years as a pastor. My radio ministry started by broadcasting a portion of our preaching service on the local radio station. This opportunity opened up a door to start filling in for the on-air staff then leading to a permanent position on Saturday morning where I launched Gospel Radio Favorites over 25 years ago.
My wife and I recently celebrated 30 years of marriage, we have two wonderful children and 4 grandchildren (all boys). We reside a few minutes north of Chattanooga, TN in a little town called Dayton, TN.
Brian, tell us what’s new at Gospel Radio Favorites … news, changes, & new with YOU… etc?
We are excited as we continue to see the blessings of God upon this ministry. Gospel Radio Favorites syndicated program continues to grow and has now reached over 1700 radio stations around the world. This includes terrestrial, online and satellite stations.
In addition, we are expanding to television and have recently launched Gospel Radio Favorites Showcase television program. GRF Showcase is a 30-minute music program featuring artist videos, interviews and industry news and updates. The program has been well received and has already been added to several television stations around the United States.
How have you been affected by the pandemic, on and off the air?
Personally, most of our immediate family has had Covid to some degree. It amazes me how this virus affects people differently. It is unfortunate we lost both friends and music giants to this dreaded virus.
Due to the restrictions and quarantine, I believe radio has increased in popularity, listeners and interest. I seen a surge in podcasting and had many new listeners message me about my radio program. I pray this increase will hold true as the mandates and restrictions are being lifted.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
Wow, great question. This question took me a minute, because over the years, I’ve received a lot of advice, some good and some not so good. The best advice is knowing your audience and play only the best of the best. Make sure the message is biblical and don’t be afraid to tell an artist no, you are not going to play their song. Be loving in your answer and constructively tell them why you have decided not to play the song. How you think they can change to get that air play they are requesting. It is a tough industry sometimes, but this will ultimately help the artist in the long run.
The worst advice is play everything you receive in the mail. I work for the Kingdom of God; I am a part of the family of God and I want to do everything to the best of my ability. Don’t cut corners or half do a program or project. Love what you do and it will reflect in the finished product!
You’re launched a TV version of Gospel Radio Favorites …how did that come about?
I’ve always been told I have a face for radio (lol). I would have never in a million years thought about producing and airing a television program. About a year ago, when my radio program really took off, I started getting requests from local cable stations asking if I would consider sending them a television version of my radio program. At first, I laughed and told them I would pray about it. I had no idea how to make this happen and frankly, I am busy with my radio program, I didn’t think it would be a possibility.
I had put that thought on the backburner, and in a period of 30 days, I had three more requests from unrelated cable and internet networks ask me again. I asked the Lord if this was his Will, please provide an avenue and direction. About a week later, I had mentioned the phone calls to an industry friend and he informed me that he could help make this project a reality.
From this phone call to the first airing of the program took about 10 months. We worked hard building a set, putting together the right lighting, props, equipment and researched the licensing and legalities. We then aired a couple of “practice” segments until we felt we had something we were all happy with for distribution.
Today, two months after our first broadcast television debut, we are still improving and feel this will be a continuous task until we get the set and process perfect. After the first 4 programs, we had a complete set change and found out now we will need to make some additional changes to fit additional guests like quartets all at once on the set.
How has Southern Gospel music evolved in recent years?
This is a relevant question, especially for today. We have seen Southern Gospel audiences shrink, Southern Gospel radio stations fold. I think artists and radio stations are responding with crossover music from the Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) industry. We are seeing several artists remake CCM songs into Southern Gospel. I believe there is room in the industry for both traditional and progressive. I see many young people responding to the progressive music, and these young people are the future of Southern Gospel.
I continue to play both the traditional and progressive songs on Gospel Radio Favorites. There are a lot of great songs out there and there is room for everyone!
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
I believe because of the pandemic, as mentioned earlier, we’ve seen a surge in podcasting and online radio stations. There are a lot of great talent in Christian radio today. I’ve been in radio for over 25 years and love it! We need to encourage listeners to support the local Christian radio stations and the groups who are played on the stations.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
This question is a great segway from my previous answer. The analytics show Southern Gospel listeners are aging. It has becoming difficult for aging supporters to get out and attend concerts for numerous reasons or support the underwriters or advertisers on the stations. If we as listeners do not or cannot support these radio stations, sponsors and artists, they may be forced to move into other genres or careers.
Unfortunately, during the pandemic there were numerous full-time artists and groups make some tough decisions about their ministry. Radio station donations were cut considerably. Some group members left to find alternative income and careers. Radio stations were forced to close their doors. This will happen to Christian air talent if listeners do not support these great radio stations, musicians and singers.
Christian air talent presents the best message in the world, hope, peace, love and a heavenly father that loves us, a home beyond this world, SALVATION with a forever home we call Heaven. I pray we see a resurgence in Christian Radio and a movement to support all genres of Christian music. Music evolves and changes as time moves forward. Let’s love one another, support one another and pray for one another!
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I remember as a young boy, listening to Casey Kasem hosting the American Top 40. I was about 9 or 10 and I would record songs on a cassette tape and play them back pretending to be Casey Kasem. Holding a hair brush as a microphone, I would mimic his closing “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars” as I closed my pretend radio program for the night. Two years ago, my goal was to be broadcast on 200 radio stations. Now today, God has blessed me with the desires of my heart. Hosting a nationally syndicated radio program called Gospel Radio Favorites heard on over 1700 radio stations around the world. I thank the Lord daily for his blessings. I still find it hard to believe the reach this ministry has today sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through great Christian music. I love receiving notes from listeners all around the world sharing with me how a song played on my program blessed, encouraged or changed their lives for the good.
On a local level, I listened to Donnie Cox on A.M. 600 WSNL out of Flint, Michigan. He had confidence in me and offered me my first radio job. That was over 25 years ago. Today, Donnie recently celebrated his 45th anniversary in radio. Donnie and others like him, who have been steadfast in their radio ministries, never wavering are the true hero’s in Christian Radio.