Wally Interview 2-12-18
Career Capsule: Wally started his radio career in 1994 doing sports, at 540 the Team in Orlando, even though he is not a “sports” guy. Following his success at 540, he was given an afternoon show on the alternative rock station, WJRR. Wally’s antics created both local and national press with media outlets like NBC and MTV covering his stunts. This notoriety led to him being given a morning show on WSHE, Orlando. Known for his bizarre creativity, he was then courted by The Walt Disney Company to bring his talents and slant to the launch of their new product, Radio Disney.
After 4 years and countless boy bands, it was time for Wally to move on. He was hired to do mornings by 99X in Atlanta. After three years of this aggressive alternative show, the content no longer matched his heart and was in direct conflict with what his faith and what he wanted his daughter to be exposed to. That led him to seek out a position in Christian radio and he was hired to host Total Axxess for CHRSN/WAYF-FM in ‘07. That show morphed into the what is now the Wally Show and is the current morning show for WMNS/WAY-FM.
Wally, tell us what’s new at the Wally Show… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
The most recent change is, I signed a 4 year deal with WAY-FM in April of last year. So, I will be here a while and I could not be happier about that. I have a great group of people I work with on our show and truly enjoy coming to work everyday. I’m also teaching at two colleges, Colorado Christian University, and Lipscomb University. To sort of quote Michael Scott, “I like being around a younger group of people. I find it helps to youth-anize myself.”
Morning Christian Radio has become very competitive… what do you do to stand out from the crowd?
Continue to work hard. Radio shows are like a product, they have a life cycle. Most radio shows that have been doing this as long as I have get lazy. Doing this job well is a grind, and most shows that are no longer as good as they once were, got that way because they stopped doing what it was that made them great in the first place.
On our show, we always talk about the importance of idea and execution. A great idea executed poorly is no good, and a bad idea executed well, is equally problematic. You have to have both a good idea and excellent execution to create great radio.
What is the best morning show advice you’ve been given?
The best was from Tommy Kramer. He told me in my first year of radio, 24 years ago, “You will use everything you have ever known.” It is so true. This job requires you to be a jack of all trades and know a little about a lot of different subjects. I would never have imagined that some of the seemingly useless stuff I remember from being a kid could turn out to make great segments on the radio.
The worst advice I got was from a boss who told me that instead of playing audio from a late night guy doing a joke, I should just tell the joke as if I had come up with it. That is a comedic cardinal sin plus, people are not stupid you will get caught and it will reflect poorly on your show.
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
You could make the argument from a religious perspective, it is good to have more stations because more people will have access to the gospel, but let’s be honest it is still a competitive business. We want exclusivity at concerts, we want to win in the ratings, we want our logo tent seen on the news at the local family event, and I don’t think that is a bad thing.
Historically, competition forces businesses or products to become better. I think that same principle is in effect here. I don’t fear competition, I don’t fear bigger stations with more money. Limits actually help force creativity. So, you can beat stations with more resources, in areas you determine are a win for you. That requires determining what exactly is a win for your station. Is it ratings? Is it service? Is it family? Knowing this, will also take the fear out of competition because it allows for multiple stations to exist and each own the area in which they feel winning is important.
What bothers me with competition in Christian circles is pretending it doesn’t exist. It does! So, own it. It is Ok to make good business decisions without making it appear that you had no choice, and that, “It was just a God thing and besides, isn’t it all for the kingdom anyway?” So just be honest and call it what it is, a good business decision.
What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your show?
Sleep! I am religious about going to bed early because I do not nap in then afternoon. Doing mornings you are always a little tired, but I am much better when I am not completely exhausted. If you run yourself down your mind gets slower and that affects both the humor in a show and the serious moments where your mind needs to be clear.
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
As an industry we have not done a great job at creating a place to mine for new air talent. So, I would say new radio people will probably be people from other careers or disciplines who partner with a radio person to create content.
Broadcasting programs, especially Christian broadcasting programs, seem to be harder and harder to find. I know we take a lot of people from Cedarville, but I can’t name another Christian college with a radio degree or emphasis. I teach at Lipscomb University and I want to start either a radio program or at the very least, build a content creation program. The method by which content is distributed could change, but there will always be a need for people to create shows of some type, and compelling content.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
I think that is Christian radio’s biggest obstacle is itself. Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
There seems to be this mentality in Christian radio that it all has to be done the same way. To be Christian, it must look, and sound safe. To have safety you must first peddle fear. The Bible mentions fear more than just about any other concept and how we are Not to fear. So that perspective kind of goes against how we are taught to live as believers.
If we put Christian radio under the microscope of Einstein’s theory, the concept of safety replicated across the country yields the same results. I personally feel too many stations have the exact same identity, and sound. Diversity brings about better results and allows us to reach more people.
I am well aware of the ratings results, of some stations that live in this world. That is fantastic. I am just putting forth the idea that there can be different forms of success and different approaches to Christian radio, and that ratings are not the be all, end all in ministry. I know we could change our content and become more vanilla and probably have better ratings, but I truly thank God everyday that I am at a station that allows me the freedom to talk about the world, both the good and bad in it, and to show not just the pristine or proper part of our lives, but instead allows us to be honest in our failures. That is what connects with people and that is what helps change hearts. If we hide from the world it is true, we won’t get any of it’s icky stuff on us, but we also miss the chance to get any of us on them.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Ryan Seacrest, Just kidding his show is not good and in full disclosure I am super jealous of his success:) I like radio legends like Mark and Brian from KLOS in Los Angeles because they were so creative and fun. Unfortunately, as discussed earlier they stopped doing what made then great toward the later years in their career, but for a long time they are taking things to the next level and were amazingly creative.
I know it is not popular in this industry to mention Howard Stern because of the type of content he does, but he is always himself and doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not. That is definitely something I have brought to this format. I think honesty and transparency are vital here. Plus, when he is not doing crass stuff, he is actually a very good interviewer. He has a way of getting things out of people they either do not want to share or didn’t know they are going to share, and those interviews are always better than someone plugging their new album.