Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Got Your Number, Caprefoli

Not being a morning person … at all … I need all the help I can get to arrive at work every day in as human-being a mood as possible. If it were up to me an 8-hour workday would include travel time, four weeks vacation a year would be mandatory, and there’d be a mid-week break.

I first discovered the sunshine-shot-to-the-soul benefits of a great morning radio show when I lived in northern NJ and listened to the “Big Show” on 95.5 WPLJ out of NYC, featuring Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill. Wow. They were terrific. They were my wake-up call for six years.

It’s not the music, you understand, it’s the camaraderie. It’s the joy of witnessing one entertaining conversation after another without having to contribute a darn thing. What a rush! And all the funny little bits … Todd’s prank calls to the friends and families of listeners who are in on the set-up, their merciless teasing of the affable Joe Nolan, Friday morning weekend blast-offs (Shake, shake, shake, senora, shake your body line! Shake, shake, shake, senora, shake it all the time!). All good, clean, fun requiring absolutely no brain-cell usage ... mmmmm, chocolate.

So when I moved to RI it was only to suffer through a year of morning radio show withdrawal doldrums. Oh, don’t get me wrong; Providence has plenty of stations, all doing their thing but, really … you try going from major market NY to a smaller market and tell me there’s no letdown. But I survived, and moved to MO where, I’m almost ashamed to admit, it took two tries and four years to find my new morning radio program love … the Johnny Dare Morning Show on 98.9 KQRC.

Upon arrival in the Kansas City area friends told me to give it a listen, and I hated, hated, hated it! This guy was an asinine, oafish, unfunny, callous, misogynistic tool … on his best days. I spent the next two years skipping all over the dial until I found a morning program I could live with (Afentra’s Big Fat Morning Buzz on 96.5 KBRZ), which suited well for two years, then flatlined.

Out of shear desperation I tuned into Johnny Dare again, and a crazy thing happened … I liked it! He still has beleaguered boss/pal Bob Edwards, dum-dum baby sidekick T-Bone, musical parody genius (and long-time best bud and alarm clock) Federation of Horsepower’s Gregg Todt, longest term temp at a radio station and funniest judgmentally repressed woman in rock ‘n roll ever Carrie Coogan … and a new guy who, it turns out, is actually returned old guy Jake the Phone Snake, who spent two minutes in Anchorman and is the voice of reason on many occasions … not to mention "Sports in Your Shorts" own Leif Lisec, unpaid, unsung hero of a best sports guy ever… and Barger, unofficial mascot and Johnny’s canine son who comes to work daily and has been known to insert his vociferous two cents.

That second time around is when I discovered the shocking fact that Johnny Dare … is so money! This time I get it. He’s labeled a shock jock, but not so much. He’s a Harley riding, long-haired, socially conscious, easy going, down with his feminine side, live-and-let-live kind of guy who truly enjoys life.

Oh, he still does childish stunts, such as the Wheel of Misfortune, which is exactly what it sounds like: listeners come into the studio and spin the wheel for various prizes and/or misfortunes, such as having T-Bone feed them like a baby bird, or shaving off an eyebrow, or having a sledgehammer taken to their vehicle, all for the chance of another spin and/or prize (generally concert tickets or a key to the Harley Giveaway).

And FMK, which has listeners call in and decide who, from a list of three candidates, they’d eff, marry, and kill … if they match two of the Morning Show crew they win the prize in question (generally tickets). There’s the on-again Easter Keg Hunt, where teams of hunters search the Kansas City area in a full-on city-wide scavenger hunt for said keg (great fun to listen to on the radio). But he also does a number of very awesome things, for which he does not blow his own horn, which makes it all the better:

Bikers for Babies the March of Dimes annual Kansas City motorcycle ride (2009 will be the fifteenth year), which raised $630,000 last year, once again the highest individual ride tally in the nation, with hundreds of participants, all on motorcycles of some kind, tooling along the parade route. To date the Kansas City ride has raised more than $3.7 million for the March of Dimes.

Hope for the Holidays (it’s not a hand-out, it’s a hand-up): where listeners, many simply overlooked by conventional organizations, from Thanksgiving through Christmas either write or call in with their needs, and Johnny gets it on-air, then calls the petitioner for more specifics, and puts them together with other listeners who call in to help brighten their holidays.

You can tell how much it hurts to have to ask for help, and how much it heals to do the helping. There are many years where a contributor was a past recipient and, sadly, the other way ‘round. The amazing thing? Within minutes, minutes, what is needed has been found as the phone lines light up with listeners who want to help.

Overdue utilities are made current, toys and clothing are delivered for children, pantries are filled and food is put on the table. Building supplies are donated, as well as time and expertise to get the job done. Car payments are made, new tires are installed and balanced, and up to three month funds are set up so the bread-winners can get much-needed surgeries without worrying they’ll lose everything while in recovery.

This is something really and truly special in and of itself, but the most wonderful thing about it is that they always, always exceed their goals. Always.

Harley Giveaways, where, if you’re a Rockaholic, you also win the kickass car. This year the Harley is a brand new 2009 black Street Glide with a 96-inch motor and a radio/CD player built in, and the car is a brand new 2009 black Mustang GT 5-speed 315hp V-8.

Rockfest (15 bands, 2 stages, 1 day): the largest one-day rock concert in North America … last year we had STP, Saving Abel, Rev Theory, Shinedown, Theory of a Dead Man, Saliva, Chevelle, Trapt, Another Animal, and Red Line Chemistry, among others. And the water is free (can’t dehydrate the loyal listeners, now can we?). For $30. Or $19.98 if you were a Rockaholic. Hah! I can’t wait to see who we’ll have this summer.

What’s a Rockaholic? That’s a member of the club that gets first dibs on concert tickets, cheaper than every else, gets the car as well as the bike if s/he wins the giveaway, and receives regular e-mails detailing upcoming events. Okay, it’s a fan club, but what a club!

Don’t take my word for it, look Johnny and the crew up for yourself, at either or Or you can take a listen live here, any weekday morning from 6am to 10am Central.

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