Josh Holstead — if you’re a country music fan, you know him better as Rowdy Yates from his 16 years on KILT Radio — is back home in Houston after six years in exile hosting a classic rock show in Tulsa. Living in Oklahoma, what did he miss most about Texas? “Texas seafood!” he says.
Holstead has joined RFC Media’s “SuiteRadio 24/7,” a Houston-based programming provider for music stations across the U.S. and current home for familiar Houston personalities like Donna MacKenzie, Maria Todd, Pam Kelly, Atom Smasher, and Steve Robison. Holstead continues to host the nationally syndicated “Original Country Gold Show with Rowdy Yates,” which he owns with his wife. It’s the No. 1 request show in country music.
He still finds time to run the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, located in Kilgore. Next month the hall of fame will begin accepting nominations for the class of 2018. The induction ceremony and dinner will be held November 3 at the Texas Museum of Broadcasting and Communications in Kilgore.
The list of hall of fame members is long and contains several national figures you may not know got their start on local radio stations in Texas, like George Carlin, Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite, Willie Nelson, Sam Donaldson, and the Big Bopper (“Chantilly Lace”).
For information on how to nominate a radio personality or buy tickets to the induction ceremony and dinner, visit the hall of fame’s official site. The site also has a complete list of hall of fame members. It’s fun looking to see if your favorite deejays or talk hosts are members. If they’re not, here’s your chance to nominate them. I'm going to nominate ESPN 97.5 host Lance Zierlein. John Granato absolutely deserves to be in, but I can't nominate him until he admits that tennis is a more difficult and better sport than golf.
Okay, Josh Holstead/Rowdy Yates … ready for your 10 questions?
Ken Hoffman: You’ve hosted radio shows in different music formats (country, classic rock, and more). What are the last five songs you played for your personal enjoyment?
Josh Holstead: “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, “Squeeze Box” by the Who, “Peg” by Steely Dan, “Everyday is a Winding Road” by Sheryl Crow, and “Closer to the Heart” by Rush.
KH: Who isn’t in the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, but should be?
JH: I would like to see a few more pioneering personalities of color. In the Houston market, Don Samuel comes to mind. In Dallas, it would be Willis Johnson and The Coyote — who was a black, Wolfman Jack sound-alike on KLIF and KKDA. As for the deserving, there are dozens. All with fantastic backgrounds, criteria, support, chops, respect, etc., but we go by the votes first and foremost, and the final approval of our board of directors, and that is who makes the cut.
KH: Do you consider podcasts to be "radio?" Do you listen to any podcasts?
JH: No, I don’t consider podcasts to be radio. But I do listen to them. And I consider many of them worthy of broadcast. There are so many podcasts now. Like broadcasting, we are finding that the cream rises to the top. The better-produced, more compelling podcasts are successful and becoming more profitable.
KH: When you were a kid growing up in Fort Worth, was there a radio deejay who you loved and made you think, I want to be on the radio?
JH: Yes, the night jock on KFJZ, 1270 AM in Fort Worth. He was the top jock in town named Mark E. Baby. Later, Houstonians would know him as Mark Stevens from the Stevens and Pruett Show on KLOL. He also was one of the many Hudson and Harrigan characters on KILT 610 AM. Of course, there was my father, Joe Holstead, one of the most-awarded and recognized radio journalists in Texas radio. Growing up in the business certainly helped me make up my mind about what I wanted to do.
KH: Were you born with a "radio voice" or did you have to work at it?
JH: Puberty arrived for me between the fifth and sixth grade. I am 6-foot-5 and have been since I was 12. My voice changed overnight — literally overnight. I think spending hours working on diction, pronunciation, and annunciation was just part of wanting to sound like the articulate, joking, quick-witted guys on the radio. I was very well-spoken — and very loud.
KH: What was the dumbest contest or promotion you've ever done on radio?
JH: My first full-time job on radio was at a station in Bridgeport, Texas, northwest of Fort Worth. We had an advertiser, a gravel-hauling company, that took shipment of several hundred tons of sandy loam. It was supposed to be white caliche rock. We devised some stupid call-in and win contest, and literally gave away dirt.
KH: Describe the first radio you ever owned.
JH: It was a hand-me-down, like most of us had, AM-only. It had an imitation leather red case with holes in it for the sound to get out, along with a filthy earpiece that was likely clogged with ear wax from my older brother. I did not care.
KH: How come there isn’t a real all-news station in Houston?
JH: I think it is the financial commitment. It is a very expensive format to do. To do it right is even more expensive. No doubt it is needed, and if on the right FM or AM signal, it could be a player. But I think the demise of News92.FM made station owners gun shy about trying it.
KH: What do you think about TV putting cameras in radio studios, like ESPN does with Stephen A. Smith and the Golic & Wingo Show? Is this a good idea, and is it true that some people have a “face made for radio?"
JH: I like them. It proves my point that content is king. Even if you are fat, ugly, sloppy — if you are bringing the masses what they want, millions will watch it. Plus it pulls back the curtain and allows viewers to see the radio studio vibe, even though most of us actually in radio know that isn’t how a real radio studio looks.
KH: Finally, how did Josh Holstead become “Rowdy Yates” on the radio?
JH: Rowdy Yates was the character that Clint Eastwood played in the old western TV show Rawhide. I had always used my real name until I arrived in Houston. When I was offered the job in 1993, they asked if I would consider a name change. My dad was not happy, but I was okay with it. My only argument against it was that that I was a highly rated radio personality in nearby College Station for years, and a bunch of those Aggies now lived in Houston. So, I’d have some name recognition in Houston.
But they were making some compelling arguments. Mainly, that the recall of jocks with nicknames like Rowdy or Catfish or King Bee was greater than John Smith. They were nice enough to let me pick from three names: I could be Rowdy Yates, Gabby Hayes, or Hoss Cartwright. I think Rowdy Yates was the right choice.