Local country station provides the hits and humor
By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette
Carey Dean, Program Director/”Morning Fiasco” Host Manager/”Ranch Roadhouse Live” Host; and Keith James, On Air Personality/Music Director have had a busy year.
For the eighth time, the pair has won the Texas Regional Radio Report Music Award – On Air Personalities of the Year – Medium Market for 2020.
While that’s an impressive milestone for 106.9 FM The Ranch (KRVF), located at 214 N. Main Street in Downtown Corsicana, the real fun is watching the “Morning Fiasco” crew of Dean, James, and the Station Administrator Jody “JoJo” Jordan, banter with each other. Their interactions, a mixture of snarky quips and faster one-liners, comes off as less of an office environment, and more as a group of friends working together to accomplish a common goal.
And their goal is to be the best radio station in the area.
The Ranch’s station is nestled among the downtown buildings. While unassuming in appearance, the studio has played host to some of the biggest stars in country music history since it went on-air in 2004. From Dallas, to Waco, to Palestine, The Ranch reaches 13 counties with 1.2 million listeners in their coverage area, and an additional 2.2 million listeners traveling through the surrounding area.
A self-described “metal head,” Dean has been in radio far longer than that, having started with KAND 1340 AM. His first gig involved holding the microphone for a just turned 16-year-old Miranda Lambert to sing.
“That gives you an idea of how long ago that was,” Dean laughed.
Dean hosted a show called “The Farm,” during a time when country music stars like Robert Earl Keen and others in the Dallas scene were becoming prominent. Dean wanted people in the Corsicana area to hear this new sound in country because they previously hadn’t had access to it. Dean was the first to introduce Tommy Alverson’s music to the airwaves.
After a few years, Dean wanted to make the jump to FM radio, working with various stations until settling in Waco with Lone Star 94. Dean worked with Lone Star on Saturday nights, and The Ranch on Sunday nights. At the time, The Ranch’s location was located on the third floor of 100 N. Main Street, #315.
By 2010, The Ranch started winning awards for its programming through the Texas Regional Radio Report Music Awards Show. The show is the first music chart sponsored awards program that highlights Texas/Red Dirt artists who have achieved regional chart recognition in the Texas music entertainment industry. The artists are nominated and voted on by fans, music industry professionals, and artists for awards show honors.
“Number one, the music is the main thing,” Dean said, noting local support and recognition is still a gig based scene.
Even with notable charts like Billboard that provide exposure to popular and up and coming music artists, there are still so many artists waiting to be discovered.
“There’s 110 people on the charts right now,” Dean said. “But you can fill out, if you want to keep the numbers going, that chart has hundreds of artists on it.”
Dean uses those charts to discover who he wants to fill his radio playlist.
“The cream of the crop always rises to the top,” Dean said. “So we play really really close attention to that, to the music itself because besides our personalities and what we do, I mean that’s our product, and we want our product to sound as good as it can at all times. And we’re really good at it.”
Jordan became part of the studio’s family in 2017. Having a wide ranging creative arts education background, Jordan has been an art director and taught classes at Navarro College. She also has done retail and social work, the latter she was furloughed from. Looking for new work through the want ads, she answered an ad for an administrative assistant position at The Ranch.
After speaking with the president of the company three times to see if she would mesh with the company’s culture and responsibilities, Jordan accepted a position with the station.
“After meeting the people here, and the president, and just knowing what I knew about the industry, I knew this would be a better fit for me,” Jordan said.
During a transitional period of switching radio personalities for the show, Dean briefly worked solo on the “Morning Fiasco.” He quickly realized he needed someone to bounce commentary and jokes off of during his segments, so the morning host called in Jordan to help with some bits. The two started working as a regular duo from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., coming up with new comedy bits and sketches to fill breaks and liven up the show.
In late 2018, James was brought on as Dean’s new regular co-host, though Jordan continued to provide segments such as “10 Things You Should Know With JoJo” for the new format. With as much on-air experience as Dean, and having been in different radio markets, James brought in a knowledge of music genres and charts.
“They are producing a show that is always, as often as we can make it, positive and funny, and not something that someone would want to change the channel because we’re talking too much,” Jordan said of “The Morning Fiasco.” “We want it to be quick and something people to look forward to hearing us talk instead of ‘Ugh, they’re talking again. Change the channel.'”
The show remains unscripted and spontaneous to keep the reactions real.
“We can read each other’s minds and know when someone is going to have the joke to go out on,” Jordan said.
Their on-air jokes often turn into running gags with listeners they see on the street.
“We are so local to these people that we’re outside on the sidewalk having a break and people will drive by and yell from their window some joke from that morning,” Jordan said. “So they’re all in. They’re participating with every part of that show. I think that’s what makes it really really cool to have a station here.”
Dean is also a self-professed Monty Python fan, wanting to bring the absurd into his sketches. From his time on the Farm, Dean and his co-host David Ross did everything from beer fishing to inventing the “Mallard Bat,” which consisted of a cane pole, some duct tape, and a fly swatter. Later upgraded models included a scope to improve accuracy of the swat time.
The Mallard Bats were eventually displayed in a local barbecue shack until the restaurant burned down. And yes, the bats were insured.
The staff regularly wears many hats working their jobs from being on-air, getting the oil changed for the company truck (which they designed the truck wrap), to doing light engineering at the radio tower with technical support guiding them over the phone.
Towards the end of the interview, James walked into the lobby. Dean and Jordan immediately started trading humorous jabs with their partner, and the room was immediately filled with a series of jokes, some unquotable for this article.
“The good thing is, we don’t ever get butthurt,” James said as the trio laughed.
Dean showed off the studio where the trio does their morning show and plays their music. He proudly showed off a series of his segment bumpers. Jordan and James made bets on how long he would keep sharing those examples with me.
But for all their moments of non-stop teasing, their fondness for each other was apparent.
“I’ve been a music director in other Top 40 markets, and you have to really keep up on your people that give you albums, and songs, and stuff like that,” James said of Dean.
“I’ve never seen anybody in 21 years of radio be in touch with the record people, all the artists, and will talk with them also like he has more than anyone I know still to this moment. I don’t know anybody that can just holler at somebody or anybody in the Texas music scene as good as him, or gets along with him. People might have as many contacts as he does, but no one gets along with him as good as he does.”
“He keeps all the brand new fresh music coming in. I think that’s one of his best qualities.”
James paused for a moment, before looking directly at Dean.
“And that’s the best thing I’m going to say for the next month, jerk,” James said
The laughter carried on as the station’s country hits continued to play in the background.