By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
All of this is done against a backdrop of classic R&B love songs and smooth jazz.
Rudy V, of course, is a voice.
Kevyn Matthew Williams is not. He is a man. And the irony is that his personal life bears little resemblance to the "heavenly marital bliss" that inspires such rhapsodizing on Rudy V's radio show. Here is a man, after all, who wooed listeners three years ago by reading poetry over the air that he'd written for his wife. His audience responded so enthusiastically that in 1997 he self-published a volume of his verse, Love After Dark...Passion Poetry by Rudy V.
It is dedicated to his now ex-wife.
The ironies don't end there. He admits ruefully that, in the space of 10 years, he's been divorced twice and has left behind two children from those marriages.
Yet it's his vision of "true love" -- the sort modeled by his spiritually devout, happily married mother and father -- that causes him to bare his feelings, expose his past, and display himself to all of Dallas as the tender-hearted lover man.
There are so many contradictions built into the life of 37-year-old Kevyn Williams, it would be easy to dismiss him as a religious phony.
But you would be wrong again.
In 1996, KRNB's Ken Dowe lured DJ Rudy V away from Houston to a one-story, generic brown building on a nondescript block in Grand Prairie, promising to make him a radio star.
Dowe, director of broadcast operations for KRNB's owner, Service Broadcasting Corp., was trying to put together an all-star roster of DJs to kick off a new oldies station in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. KRNB, billed as "The Home of Old-School Gold and Platinum R&B Hits," picks up where the doo-wop-shoo-bop oldies stations fall off -- in the '80s and '90s.
Dowe chose radio veteran Tom Joyner's morning show, now syndicated from Los Angeles, to serve as KRNB's hook. But he needed a local presence.
Houston's Rudy V immediately came to mind. He'd made an indelible impression on Dowe a few years earlier when he bolted from one station where Dowe was consulting to a competitor. "He not only took himself, but he took virtually all of the audience that he'd gathered in the Houston area," Dowe says. "He'd done such a tremendous job that it was apparent to me from the onset that this guy was a magnificent radio talent."
Dowe picked the perfect time to go after Williams. He'd just been fired from his latest station after a contract dispute and eagerly accepted Dowe's offer to fly to Dallas and talk. The two men clicked.
Now, Williams lauds Dowe's "respect" for his creativity. Not too many DJs get to dispense their own verse on the air -- something Dowe has encouraged.
It wasn't too long ago that Williams was a fired UPS driver desperately searching for a job. In 1992, he had reached a personal low. He was reeling from a failed marriage to the mother of his oldest child. He still mourned the loss of his short-lived professional football career, which ended in 1987 when a hamstring injury forced him out of the Arena Football League.
He'd always dreamed about being famous, but instead he was slinging parcels. One day he brought an entire truckload of packages back to the office undelivered. He went home unemployed.
With the rent due date right around the corner, Williams says, he spent a week making calls and sending out résumés with no job offers. His decision to enter a "people's choice" contest at a local radio station was an act of desperation. All he had to do was call in, pick a stage name -- hence, the birth of "Rudy V" -- and introduce a song. He did it one morning at 6; listeners heard that velvet-dipped voice and anointed him the winner. The prize: a two-year contract at KMJQ-FM for an open "Quiet Storm" DJ position. ("Quiet Storm" is a radio format used by stations throughout the country.)
During the next four years, Rudy V would gain a devoted following in Houston with his sexy patter and soft heart. He also got some media attention after he talked two suicidal callers out of taking their lives in separate incidents.
Rudy V, Williams insists, is not an act. He genuinely cares. "I think people can feel when it's real -- when your art is real," he says. "When you're doing something with sincerity or when you're trying to put on a show."
He'd even do his show for free, he says, for the opportunity to touch people's lives, to pull back one lonely man from the brink of suicide.
"With every song I'm trying to leave some kind of musical, indelible impression," he says. "They say the average listener doesn't remember 15 minutes later what you said. That is absolutely crazy. I want them to remember whatever it is for the rest of their life."
"Rudy connects," Ken Dowe says. "In person or on the air, when you listen to Rudy, you have the idea that he is communicating with you directly. You can hear empathy. You can hear emotions. You can hear his feelings projected. And you can do that, be it on the air or in person."