By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"He was playing the small-town country guy card, but before long I learned there was a lot more to him," Rhyner says. "We both had a love for baseball, and we weren't afraid to speak our minds. Before you knew it we were friends. Some of my best memories are of spending nights at the ballpark with Greggo. That was the height of fun."
Says Williams, "I don't think either of us ever figured out why we clicked. We just had a special chemistry you can't teach."
Soon Williams, nabbing interviews for Galloway's show, and Rhyner, recording Rangers reports for a GTE sports phone service, lassoed KRLD-1080 AM minion Craig Miller into their nightly baseball banter.
"All of the sudden we started noticing the reactions to us," Rhyner says. "People pulled up a chair. They listened. They either wanted in on it or they hated us. It was obvious we were having a tangible effect...We began to wonder if we truly had something useful and, if so, what the heck do we do with it?"
Rhyner used that momentum and recruited financial investors and a slew of old radio cronies who helped him launch The Ticket in January 1994. The innovative 24-hour sports station was an instant hit, with phone lines jammed, remote broadcasts crowded and ratings soaring within six months. The station's backbone was the Rhyner-Williams pairing, christened The Hardline because of its tell-it-like-it-is tenor.
Desperate to fit in and intimidated by Rhyner's résumé—which included a prominent role on The Zoo KZEW-98 FM's LaBella & Rody morning show—Williams immediately raised a red flag, one that would become a catalyst for the breakup of one of Dallas radio's most successful couples. He began telling whoppers.
He claimed he played Major League Baseball for the Montreal Expos and hit a home run off Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton in his first at-bat. Stats nerd that he is, Rhyner checked his Baseball Encyclopedia. Nada.
"I didn't call him out on it," Rhyner says. "There was so much else I liked about the guy. He was good-hearted, and he'd do anything for anyone. I just glossed over it."
Admits Williams, "Yep, I said that. And it's a total lie."
Same with the one about legendary University of Texas football and baseball coaches Darrell Royal and Cliff Gustafson fighting to acquire his talents. And the one about him dating country singer Tanya Tucker.
"I don't deny saying that, either," Williams says. "I just wanted to be cool."
Just as The Ticket and The Hardline were gaining traction, Rhyner was again alarmed by his co-host. When Williams summoned Rhyner to a Fort Worth hospital room, it seemed as though he were meeting Williams for the first time. And, apparently, vice-versa.
"Greggo didn't recognize me," Rhyner recalls. "He looked at me and said, 'Who are you?' I should've taken it more seriously, but by this time the guy had brought something really valuable to the table. However much he needed me, I needed him more. His radio voice was well-defined already. Mine wasn't."
Says Williams about the incident, "I had a mental breakdown over a girl. She was my first real love, and I was crushed. I mean, crushed."
On the air, Rhyner and Williams were quickly gaining popularity and ratings last seen in these parts by Stevens & Pruitt, Hal Jay and Dick Segal or perhaps Ron Chapman and Suzie Humphreys in the "K-V-I-L-o-van."
Rhyner gruffly derided the Cowboys and talked up his die-hard fondness for American Idol. The Old Gray Wolf was the pompous patriarch who delighted in forcing listeners to carry a thesaurus; Williams wore ostrich boots and looped Smokey and the Bandit. The Hammer was the chubby commoner, jumping off bridges at Super Bowls, boasting about eating 10 Whataburgers and obsessing about women's boobs.
Long before The Ticket and The Hardline earned No. 1 in their coveted (men 25-54) demographic for two consecutive years, Williams sported more alter egos than Herschel Walker—Greggo, Uncle Greggo, The Hambonita, Robot Greggo, Li'l Girl Greggo, Motorcycle Greggo, et al. He soaked in his celebrity, attracting TV cameos, a short feature in Sports Illustrated and a salary that topped out at $500,000 last year.
Though their on-air camaraderie suggested they fell asleep in bunk beds while talking MVPs and double D's, truth is Rhyner and Williams stopped talking off the air in the late '90s.
"Some of it was that it was better radio if it was spontaneous, if we hit each other with stuff for the first time on the air," Rhyner says. "And some of it was that we just grew apart."
Ironic, that at the height of Williams' machismo, The Ticket aired a fake phone call purportedly between program director Jeff Catlin and Williams, mocking the host's recent sick days.
"I've got a sneaker in my cheek, Cat," claimed fake Greggo. "Whatever you do, don't tell Rhynes! Don't you dare tell Rhynes!"
If listeners only knew.
As The Hardline's popularity soared, Dallas' most mesmerizing radio relationship soured.
"My trust in him waned," Rhyner says. "It was more what I saw him do to others more than to me. Girls mostly. When he thought he had the upper hand in a relationship he treated them just awful."