John Rody Launches Pirate Radio, a Radical New All-Local Music Station in Fort Worth

John Rody isn't afraid to get weird with his radio plans
John Rody isn't afraid to get weird with his radio plans
Steve Watkins

A little over two years ago, Texas Radio Hall of Famer John Rody and his wife Sallie launched The Southside Pirate, a Fort Worth-based Internet radio station dedicated to only playing local music. But they weren't content to just stream music; they filed for a frequency under the Community Radio Act of 2010. Last week they got approved. The Southside Pirate, a community-supported, local music only station, is now going on the air, but Rody has no plans for it to be a conventional radio station.

See also: Today's KZEW Blast From the Past: LaBella and Rody (and Mike Rhyner) on Trial! Two Dallas Radio Stations Switched to Awesome Old-School Hip Stations Over the Weekend

The Community Radio Act sought to offset the corporate dominance of the spectrum. It gives community minded organizations the opportunity to broadcast directly to the community they serve. There are now over 1,000 new radio stations in Texas thanks to this.

"This is actually a fine idea," says Rody of the Community Radio Act. "What better people to take over little slivers of spectrum in various markets and be a trustee of the airwaves like you say you want to be? I think that's a great challenge."

While there were 20 applicants in Dallas (mostly religious groups), three in Arlington and two in Grand Prairie, Fort Worth had only one: The Pirate. While the Rodys encouraged others in Fort Worth to apply, no one did. So once the antenna goes up, The Pirate will be on at 97.5 FM.

Rody is no stranger to Metroplex radio. Back in 1978 Rody and John Labella took over the morning show at Dallas's 98 KZEW. Labella and Rody gave the show (already called The Morning Zoo) a different direction. While it was still mostly music, they, along with Mike Rhyner, added a certain craziness with comedy routines, parody commercials and voice overs by Don Pardo. Since then Morning Zoo has become synonymous with morning radio comedy shows, and while some credit WMMS in Cleveland with starting the concept, they essentially invented the morning radio show format.

"We were 'Morning Zoo' because we were on The Zoo in the morning," he says plainly, sitting on the patio of Shipping and Receiving bar in Fort Worth's Near Southside district. "We just brought it up a couple of notches, [made things] more absurd. Saturday Night Live was very popular, parody was very popular. National Lampoon; everybody was making fun of something. And I'm hoping some young artist will step up and do the same thing on our station."

While listeners in Dallas can still tune in over the net, The Pirate is an LPFM (low powered FM). That means a broadcast range of about 10 miles. You won't be tuning in on your car radio in Deep Ellum -- which is a shame, because of the 20 stations that applied for a slice of the spectrum in Dallas, none of them appear to be music stations, local or otherwise. The Dallas/Fort Worth market has a vibrant original music scene, and a station that does what the Pirate is doing in Fort Worth would be just what Dallas needs.

"People seem to really enjoy local musicians playing 100 percent local music," says Rody. "You're not going to be a first choice radio station because they want to hear the Doors. They've got 11 stations to go to to hear the Doors. But the only place you can hear every cut off of a KatsüK album is aquí, and that makes us unique. We have a critical mass of it in Fort Worth of content; we aren't short of musical content at all."

There are other internet radio streams, but even for community radio, The Pirate is going to be a strange beast. There will be no studios (Rody initially wanted to run it from a food-truck) and a playlist of local music will cycle through much of the day automatically. If someone wants to do a morning show or a news hour, they can pitch that idea. They will be set up to stream their show to the station from their own home over the net, and will automatically go live during their time-slot. Once they are out of time, the station will automatically cut them off and start broadcasting music.

Upcoming Events

You won't be hearing much of Rody, however. Rody has no desire to recreate his former morning show or do a show of any kind. "I want other people to have their shows," he insists. "They don't need more of me. I would remind everyone who would reminisce about the good ole days. I have a closet full of tapes. It's not as good as you remember it. Oh my god, there are more bad ones than good ones." He pauses, before adding with a note of finality, "I don't have that kind of energy. I'm 60 years old."

Music from local artists is submitted through a dead drop called "The Booty Box." The box is located at Avoca Coffee in Fort Worth, and all you have to do is feed it your music to get on the air

"Put your CD in the slot," Rody explains, "and it gets on the air barring technical and content consideration. As long as you're not screaming [the n-word] or any of that stuff and your stuff sounds reasonably good we play it. And that is access, that is a pipeline to the airwaves. It's radio deconstructed."

There is no set launch date for the station to go on the air as of yet. The Pirate is a 501c3 non-profit corporation. Donations are being taken on the web page to erect the antenna, and arrangements are in the works for where to mount it. The rooftop of the Shipping & Receiving building was one possible location Rody mentioned. If you want to help out, pitch a show idea or just listen in go to http://www.southsidepirate.com/. And if you want to submit your music head over to Avoca coffee and drop it in the Booty Box.

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