While Dallas-Ft. Worth is a massive media market, and we certainly have our share of beloved faces and voices that we've welcomed for many years. For fans of Texas Country / Red Dirt Music, there might not be a personality in North Texas more revered than Justin Frazell. What makes Frazell's story all the more intriguing is that a few years ago, even in the midst of having a well-known name among radio listeners throughout the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, he had to start over from scratch in order to regain his footing after being unceremoniously let-go from 99.5 The Wolf in 2008.
Since 2009, Frazell hasn't merely returned to the local media landscape, but he's managed to become a greater force than he was prior to his departure from 99.5 KPLX. Along with hosting the morning-drive show on 95.9 The Ranch with singer-songwriter Charla Corn, he oversees the long-running and widely syndicated Texas Red Dirt Roads (or, TXRDR as it's commonly known) and now he is the host of Lone Star Roads, a brand new Texas / Red Dirt talkin' and singin' show that airs locally on KTXD-TV every Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. We chatted with the always ready to chat Frazell about what it's like to go from unemployed to balancing as many gigs as he does in such a successful fashion.
Now that a few years have past, how do you look back on the time immediately following being let-go from 99.5?
Honestly, I was both happy and sad. There were many of us that had departed around that same time. We either had done so on our own or by the news that our contracts would not be renewed. The station seemed to be taking a new direction at that time and it just did not feel like the same Wolf we had spent so many long hours building. There was a bit of a dark cloud over that place for a while. It was kind of a relief to be free from under that cloud.
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I hated leaving behind a group of co-workers that had become like family. The toughest part were the rumors that swirled around Dallas-Ft. Worth as to the reason I was let go. I can't say I am completely certain as to why my contract was not renewed, but I can say with honesty and certainty, that is the sole reason I was given for being let go. The emails listeners were copying me on with responses they had received said any number of things and that was unsettling.
I didn't get any calls from anyone from the station for a while. I only got calls from former staffers that had since left, wishing me well. The first call I got was ten minutes after leaving the building. I hadn't made it to my truck yet with some of my things when former Wolf Program Director Paul Williams was calling to tell me that [96.3] KSCS wanted to have lunch with me on that following Monday. News travels fast, real fast, I guess. I have bumped into former coworkers that are still on staff and we've said "howdy" back and forth at local events. I still remain friends and I'm in contact with many of them today.
You worked at Home Depot while coming up with TXRDR, correct?
Sure did, but Home Depot was only fun for about 2 months. I can't tell you how much I appreciate Grand Prairie store 8517 for hiring me. I had no experience and they brought me in understanding my current situation and also understanding that I would leave as soon as the next radio station called. That aside, while trying to find a way to stay involved in the Texas / Red Dirt Music Scene, my two former business partners, Brad Weiss and Russell Foreman and I came up with the idea for a podcast based on my Front Porch Show. Again, KSCS expressed interest as did the Ranch. The idea moved fast from internet radio to terrestrial radio really fast. The Ranch rolled out the red carpet for us and we launched in March of 2009.
I seem to recall there was a chance you may not be able to hold onto the "Pickin' for Preemies" name, or even the event itself, after leaving 99.5. How big of a victory was it for you personally to not only keep producing the event, but to now look back and see it grow into one of, if not the, most anticipated charity shows of the year in Texas?
Thank you for your kind words about Pickin' for Preemies. My wife and I are very proud and humbled at what it has become. We have so much help in producing that event and I'm thrilled that it's recognized as premier Dallas-Ft. Worth event because Cook Children's Medical Center NICU and it's staff means so much to us.
The name game you asked about was actually concerning "The Front Porch Show" I was hosting on Sunday night's 99.5. I was told that The Wolf would no longer continue the show and that I could have the name and it's contents. They changed their mind, so I was forced to come up with a new name, and from that, "Texas Red Dirt Roads" was born.
It seems as though every DJ in Texas, and especially in Dallas, has taken credit for "breaking" Ryan Bingham. He told us in an interview last year that he credits you for that. Do you have memories of getting Bingham onto Dallas airwaves?
Glad to see that my checks clear in California! I'm kidding, and I when I read that interview with Ryan, I could not have been more set-back. Ryan has achieved so much well deserved success, and for him to remember me really means a lot. I do remember the first time Ryan came to play the Front Porch Show. He rolled in, riding in the bed of a Chevy pick up as if he'd hitched the ride. He probably had. An older gentlemen was driving as Ryan climbed out of the bed with a dog, guitar case and no shoes. We rode the elevator up to the 16th floor and turned the mics on. The rest is history!
As a high-profile member of the regional music media, do you feel an obligation to promote new, young talent, and to also give tough feedback to well-meaning bands that might not quite be ready for the big-time?
Both. Daily. My mailbox, my inbox, the market and the scene are over-saturated with bands looking for a break. I listen to everything I receive. I never know what I may find. It's the way I've always done it and will always do it. Promoter or not, label or not, if I dig your song, it will go on the radio, even if it's later than sooner. I don't mind giving the tough feedback, though I try not to be that rough. I do see a lot of bands that want immediate success and have no understanding of what it's like to pay their dues. I think a lot of it has do with the society we currently live in. There's a "hurry up and give it to me now!" attitude that's present today. Here's a hint though; if you're sending me music, don't send me a single. Send me everything you've got. put as many bullets in the gun as you can.
You've been a keen observer of Texas/Red Dirt music for many years, obviously. There's been a new generation of artists, such as Josh Abbott or Casey Donahew beginning to grab the headlining slots over vets like Jack Ingram or even Randy Rogers, Kevin Fowler and Pat Green. How far are we from Abbott and Donahew being pushed back by younger acts that continue to push Red Dirt into new and perhaps more controversial or commercial directions?
I think things will continue to move along as they have in the last 16 to 17 years. There will always be a hot new band or singer. The headliners will always be headliners in this scene. If they move around to different markets or states, then obliviously they may have to take a back seat for a while to Top 40 acts on the same bill or a local, more successful talent in the area they are playing. I've seen and been made aware of that once an act becomes a top biller, they will not venture into the same markets as often. Whereas they may have played seven or eight shows a year in, lets say in Ft. Worth - Dallas, they may choose to only come around three or four times instead. I think [Cross Canadian] Ragweed was the first act I remember doing that. Cody [Canada] explained it to me and it made sense. They didn't want to over-saturate themselves in any area. It thins crowds out knowing there is always the next time. With that in mind, younger acts, while it may appear that they are taking top spots, they may just be making themselves more available. It's not a bad move at all, to see and be seen.
When you finally got TXRDR.com online and then TXRDR the show onto the airwaves a few years ago, was landing a prime morning-drive gig, getting a ton of stations to carry TXRDR and getting your own TV show a part of the master plan?
Honestly, I don't make my plan. I take what the Good Lord gives me and make the very best that I can of it. Did I, and do I, have dreams and goals? Absolutely. I work hard to achieve them and improve on them every single day. If it doesn't work out and I gave it my very best shot, then I know that the Good Lord must have something better planned for me down the road. He's kept me in radio 17 years and things continue to happen. He must want me here and I could not be more grateful and humbled by that.
You and your radio co-host Charla Corn have a great chemistry on-air. Had you gotten to know each-other a bit before sharing a booth, since she's a musician?
Thank You very much. Charla and I had never worked together on the air in a team format before her first morning on the air a few months back. The chemistry came naturally I guess. We have the same passion. We love we what do. We have great families that support us. We have no real idea of what we are doing other than just trying to have fun. We don't take each other all that serious. It's all about the music and the fun and conversation we have naturally between the records. Nothing is planned.
Being a talk-show, your show has a different format than the other "Texas Music" shows currently on the air. Has it been easy to transfer your radio on-air skills into the world of television talk shows?
I guess. Television for me is so much easier than radio. I don't have to do any of the hard work. I just sit and visit with guest. I had the chance to start in TV and decide to make a run at radio years ago. TV has always made me nervous, though. Thank goodness I have a tremendous team at KTXD-TV and 41 Entertainment that makes my part of the taping so easy and so fun.
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I'll put you on the spot: If you could only keep five albums, form any era, that fit under the umbrella of Texas/Red Dirt, what would they be?
This is impossible! I guess the albums that come to mind first are the right answers -- at least at the time: Robert Earl Keen's Gringo Honeymoon, Rusty Wier's - Under This Old Hat, Pat Green's Here We Go, Cross Canadian Ragweed's 377 and Randy Rogers Band's Like It Used To Be.
You're on the web, radio and TV. What's next?
Only the Good Lord above knows. I'm just here to enjoy the ride and spread some music around.