On Monday I mentioned that I hadn't heard from Greg Williams in a while. Well, lo and behold, Hammer rang yesterday afternoon in an attempt to tell his side of the story in the fizzled radio pairing with John Clay Wolfe.
What did I hear? Greggo was angry. Downtrodden on the verge of desperation. And, oh yeah, defiant.
"If you don't think I'm clean here's what I'll do," Williams offers. "I'll take a drug test seven days a week, at my expense. And I'll have the results emailed directly to you. You can publicize them anytime you want."
A radio entrepreneur with a popular auto show heard Saturday mornings on 97.1 The Eagle, Wolfe approached Williams last winter with an idea to re-launch his career via an afternoon drive-time show on a small, syndicated cluster of stations. In the end, the experiment lasted exactly nine days.
In a he said/he said that resulted in The Show not going on the air as planned March 1, Wolfe says that during the first two weeks of a supposed 60-day trial period Williams missed one day of work, arrived late on another and ultimately quit after one segment of a Friday show to take a job building boat docks for $10 an hour. Williams counters that Wolfe wanted him to work for free, exploited his fame and ultimately didn't deliver on a promise to attract station affiliates to the proposed show.
"Working with him is not an option," says Williams. "This guy was just attaching himself to me, trying to get attention for his little specialty show. I'm angry, and I'm tired of it."
Says Wolfe, "I'm done with this deal. I was patient. I tried. I was foolish and naive to think he was going to deliver consistency with my encouragement, when he had let so many others down before."
The final disconnect: Wolfe offered to pay Williams $24,000 a year; Greggo demanded $104,000.
Along with the absence, almost absence and abrupt departure, Wolfe says that while driving from Granbury to Fort Worth during the two-week trial run in December Greggo wrecked one truck and ruined another by putting regular gas into the diesel tank.
"I gave him two cars, $1,000 running around money and asked him to be consistent for 60 days," Wolfe says. "But almost immediately I started seeing the signs that he was going to flake out."
Says Williams, "I did wreck a fender. But I didn't put the wrong gas in there. I just didn't do it."
But even after the troubling trial, Wolfe didn't give up on his experiment.
"It was high-risk poker with him," Wolfe admits, "but the reward could be huge."
Wolfe stubbornly set a March 1 launch date while building a permanent studio in Fort Worth, hatched an American Idol-type audition for Greggo's permanent sidekick (says Williams, "I never wanted to be a part of tryout deal. That's amateurish."), and crafted a ridiculously stringent term sheet as the precursor to a contract.
On February 26 Wolfe met with Williams and girlfriend Jennifer Rosenbaum to go over the deal:
*$2,000 a month, a car/SUV with insurance and 33% of the net profit of the show. Two-year contract.
*Williams would work the weekday afternoon show and co-host Wolfe's Saturday morning program.
*In year one, no vacation days or sick days, the latter resulting in a payroll deduction of three days' pay.
*Any doctor's excuse must be approved by a physican of Wolfe's choosing.
*Monthly drug tests, with a failed test resulting in Williams paying Wolfe $10,000.
Wolfe calls the offer "tough love." Williams considers it insanity.
"He says I backed out of some deal, but I never agreed to it in the first place," says Williams. "Why would I take a job making less than I did as a part-timer for WBAP in 1988?"
During the contentious meeting it became clear that, while Wolfe sees the need for Williams to re-establish his credibility through humility, Greggo isn't ready to backtrack to ground zero via re-paying his dues.
"I needed him to be consistent for six months before I could start selling him to program directors," Wolfe says. "I asked to let me take him to the point where he could be a star again. But he and his girlfriend want the big deal now. They still think he is a star."
Asked about the $104,000 figure, Greggo says "It's what I'm worth."
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My conversation with Williams was lucid, poignant, but also a bit contradictory. At one point Hammer was explaining how he was still a six-figure talent; the next detailing the financial stress that leads him to consider a manual, blue-collar job building boat docks.
"I need the money ... I'm almost in squalor," he says. "I'm at the point of selling off assets."
I get the feeling Wolfe would still work with Williams within the terms of the proposed contract, but Hammer clearly sees it as another Dallas radio opportunity gone awry.
"I want to be on the radio again, sure," Williams says. "But at this point I know the odds of me doing it in this town are stacked against me."