One way to find out if your child can swim is to throw him in the pool. Two things could happen, but we will rely on the more optimistic results. Matt Murphy of The Matt Murphy Show, 12-3 weekdays on WTN Supertalk 99.7 in Nashville, says indeed, is how he got his start on radio.
“When I was 15, I got hired at a radio station and was told to come at 6:00 a.m. the next morning, and I showed up at 5:45 a.m.,” Murphy said. “After I arrived I was told I was going to do the 6:30 p.m. news. He told me he had trained a lot of kids and the best way to learn was just to get started. and let me do it.
The jarring formation took place at WTHO, a 1,000-watt all-service station. Murphy delivered the news up and down the hour, reading obituaries. The general manager who threw him into the figurative pool eventually bought the resort. He was also the engineer and basically everything else. Murphy said it was a great environment to learn about the radio business.
Oh, and there was another lesson learned early on.
“I came across the first television news. The general manager’s office was right next to the studio,” Murphy explained. “I forgot the microphone was still on and said out loud, ‘That was a big shit. Luckily, I was far enough away from the mic when I said it. Taught me the rest of my career to assume the microphone was always hot.”
Murphy said his family grew up in poverty. The fact that her father left the family in the middle of the turmoil did not help matters.
“My mother had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor, and he just couldn’t take it. My father and I repaired our relationship years later. He told me he was selfish and couldn’t bear to raise a child and my mother’s illness. His answer was simply to run away from responsibility. I didn’t understand how you could do this to your children. But I learned that if you have faith, when a door slams, a window opens.
Murphy explained that if his father hadn’t left, he would never have developed a special and lasting relationship with his maternal grandfather, among others. Murphy said his grandfather helped him understand the fundamentals of hard work and dedication.
“Without it, I wouldn’t have had a lot of amazing experiences that came my way. It was a matter of wanting to achieve something more. Attack the unknown.
His father had a career in the radio business, primarily a sportsman known as Lee Riley for most of his career. He worked in many southern cities.
“My dad worked at WDEN in Macon, Georgia when I was 12,” Murphy said. “He was doing afternoons as Dr. Lee Riley, all that doctor stuff. Like ‘Dr. Riley will cure all your rhythm and blues stuff.
I helped him choose the records. He taught me from the start that when the red light was on, I had to shut up.
This prompted Murphy to imagine what other people were doing when they heard his father on the radio. “I figured everyone else would stay still and stop what they were doing when they were listening to my dad like I had to at the station.”
Such was the thought of a 12-year-old child. Murphy recognized the power that a jock and a host hold over an audience. That was enough impetus for Murphy. “When I was 15, I applied for a job at my father’s old station. I got hired by the same guy who fired my dad. I didn’t think there was a chance of that happening.
At the University of West Georgia, Murphy worked at the campus radio station while studying theater.
“I wanted to be a star,” Murphys said. “I was good, but not great. I think I made a mature decision at 20 when I realized that wasn’t my future. I had a lot of friends who went to New York , Boston, Los Angeles, to fail as an actor. I wanted to be Philip Seymour Hoffman or Tom Cruise. I realized that I was not as handsome as Cruise and not talented enough to be Seymour Hoffman.
Murphy said more than anything else, his experiences on stage made him realize he was better on radio than in theater.
“Both present to an audience,” Murphy said. “The main difference is that you play yourself on air. I’ve always watched radio that way. An audience can sense when you’re not being authentic both on air and on stage.
Murphy said there was a seismic change in radio and the tone of its shows after the 2016 election. “I’m not saying it was positive or negative, just a change for us in talk radio” , Murphy said. “My show has taken on a new responsibility. He became super politically charged. With January 6, we as hosts had a lot of responsibilities on our knees. It was and is a difficult minefield to deal with and I think most hosts handled it admirably. Some have lost their minds. Lawlessness and violence in any form are never acceptable.
Murphy said Donald Trump is both a blessing and a curse in the industry. I’m not taking anything away from his policy or his policies by saying that. But you had to go to him. He’s brought more attention to our medium than Rush Limbaugh.
Murphy explained how listening to veteran radio host Neal Boortz helped him develop insights into how people think. Like Friedman, Murphy is a libertarian, more of government should be a hands-off type.
Murphy, who has been an integral part of radio in Alabama, Montgomery and Birmingham since 1999, filled a void left by the late Phil Valentine. The longtime host passed away from complications related to COVID-19 earlier this year. Valentine was loved in Tennessee. It’s not easy for a host to try to fill that void.
“The circumstances under which I took over were tragic,” Murphy explained. “I was and am aware of that, and I want to be respectful. He was known as Uncle Phil. I took over the show in December last year. People were kind to me. There were bumps in the road, people told me I should go back to Birmingham, but that’s understandable.
In recent years, Murphy said the political climate has taken its toll on both listeners and hosts. “We are all tired,” he said. “It’s an exhausting industry. Our genre quickly weeds out fake people. It is not wise to create a personality or rely on hooks. But some hosts are better than others. Mark Levin is one of the top performers in the business and he has his own way of doing things. If you try to imitate, it’s a recipe for disaster.
When he left Birmingham, Murphy realized what 20 years of experience in one geographic area can do for you. When he moved to Nashville, he had to get a new Rolodex.
“In Alabama, when I wanted to talk to a senator or a congressman, I just had to text them and ask if they could come over,” Murphy explained. “Now there are a lot of new relationships and it can be a tough hill to climb. We move conversations forward. We’re like an electronic town square. We take people’s temperatures, see where they are. You want to feel that you’ve made a difference in people’s lives. People tend to focus on the negative, but my first goal is to see if I’ve had an impact on the community.