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Living in Chicago at the time and going through a divorce, Pendergast reached out to McClain, who had become a friend through their interactions at KILT. Initially, he asked McClain about positions for some of his sales staff, but joked about his own job status. "I'm out of a job too," he told McClain in an e-mail, "Carve me out a couple hours on the weekend."
McClain was on his way out the door at KILT and recommended Pendergast to Granato, who brought him in, initially, to co-host the afternoon show with Harris. "I had so many things going wrong in my life at that time," he said, "[I thought] this is a sign. I'm supposed to do this." Now the 42-year-old is the solo host of the midday show and a writer for the Houston Press.
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When Pendergast was winning his smack-off titles, he became friends with Travis Rodgers, the longtime producer for The Jim Rome Show. Rodgers spent nearly 15 years producing Rome's popular syndicated show before being ousted. "[Rome] decided that my point of view, which I had given him for a long time, was no longer a viable point of view," Rodgers said, "and they fired me." (A spokesperson for The Jim Rome Show had no official comment, citing policy.)
Rodgers, who had never hosted his own show prior to joining KGOW, brings a less acerbic wit than Rome's, but his style is certainly informed by his former boss. He landed in Houston after a handful of guest-hosting stints at the station. Despite moving halfway across the country, Rodgers says he feels completely at home in Houston and on 1560. "I like the group of lunatics that surround this world," he said. "The talk radio listeners and the talk radio hosts are a really bizarre, eclectic, fun group of people."
And there are few people more eclectic than McClain and his creative partner, production director Frank Bullington. If Granato and Zierlein are the heart of the station and Gow is its intellect, McClain and Bullington are most definitely its sense of humor.
McClain, 38, had no background in radio before being hired at KILT as an executive producer on the strong recommendation of Granato and Zierlein. He sold oil-field tools and dabbled in songwriting. His Houston Rocket-themed songs "Air Bull" and "Yao Ming Song" caught the ears of the Zierlein and landed McClain a job with KILT. He and Bullington met on the floor of the Compaq Center. McClain was singing the Yao song during halftime of a game between the Rockets and Lakers. Bullington was playing in a drum corps that performed during games and he backed McClain up.
The creative duo now infuses their unique brand of wit-inspired impertinence into the station avoiding what McClain refers to as "fucking cold war bureaucracy" he says he encountered at KILT. Bullington, a 42-year-old musician who has played in Houston for more than 20 years, is responsible for most of the promos, public service announcements and locally produced advertisements. He left a job working for a wine distributor and took a pay cut to "be challenged creatively and hang out with people that make me laugh all day," adding, "What fun. Who gets to do shit like this?"
sitting in the studio on a random Tuesday morning is like being in a college dorm. There are empty energy drink bottles and newspapers scattered around the room — the sports section is sitting strategically on the table next to a computer monitor while the business section is crumpled on the floor. The bobblehead doll of former Houston Rocket Carl Landry is sitting on a Harlem Globetrotters mouse pad, and a soccer ball on the floor occasionally gets kicked against the wall by an intern or show producer during a break.
Next to the door hang banners from competing sports radio stations marked with the names of the people who nabbed them, reminders of what they are up against and trophies from their battle for the ears of listeners.
"That's the kind of thing that's encouraged around here," Granato says of the stolen banners, describing how the atmosphere at KGOW is decidedly different from his last radio home at KILT.
McClain and Bullington create virtually all of the station's local commercials, public service announcements and interludes that range from hilarious to surreal. They also come up with event ideas and oddball stunts, sometimes catching even their fellow staffers unawares. They've started a lawn mower in the studio and walked out, visited the station at midnight for drunken on-air improvisation they call the Blue Light Cemetery show, and released hundreds of live crickets while Rodgers was on the air. "It drove Travis crazy," Bullington confessed.
"Having sound from last night's game is not important to me," says Program Director Chance McClain. "Having Raheel challenge [Houston Rockets forward] Chuck Hayes to a free-throw shooting contest and talk about it is entertaining to me."
Some of the jokes live on the puerile side of tasteful. Alyson Footer, a frequent in-studio guest and director of social networking for the Houston Astros, said, "I told John [Granato], 'You guys are leading the league in bathroom humor.'" But, McClain wants the hosts to flirt with the inflammatory. "We're not cavalier. We're not reckless," he said, sitting in one of the station's control rooms that doubles as his office, "but we're definitely going to get on that line and just live there."
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