For those of you who have been around Houston for a while and listened to the radio, you'll probably remember Lanny Griffith and his "Traffic in Bondage" on legendary former rock station, KLOL. Well, Griffith is still around and while he may have dropped the bondage part from his traffic reporters, the former KLOL and Fox News reporter is still on top of what ails the Houston commute, but now with the all-news 92FM.
But Griffith is more a funny traffic reporter. He was the bureau chief for Metro Traffic Control and is a member of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He's also earned more than his share of nicknames including Traffic Master, Czar of Cars, Sultan of Slow Downs, and Prince of Pavement Repairs. I was thrilled when he agreed to answer my questions about his long career in Houston media.
1. How did you get into traffic after starting out in news?
I had been a radio reporter in small towns working at country western stations when I came to Houston in the early '80s, seeking fame and fortune. It just wasn't meant to be. Nobody was hiring. I had a friend on the air reporting for Metro Traffic. I didn't think traffic reporting was difficult until I was told to go sit on the Southwest Freeway and write up five various, 10-second reports on why traffic on the Southwest Freeway wasn't moving. This is news? Traffic on ANY freeway is never moving in morning rush hour. Was it a stalled car, or a two car fender bender, or was it an 18-wheeler on fire? My reporter skills took over and I jumped in my assigned mobile unit, a Volkswagon Rabbit, white with burgundy red velour interior, armed with a two-way radio and a Bearcat 20/20 police scanner cranked to the max. It was on. I scuttled down the road till I saw the problem, a rear end collision inbound over the Bellaire Street overpass right in the middle of the freeway. Fender benders are the bread and butter of traffic reporting everywhere, gotta love 'em. Well I was hooked; my job was to listen to the scanner, identify the problem, write up the report, and tell of the ensuing back up. Crime reporting, of a vehicular nature. Got it.
2. What was the craziest event or on-air moment that involved you while working at KLOL?
One crazy broadcast moment that stands out over any other was at KLOL during the Morning Show when I uttered traffic was all "tied up" and Traffic in Bondage was born. Get it?... "tied up" Insert ghoulish laugh. It went off like a rocket. Nothing would ever be the same, and I can't tell you about the photos people sent to KLOL with THEIR version of bondage. It exploded and all at once it was out of my hands and spreading like wildfire. It landed me on the cover of Newsweek Magazine and a stint on NBC's "The Today Show." It forever changed my life and still gets a laugh to this day. I have a standing invitation to emcee the annual Leather and Lace Ball that grew out of Traffic in Bondage. An homage to whips and chains.
3. You've had the unique experience of doing what you do on both television and radio. Do you have a preference?
Over the years I am always asked which medium I prefer, radio or television. Honored to have worked in both, I have to say I choose radio over television for this reason. You have to be home to watch TV or sitting in a café or in the office. Radio is everywhere. My traffic reports on News92FM go directly in to the driver's seat and that information is the deciding factor in taking the freeway or the Loop to get to work. It's immediate. However nothing beats television when it comes to cooking segments. Sigh.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
4. We've already profiled Col. St. James, a Texas Radio Hall of Fame inductee. Tell us about your experience with the HOF.
In the spring of 2011, I got a call from the committee members of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame which completely blew me away. Hall of Fame?? I'm not dead yet, or do they know something I don't? They asked me to submit my work for consideration into the 2011 Texas Radio Hall of Fame. Oh geez, how do you send out 30 years of broadcasting to a committee of your peers? Talk about daunting. The Texas Radio Hall of Fame has everybody in it from Walter Cronkite, Bob Schieffer, Sam Donaldson, Wolfman Jack, to my buddies, J.P. Prichard, Lana Hughes, Stevens and Pruett, Col. St. James and Crash, and rightfully so. It was an honor just being nominated. The actual induction ceremony was THE party of the year let me tell ya. As an inductee you are roasted and toasted to the hilt. My feet didn't touch the ground for days.
5. Is there one intersection or freeway that every Houstonian should just avoid during rush hour?
If there was one intersection I would warn folks to stay away from it's the Demonic Possessed Highway 59 and Loop 610; a black hole of carnage if ever there was one. Tankers flip, cars crash through guardrails and land on traffic below, trucks lose their loads of junk on the road, chemicals spills, HAZ MAT wash downs, babies are born, and folk singers routinely break out in ditties while sitting in long lines of traffic getting through. Uncanny that News92FM looks directly over that horrid interchange. They actually had a drive-thru prayer window along the Southwest Freeway at Hillcroft for spontaneous spiritual guidance getting through. I kid you not. Listeners would call me from their balconies over Sharpstown with binoculars to report the latest shenanigans during the daily rush. It is still listed as one of the top five most congested interchanges in America. Houston proud!!