As Charlie Stout pointed out in a recent tweet, it was just a mere two weeks ago that we were lamenting the fact that there hadn’t been much buzz or newsworthy trends in our scene for quite a while. Thanks to a few songs on the de facto flagship airwaves of OKOM all hell broke loose on Friday. Immediately, our Twitter mentions filled with folks asking what was happening on the Ranch? They said they’d heard Brad Paisley and Eric Church. Knowing it was too early for an April Fool’s stunt, we naively asked on Twitter what was happening? The floodgates soon opened. Ranch haters went to battle with Ranch apologists.
This firestorm led to deeper investigation. First by Saving Country Music and anectdotally by countless others. For as long as I’ve known him, Shayne Hollinger has had an impeccable ear for music. Of all kinds. If it’s good, he plays it. Labels be damned. As it should be. His Mandatory FM station was revelatory and legendary. He’s as likely to play a song wrapped in a cardboard cassette holder as he is one that arrives with a blustery, overdone PR kit. Shayne has been the first person to play many of your favorite artists on the radio. If the tune is good, it will be played. His heart is in the right place too. One night at LJT 2008, he quite literally saved my life when tornadoes ripped through Melody Mountain. I also once saw him punch a dude in the throat that was being loud during a listening room show. Warnings need to be heeded when you’re around serious music fans. He takes that seriousness to his programming.
Justin Frazzell and I hit this scene around the same time…the late 90’s. He had a front porch, I had a front row seat. He had a microphone, I had a keyboard. His old Sunday shows on the Wolf provided a fertile proving ground and outlet to a burgeoning scene that needed a voice. You will not find a better guy involved in this crazy business. His heart is as good as gold and the works he does raising money for Cook’s Childrens Hospital are a showcase of his passion. One of the most proud moments of my crazy experience over the past two decades was the time I got to sit in on Justin’s first show back on the airwaves. His first Front Porch show on the Ranch after his exile from radio. I’ve always cherished that. I knew he was going to be successful because he finally found the right home.
I give all that background to say this.
There are not two guys I trust more with music decisions for this scene. There are several I trust as much, but none more. A few years back, once both gentleman arrived on the Ranch team, I knew they’d take it to new heights and new places. In an age of dwindling listeners and streaming services, local radio provides personality and an experience you can’t find elsewhere. Just as you all don’t exclusively listen to Texas/Red Dirt constantly on your Spotify or Pandora…neither do these guys. Shayne took over musical direction of the station and started slowly incorporating new elements. Stevie Ray Vaughan. Leon Bridges. Miranda Lambert. Each as Texan as Randy Rogers Band, Wade Bowen and Pat Green. Just a different shade. Unencumbered, this inspired Shayne to push further. Back to his old mandatory motto…if it was good, it would go on air. Place of creation be damned. Whether it came from Weatherford or Chattanooga, if he dug it, he’d put it on your radio and let you hear it. That’s a bold choice. And the right one.
The passion his inclusion of more mainstream acts has inspired has been awesome. In a scene that many of us had figured was devoid of inspiring that type of blowback anymore, it’s been fun to see people get so worked up about something. It means they care. They care about the music. They care about this scene. They care about local radio. And most importantly, with regard to this situation…they care about the Ranch. They’re not going anywhere…because there is nowhere else to go.
If we have to sit through a pretty good Eric Church song to hear the latest from Koe Wetzel, there’s no harm there. If a Kacey Musgraves B-side plays alongside Jackie Darlene…that’s good. And guess what…they’re still spinning all the William Clark Green, Turnpike Troubadours and Parker McCollum you can handle. Your time spent listening may be different, but it’s not going to be less. Some listeners may jump ship, but the net gain will be minimal and unnoticeable. To those folks that are pissed off about this change…I understand your frustration. I live in Waco. We have ShooterFM. Which from its inception has been good, but not perfect. It plays Jason Aldean right after Cody Jinks. It’s odd. But it sure beats the alternatives and Cody Jinks has sold out his last couple shows here…because people heard him on the radio. The same will be true for the Ranch. New artists will continue to shine. The slicker, new stuff just may rope in new listeners. And we’ll all live to sing along on Friday nights. Shayne will continue to play what he thinks is cool. Justin will continue to be the jovial host that brings it all to us on Sundays and each morning.
I’m just glad to see people still give a shit.