It’s been more than four months since Jody Dean stepped down as the morning show at KLUV/98.7 FM, a slot he’d held since 2005. But he has hardly been taking it easy.
He quickly launched “Saturday Night Special With Jody Dean,” an all-request show that has been running from 7 to midnight Saturdays on KLUV. But this weekend, he’ll begin using the last hour of that time slot to air a show that he says is the best work he’s ever done.
On “Dusty Attics,” which will air from 11 p.m. to midnight Saturdays, Dean will talk with Dallas-Fort Worth celebrities about songs that mean the most to them. Dean has already recorded a few shows — including one with Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy (“There’s a lot of Fort Worth in there,” says Dean, who is from Fort Worth)
“It’s not an original idea,” Dean says during a phone interview. “The idea came from [Ron Chapman’s producer] Sandi Hopkins back in the mid-’80s at KVIL. She heard a program on the BBC, and fundamentally, the premise was, ‘You bring in your favorite songs, and we’ll play them on the air and talk about ‘em.”
The original “Dusty Attics” was hosted by Hopkins, who died of heart failure in 1987. In bringing the show back, Dean says, he plans to start with Jen Myers, the former KDFW/Channel 4 meteorologist who left Fox 4 in May 2018 after six years with the station.
“Consultants had long told her, ‘cover your curly hair,’ “ says Dean of Myers, who had to wear a wig during her forecasts at the station. “She finally had enough, and when you hear her story about how she came to that point in her life that she said ‘I can’t do this anymore’.” (Myers is now meteorologist and communications support coordinator for Oncor.)
Dean says that when you hear people talk about their favorite songs, the song takes on a different context. On his blog, he cites a story that WFAA/Channel 8 sports anchor Dale Hansen told on the original “Dusty Attics” about a childhood friend he lost during the Vietnam War and how Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” affected Hansen when it came out.
“Every time I hear that song, I think of Dale’s friend,” Dean says. “So that’s what this does. When you hear the song that Jen chose, the one that we play as her finale, it’s from the musical ‘The Greatest Showman,’ and it made me want to get up on my chair. I knew right then that this was the best stuff that I could do, let alone that I’ve ever done.”
Dean has also talked to former longtime Dallas Morning News columnist Alan Peppard, who retired in 2017 after 30 years with the paper; and to Paige Flink, CEO of The Family Place, a Dallas-based organization that provides help to victims of domestic violence.
“Look at what she does for a living — what does she listen to to unwind after a day?,” Dean says. “What was the song that motivated her to get into social work? What was the song that got her to work in the morning after a hard night the night before?” (Dean says that one of her stories is about the first record her dad ever bought — before he could afford a phonograph to play it on.)
“You really find out a lot about people when you find out about their favorite songs,” Dean says. “One of my favorite features in Dallas-Fort Worth radio is Mike Rhyner’s ‘return songs’ on ‘The Hardline’ on the Ticket, because he plays them right off his iPod, and then he lists them on Twitter. It’s one more way to get to know us as people, removing the barrier between the broadcaster and the listener.”
Dean had been looking for a slot for “Dusty Attics” when his bosses at KLUV and Entercom, suggested that he use the last hour of the “Saturday Night Special” slot to air the new show. In a way, talking to local celebrities about their musical memories is a natural segue from doing an all-request show.
“It’s interesting what people call in to request, and that’s the fun of it, because it’s the pure DJ experience,” he says. “You don’t have to worry about preparing a morning show or coming up with material. You’re relying on listeners to tell you what’s going on in their lives and getting to express it for them.”
KLUV, which evolved from an “oldies” station to a “classic hits” station (it can still be jarring to hear a song from the late ‘90s on it, till you realize that the late ‘90s were 20 years ago), has a long history of playing nostalgia-inducing music from the past. Dean’s shows can break format, but they still work through the connection of music and memory.
“I’ve said for a long time that sound is the first sense that we develop, when we hear our mother’s heartbeat,” Dean says. “That same primal instinct that served by the sound of our mother’s heartbeat manifests in everything from movie soundtracks to [classic] ballads. ... When I was a kid, I saw ‘The Sound of Music’ with my mother, and I can’t hear ‘Edelweiss’ without getting choked up.”
Dean, a fixture in Dallas-Fort Worth radio and TV for more than 40 years, still remembers that the first record he ever played on KVIL (where he worked with Chapman when the station was a ratings powerhouse) was “New Kid in Town” by the Eagles, and that the first record he ever played commercially, on KEAN in Abilene, was Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me.”
“Songs are like that,” he says. “People remember, ‘What was I listening to when I was on my way to have my first child?’ ‘What was I listening to when I was on my way to college?’ ‘What was I listening to when I heard that my dad had a heart attack?’ ‘What was I listening to when I got my first job or first promotion or got divorced or walked the floor with a sick child?’ Something was in the background. There was a soundtrack. And when you ask people about those things, they open up to you.’ “
When Dean announced in September that he would be leaving the morning show, which is now hosted by Jeff Miles, Dean stressed that he was not retiring, and that he was building a backyard studio at his home, where he could work on voice-over work.
“I thought I was going to be less busy,” he says, adding that the studio is “99 percent done” and that his three dogs (which occasionally interrupted the phone interview) and one hedgehog keep him busy. “But I don’t have to get up at 3. But the animals do have to be fed. It’s like running a farm.”
And although giving up the morning show wasn’t his choice, there are some things about it (including getting up at 3). “You don’t feel responsible for other people’s futures,” he says. “Every day, I walked in there, and it could be frustrating as hell, because you just want to world and shake it. .... My blood pressure’s gone down 50 points, and that’s not a joke. It really has.”