A few months after KTCK/1310 AM The Ticket went on the air in January 1994, Corby Davidson joined the station as an intern. He’d been taking radio-TV classes at the University of North Texas, but it wasn’t long before he realized something about his new job.
“I figured out pretty quickly that I was learning a lot more by being at the station and just kind of loitering more than anything else,” Davidson says. “Kind of a learn by osmosis, learning how to work the equipment, all the old stuff that we used to use and at the time I was hounding them for any sort of job. Anything, I didn’t care.
In the fall of 1994, he got his wish: He was offered a weekend overnight board-op job. “I got hired to do the shift that consisted of going in to work at 10 p.m. on Friday night and leaving at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning and then doing the same thing Saturday night,” he says. “So that was really just the kickest-ass job of all-time, but it was the “foot in the door” and I had to take whatever they offered me no matter what it was and I did that grind for about nine months.”
Now, as the station celebrates its 25th anniversary, Davidson co-hosts afternoon-drive show “The Hardline” with longtime DFW radio vet Mike Rhyner. There were a lot of stops along the way, but his big break came when Ticket personality Chris Arnold hand-picked him to be the producer of a 10 a.m.-noon show. While producing the weekday program, Davidson added hosting duties on Saturday-morning shows such as golf program “The Tee Box” and the popular “The Rant” with Gordon Keith and Dave Lane.
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After Arnold left the station, Davidson did a stint on midday show “BaD Radio” before moving to the “Hardline.”
Davidson, 49, now resides in Lake Highlands, but has plenty of “817” ties including graduating from Arlington Lamar and his time at TCU. He recently discussed what many people would think is the ultimate dream job, his friendship with Shaquille O’Neal, his impertinent question for Billy Joel, and his favorite burger place in Fort Worth.
How were you able to take that internship, the most entry-level of entry-level jobs and parlay that into getting on the air?
While I had the overnight job, I was doing fill-in show work and I really just hung around to where I was probably a nuisance up there more than anything else. At the time, nobody knew that the station was going to work out, but around that time, the station got its first really good ratings book and I remember the celebration. It was then that I really knew I wanted to be a part of this.
So I started filling in a lot for the producers and learned that side of things. Then they had a producer shake-up that opened up the 10 a.m.-noon producer shift and I had filled in with Chris Arnold on multiple shows and he requested me. That was my massive, monster huge break and that was sometime in late ’95 or early ’96.
How long were you a producer before you ended up as a co-host?
I was with Chris for about four years and when he left the station, Bob [Sturm] and Dan [McDowell] were doing “BaD Radio” from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. So they were doing five hours every day and I worked with them full-time on-air as their third wheel and it was great. I loved every second of it.
It was awesome working with them and their show had just started out and at the time it was basically “free-form” radio, not too much unlike what we are doing now, but it was so much fun and I thought that’s what I was going to do.
So my boss at the time, Bruce Gilbert, comes to me and says “How would you like to work on ‘The Hardline’ show?” I said I wouldn’t, I was having too much fun with Bob and Dan and he was like “that’s really not a question.” At the time, Gordon [Keith] was doing stuff with ‘The Hardline’ and the morning show and they decided they just wanted him on one show.
So I moved over there with Mike [Rhyner] and Greg (Williams) and that was a long way to get to where I am right now, but I’ve been on ‘The Hardline’ now for 18 years. Your life is basically the show and this life is all I’ve really known since I was 23.
Let’s hit some of the job highlights. For example, every year, you guys get to go to the Super Bowl for a week. Is that as much fun as you guys make it sound or is it really work?
I remember the first year I got to go, we went to Tampa, and I remember thinking to myself “I cannot believe I get to do this for a living.” It blew my mind. We would all work during the day and go out at night as a group and we would get to interview whoever we wanted. I felt at that time that if died that night, I would be fine as far as they things I’ve been able to do and see.
I’m sure there are a lot of Super Bowl memories from over the years, but one that stands out is the Billy Joel press conference.
On the air, we would always refer to Billy Joel — this was the time he was starting lose his hair and show his age — and always joke that he was turning into Alan King. No one knows who King was, but he was a comic that worked in the Catskills.
So Mike and I had a bet for $100 that I would somehow work that in to a question at the Super Bowl press conference. I asked him if he was working on a new album and followed up with “has anyone ever noted that you are morphing into noted Meshuggeneh comic Alan King?” Mike is sitting inches from me and is mortified that Billy Joel is staring at him and not even looking at me, he slides over the $100 bill. It was a great moment.
Were you nervous?
It’s totally nerve-racking to get up there at a press conference and ask stupid questions to U2, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, you name it and that’s probably why the NFL caught on and stopped letting us ask those questions. Our names are on some sort of watch list.
All the people handing out the microphones have earpieces and at some point four or five years ago, I could hear the lady say they were handing the microphone to Corby Davidson from KTCK Radio and I could hear on the earpiece a guy say “Don’t do it!”
Fans of the station know that you are friends with Shaquille O’Neal dating back to his days with the Los Angeles Lakers. How did that come about?
Sometime in the late 90s, he rolled through and he had a million people around him in the locker room and after scrum, I walked up to him and said that I had 10 questions for him and it would take about one minute. They were ridiculous questions and I don’t remember exactly what I asked.
Like a month later, the Lakers were back in town and I went back in the locker room and Shaq remembered me from the last time. So we did the interview and then we chatted afterwards, he was asking me about life, job, girlfriend and all that and it was surreal, but we are the same age, so it really wasn’t that weird.
It’s tough to explain, he’s a pretty normal dude if you can fight through the 7-foot frame. He’s really funny and has a brilliant sense of humor and he’s super quick. It just became this thing that I totally looked forward to and I think that he did too. We’ve kept up with each other and I think he’s going to do just fine.
Another well-known friendship of yours that makes it to the air is for Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer. Talk about how you guys became friends.
Barry, at some point while he was coaching the Cowboys, I wore an OU hat to a press conference at Valley Ranch and he called me over afterward and asked if I was a Sooner. Next thing I know, we are talking and over time, when I would be at the Cowboys facility, he remembered me and we would strike up conversations about random things.
So whenever I started working on “The Hardline” and he was done here and back in Oklahoma, I asked the guys about having Switzer on as a regular during football season. Now, they treated him like garbage when he was here with the Cowboys, and I thought that if he did it it would be a good thing for him and Mike and Greg [Williams] said if I could get him to do it, we should do it.
I remember calling Barry and I telling him my idea and he said “Why would I want to be on with those two ***holes?” I told him that I thought if people got to know him that they’d like him because he was known as the guy that would come down here and beat Texas and when he was the Cowboys coach, people always looked at him as this crook from Oklahoma and no one every really got to know him. I told him that if people got to know him, they’d love him and it worked. I mean worked.
That show kind of defined “The Hardline” in the early 2000s and we had him on for a few years and our friendship grew from there. We’ve really gotten to be good buddies over the past 15 years and talk quite a bit. That’s the one that if you had asked me as a kid if I would be friends with Coach Switzer, that would have knocked my socks off. He is true blue and he is one of a kind. He’s a keeper.
“The Hardline” went to the Masters and broadcast from Augusta recently and also gets to go to Oxnard for Dallas Cowboys training camp coverage every summer. Is there a bucket-list item that you haven’t covered yet?
The Masters was great, we were out there Thursday and Friday and broadcast right outside the grounds of Augusta National and I made Mike and Danny [Balis] walk the entire course with me, not that they enjoyed it as much as I did. As far as bucket list, we’ve kicked around Wimbledon the last few years to see if we could catch Roger Federer in his last little run. It hasn’t worked out travel-wise with kids having stuff going on, but there’s no doubt that Wimbledon is the No. 1 bucket-list sporting event for me to go to. I feel like I’ve done almost everything else.
Over the years on the Ticket, you have talked about your love of golf. What are some of the best courses you have played?
I haven’t played a lot of courses. I’ve played Pebble Beach and it was great. Bandon Dunes in Oregon is awesome. I also played the course up in Tulsa where they had the PGA Championship, Southern Hills.
Locally, I love Colonial. It will always be my favorite, no matter what course is built around here. That was the first place I ever got a lesson. My mom took me over there and got me a lesson when I was around 13 or 14 and I got to play nine holes with this guy Bobby Morris who was my instructor. I thought the place was magical.
I love Preston Trail too, I’ve played there a few times. I have not played Maridoe yet, but I’ve heard it was really cool.
Talk about your time at TCU and in Fort Worth.
I grew up in Arlington, so I was in Fort Worth a ton as a kid. My parents still go to church in Fort Worth. I never thought in a million years that I would go to TCU, but my sister ended up going over there and she kind of lured me over there. I went out with her and a bunch of her friends when I was a senior in high school and discovered that TCU’s girl-to-guy ratio was 3-to-1. I had planned on going to OU, but that changed my mind.
I have nothing but wonderful memories of TCU, probably too good. My closest friends that I have today are all from TCU. My wife and I talk about living there, moving over to that area, and I know Jake [“BaD Radio” producer Jake Kemp] lives over there, but with that drive, he’s a better man than I am.
I love Fort Worth, I go over as much as possible. The way that city has transformed itself since the late ‘80s with the Bass brothers’ help and TCU football has basically turned that campus into the place to be. For a small private school, it’s cool to see how the town supports the college.
Do you have any favorite destinations when you come to Fort Worth?
Typically if I’m coming to Fort Worth, I’m going to go to the original Fred’s. I have a very fond place in my heart for Fred’s from back when it was a trailer. My buddy Scott Collins took me there on like a Tuesday at noon and he said “I’m going to take you somewhere and if you tell one person, I’m going to kill you.” So he takes me to Fred’s and there was just a bunch of locals drinking schooners and it was so great.
Of course, within two months, I have told everyone I knew about Fred’s and we are all going down there for burgers and after that, the area around started building up into what it is now.
That’s another cool thing about Fort Worth is that they have like four or five unique areas to go to from Sundance Square to Magnolia to West 7th. There’s different areas to go to and you’re not limited. If we are over there for a TCU game and it’s late enough at night, I try to wander over to the Pub with my friends.
How did you get involved in a dog-rescue project?
My wife and I got in involved with this group called Dallas Dogrrr (dallasdogrrr.org) and everyone knows about the bad dog problems that we have in south Dallas and they started this to go down there and get these abandoned, abused, mistreated dogs out of south Dallas. They raise money to get their medicals all taken care of and get them rehabbed and adopt them out.
It’s a very small, grassroots organization that my wife actually found and I credit her because she’s the one that made me a dog person. We became more involved, started a fund-raiser about three years ago and that’s grown to be bigger and bigger. It’s been eye-opening for me to see what these people do to see that these dogs are taken care of and to see the process is inspiring and cool to be a part of that group. They ended up putting me on the board and it’s been great.
Follow Jay Betsill on Twitter @TheFamousJay