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"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Maxine Todd

maxine toddSmitty: I must say it is my wonderful pleasure to finally welcome to JazzMonthly.com one of the great voices of this format.  Behind the scenes, in the forefront, you name it; she has been a force for many years. As Program Director, representing KHJZ 95.7 The WAVE in Houston, please welcome the incomparable Ms. Maxine Todd.  Maxine, how ya doin’?

Maxine Todd (MT):  Outstanding. What an incredible introduction. I hope I can live up to that.

Smitty:  Oh, you already have, my friend. (Laughs.)  You have had a remarkable career to this point. Talk about how you got into radio.

MT:  When I was growing up, all my family and friends had the radio on all the time.  All my friends dreamed of being a dj one day.  I grew up listening to great stations like WLS in Chicago. One very important influence was the first female on-air talent I heard and that was Yvonne Daniels.  She was the first female jock who wasn’t doing a side-kick or  news role. I emulated Yvonne’s on air delivery.  She passed away a few years ago and I never got the chance to say I was her biggest fan.  I  needed a summer job when I was in high school and was able to get the sign off shift at the new AM daytimer in my home town.  My sister was music major in college and had gone to college with some of the music majors that were working there at the station. So I’ll always be indebted to my big sister.  Don’t tell her that. Then it was college, working my way thru school on commercial FM rock and country stations in the late 70’s and got a tremendous opportunity to work for RKO’s TOP 40 WHBQ in Memphis in 1980. Moved to Memphis, worked in radio and did voice work with Mitch Craig Productions for about 20 years. I love Memphis it was and still is one of the most incredible American cities.  Home of the Blues, the very best barbecue, civil rights history and of course Elvis. Beale Street always had music playing from Rockabilly to Country to Blues 24 hours a day.  Incredible music heritage. I held on-air and programming positions at heritage WDIA, WHRK, & AC WRVR and Country WGKX. Then on to Operations Manager for the Clear Channel Group of stations WOWI, WJCD WSVY & WSVV in Norfolk in the mid 90’s. Dallas at KOAI The Oasis in 2000 and launched KHJZ in 2003 here in Houston.      

Smitty:  Impressive, no doubt.  So, now, you’ve covered several different genres and now for the past few years you’ve worked with Smooth Jazz.  Do you find that to be your favorite or is there other music that you still like to go back to and listen and reminisce about?

MT:  The interesting thing about Smooth Jazz….and, yes, I would say that it is my favorite…. Smooth Jazz weaves many great melodies from various formats over a number of years. The audience consists of adult men and women, embracing everyone and crossing all ethnic lines. There is great synergy among the radio sales side, programming and promotion with smooth jazz that is fun. It’s the un-cola of formats, nothing like it on the air and we thrive on that position in the market.The music encompasses everything from pop vocals and R&B to contemporary jazz and instrumental music and some soft rock. When you think of “out of the box” formats, what could be more out of the box than playing contemporary jazz and instrumental music on commercial radio?  Most of our success has been through viral marketing, we have a close relationship with our audience and work hard to keep them raving fans.       

Smitty:  Yes, I love your description “the un-cola of formats”. I think we first met when you were at The Oasis in Dallas and unfortunately that station is no longer there, but I can remember back then when you were a force there in Dallas and what a great time that was, but now you’re in Houston and musically speaking I could liken you to a quiet assassin because you have been such a force and you have been so welcomed in Houston. I can remember the first night you came out on stage at the first show after the station’s signal came on, and I remember you saying “We’re not here for just three or four months.  We’re here for the long haul and we’ve got some exciting things coming,” and you have lived up to that.  I mean, you are such a force with this format and people literally love you and the station for what you guys have done.

MT:  Good memory Smitty.  You have to do your research before you launch a brand new format, and we did yet it helped that Houston had a strong jazz and smooth jazz heritage. There were a couple of Smooth Jazz stations prior to WAVE Houston, but this one, by far, has a much better reach and signal than any of the others. Plus Houston has grown in market size and people have really embraced what we’re doing. Smooth Jazz has never been in a better place.  It’s unfortunate that we’ve lost a few markets, but we’ve also gained a few….

Smitty:  Yes.

MT: .…You can’t position Smooth Jazz as a niche or boutique-y format anymore.  The format celebrates its 20th anniversary of being on the air in some markets next year. It’s been around probably longer than any of the heritage formats on the air today.       

Smitty:  Yes, I totally agree. So what would you say are the key ingredients to good radio? Because evidently you have this formula because it’s totally working.

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