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For Jamie Markley, Hosting MVR Feels Like More Than a Job

When Markley talks about MVR, you get the feeling he’s talking about a daily event he loves to be part of, more than a job. 

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If you hang out with friends and talk about life, politics, and goofy stuff, you should get a radio show. Jamie Markley did. 

“Our show is extremely natural, I think that’s one of the things we hear a lot,” Markley said. 

He’s talking about Markley, Van Camp and Robbins, heard on more than 125 radio stations across the country. Three ostensibly different guys from different generations that just like to shoot the s***.

“It sounds like three friends who get on with each other like only friends can. To me, maybe it’s because I had a big brother growing up, it’s the jawwing back and forth. It’s endearing, never mean spirited.”

He was a jock in Peoria for 10 years, married for three, when a morning job in Rockford opened when his station in Peoria was sold. He spent two years there, then he heard a station was looking for a morning person in Peoria. 

“My wife and I were just starting out with our kids and both of us had family in the Peoria area,” Markley said. We didn’t know what we were going to do. At the time I had an offer to do afternoons in Indianapolis. We were trying to take on The Bob & Tom Show. My wife wanted to get back home to Peoria. Nine months later we got back there.”

Before a career in radio, bands like KISS meant a lot. Markley wore a KISS shirt as a kid, and that can speak volumes about a person. I know because I wore one too.

If you didn’t listen to KISS, then you weren’t a kid in the 70s. Markley reminded me of a rock adage: ‘Rock and Roll is either going to hit you in the eyes or the heart, but it’s going to resonate with you somewhere.’ 

“Not only was KISS not your parent’s band,” Markley said, “they weren’t your uncle’s band either. It was something you hadn’t heard. When most people hear Rock and Roll All Nite, they still turn it up on the radio to this day. It’s music that keeps you young.”

Markley said one of the first albums he purchased was KISS Destroyer

The band KISS indirectly got Markley in trouble in Sunday school. 

“I grew up in the Methodist church. One time I had a KISS belt buckle and my Sunday school teacher went crazy. It was a Gene Simmons dragon belt buckle. I think I wore it on purpose.”

Alive was already out. One of my first albums was Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic. I don’t think there’s a bad track on the album with songs like Uncle Salty.” 

According to Markley, Aerosmith was in bad shape in the mid-80s, doing lots of drugs. Joe Perry left the band after the album “Night in the Ruts.” Then Aerosmith came out with “Done with Mirrors” in 1985.  

“It was an album only Aerosmith fans bought,” Markley said. “It had a horrible marketing campaign. I saw them on that tour and they were terrible and wasted. Then they did the duet with Run DMC in 1986, got clean and sober, and released “Permanent Vacation,” their big comeback record in 1987.

Once in the radio business, Markley had the perk of meeting a lot of touring rock acts. “Eddie Van Halen was very cool,” he said. Pushed to choose between David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar incarnations of the band, Markley said he had to go with Lee Roth.

“When I was on rock radio, I was just a ‘rock dog,” Markley said. “All those guys were my heroes.  I was at Alpine Valley for Van Halen. Scorpions, Metallica, I was turned on to rock by my older brother and sister. It was Boston, Eagles, a lot of different stuff.” 

When Markley talks about MVR, you get the feeling he’s talking about a daily event he loves to be part of, more than a job. 

“It’s smart to be informed, but I think it takes more work these days to figure it out,” Markley explained. “There are so many differing agendas being played out. When you look around, with just the people you know, there’s a lot of amazing people. A lot of the conflicts are things covered by nose. I’m not saying there aren’t awful things going on. The difference is how we approach it on the show. We’re just honest and tell people how we feel.”

Just because Markley is on the radio, people seem to feel his opinion on a matter might mean more than most. Markley said that’s way off base. 

“If I’m going to a family gathering, or meeting old friends from high school, I don’t feel like I need to talk about my political perspectives or comment on everything in the news. I’m just there to have a good time. Sometimes people say they’ve got to get my opinion on something. I’ll tell you if you want my opinion, but I don’t feel any need to talk about it. There are some people who hear my opinions who never want to talk about that topic with me ever again. But I promise you’ll know how I feel on the air about every single issue.”

Markley was in no shape or form pushed our conversation to a higher plane, it just went there.

“When I was younger and said I was a Christian, I’m not sure what that meant,” Markley said. “I recall talking to my mom when I was 20 years-old. Some girl I knew had gotten pregnant. The conversation was rolling and my mom said you shouldn’t have sex before marriage. I told her that wasn’t realistic.” 

Markley questioned how someone could go to Sunday school and not know the basic tenets of Christianity.

“There were a lot of things that happened to me in a 36-hour period when I was 31 years old,” he said. “My mother was dying, my wife became pregnant, and the radio station I was at closed. A few weeks later my mom died and I started to spiral. I was in a different town, away from support.” 

Then came the booze, and Markley said things got pretty bad.

“I knew if my family was going to make it, we had to go back to Peoria,” he said. “I thought that would fit all our issues. I wasn’t ready for all that came my way.”

His path to spirituality was realized through all things, an MMA fighter. The man is Ryan Blackorby, who is also from the Peoria area.

“He truly had faith,” Markley explained. “My wife had been babysitting their first child. At the time he was doing some work for a children’s home.”

Markley said Blackorby had come to discover his faith a year or two earlier. The two friends started talking and Markley told him he’d never really read the Bible, and he’d never really been involved in Bible study in his life. 

“I think that turned out to be a good thing because we could talk. I saw him as a guy I liked,” Markley said. “When you think of people who have faith, you sort of envision a stereotype. But here was a real Christian guy and I wanted to know what that believing was really like. I can remember us getting together for lunch and I’d ask some basic questions.”

Blackorby told Markley to start with the gospels. Then they could discuss his interpretations. 

“I remember reading Matthew one day,” Markley said. “It was a Saturday in January of 2001. Suddenly, I realized all of what I was reading made sense. I realized I couldn’t fix things on my own as I was still drinking way too much. 

My wife and I talked and decided we should start reading the Bible. She jokingly called me a ‘Bible-thumper.’ I was trying not to be too pushy about my new realizations. She said that was good as I’d gotten drunk a few nights before.”

Markley knew his drinking had to stop, one way or another. He kept establishing drinking limits, like getting in a few quick ones. You’re not an alcoholic if you can stop, right?

“I might have a couple, and sometimes I’d just go ‘all in.’ Finally I realized, ‘Okay. I can’t do this anymore. As far as my career has gone, I think audiences perceive you a certain way. The subject of drinking pops up occasionally. You have to know my co-host Scott Robbins and I used to party a lot.” 

Markley said when he shares something about his drinking problems on the air, listeners would thank him for sharing. They’d say, ‘I had a drinking problem and when you said you had the same thing I felt God was coming through.’

“It’s so hard to seek sobriety when you’ve been doing it for such a long time,” Markley said. “Scott Robbins and I come from music radio. Especially when you’re doing a morning show, you’re trying to develop an on-air relationship with a friend. Alcohol was a buffer.”

When Markley talks about something personal on the air with Scott Robbins or David Van Camp, he is talking to a friend. 

“In the end, that’s what it is,” he explained. “ That’s what makes our show special. When you admit to your friends you have a problem.”

Markley said the Bible is complex. For instance, when you’re reading about the Garden of Eden, is that supposed to be taken in a literal sense? Or is it a metaphor? There’s got to be some wiggle room in there.

“There are all types of writing styles in the Bible,” Markley said. “One disciple tells a story about the history of man. Another talks about the creator. When I hear different people get their take on the Bible, it’s fascinating. Having someone like Blackorby get me through has been very fortunate for me.”

He never went to AA. When he quit, he went to a counselor who urged him to go to AA. 

“I understand it works for a lot of people,” Markley said. “If I fall off the wagon, I’ll probably go. There’s a Christian version of AA.”

Even though he’d never attended an AA meeting, he said it was an eerie experience. An alignment of powers that sure looked like they wanted him to go to a meeting.

“I was going to try to quit smoking. It was the last vice I needed to quit,” Markley explained. “I wanted to take a drive, and it was okay because I was sober. I remember it was New Year’s morning. I drove by the river just to sit. I was thinking about the coming year. I thought maybe I’d map out some goals for the year.”

Markley said a car pulled up and out popped a guy who was wearing a veteran’s jacket. 

“I figured I’d have just one more cigarette before I quit. I went up to him and told him I’d give him five bucks for a cigarette. He told me to just take one.”

Markley did. In mid-smoke, another person with a veteran’s sticker on his bumper pulled up and Markley figured it was some kind of veteran’s meeting. 

“I thought that was cool. Then I saw a woman pulling up who didn’t really look like she’d served in the military.”

Soon, other people started showing up at the same time. A light went on for Markley.

“I’m like, “Oh, this is an AA meeting.” I’m like, okay, I give. I understand why I was in this place. That’s the only one I ever attended. People went around and introduced themselves. I had actually commented to friends “I saw more love in that room than in a lot of churches I’ve been to.”

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Michael Berry Doesn’t Want to Be All Serious All the Time

“I get to entertain everyday and people come and listen to me. That really — more than anything else — is the thrill.”

Garrett Searight



A photo of Michael Berry

There are plenty of nationally syndicated radio shows that began as local shows. Not many hosts, however, have both a local radio show and a nationally syndicated show each weekday. But Michael Berry isn’t your average radio talk show host.

In addition to hosting a local show on NewsRadio 740 KTRH, Berry hosts The Michael Berry Show on more than 40 stations throughout the nation. And he believes having a local show in his hometown market — Houston — while still getting to talk about national topics on his afternoon show is the ideal situation for him.

“It lets me sort of keep my hand in two very different pies and do two very different shows. And that fulfills me,” Berry said. “I wouldn’t want to do just one or just the other. And I think part of it — I was the Mayor Pro Tem of the city of Houston, so I got very involved and very entrenched in the political world. I know a lot of the restaurant owners, I know a lot of business owners, and I really enjoy making the fourth-largest city into a tiny town for our listeners.

“But I also want to be able to talk to a national audience on a national level. I get to do both of those. I think that’s ideal for me.”

Michael Berry served on the City Council in Houston from 2002-2008, which gives him a unique perspective about both local and national politics that many others in the format don’t have.

“I think the experience of how bills are made and the backroom deals and how they’re done, I think that informs my opinions in a way that if you haven’t done that, it makes it harder to understand,” said Berry. “Also the blocking and tackling of how you get bills passed and how you win elections and those sorts of things.

“It just gives you that experience and it also helps you understand when a politician or an elected official says something that seems to go against what he believes or what he promised. You have a better sense of ‘Ok, who did he sell out to? Why did he do that? Where is the pressure point?’

“Because I think listeners want to understand not just why is Mitch McConnell doing something that feels like it’s against what the base is doing. The better question is, what’s the pressure point? What’s driving him? Who’s pushing him into that corner? And I think when you’re in the process, you get a very good sense of that.”

One could refer to Michael Berry as an almost new-age news/talk host. While one of the large criticisms of conservative talk radio today is the vitriol and anger most hosts present on the air, Berry is often presenting the opposite. Oftentimes, his show isn’t centered on conservative political viewpoints at all. A constant presentation of hope, admiration, and excitement not just about politics but about culture and the conservative lifestyle is the backbone of Berry’s program.

And while he has an affinity for those inside the conservative talk radio format, he simply believes he’s filling a different, virtually unoccupied, lane.

“There are some brilliant people out there on the radio. Sean Hannity has access to every elected official. Clay (Travis) and Buck (Sexton) are getting access to anybody they want as a guest. Mark Levin is a brilliant mind, a brilliant legal mind. (Glenn) Beck has a great perspective from decades of experience. Dan Bongino’s a really smart guy. There’s some really, really clever, smart, experienced broadcasters. I don’t need to be a lighter version of them, which is all I could ever hope to be. I want to be who I am,” admitted Berry.

“And I don’t see myself as competing with them. I wouldn’t want to. They’re all wonderful. We can all coexist, but I don’t want to watch the same show 24 hours a day. I want to create content that is different than other people are doing,” Berry continued. “Not because I’m better or they’re not good, but because I don’t think I can do it as well as they can. So I want to do what I do well.”

Michael Berry free admits he’d get bored simply sticking to the conservative political script for two separate shows each day. That’s why weaving other topics into his program continues to excite him.

“If all you do is what I call angry, old white man radio, you can’t build an audience and you can’t keep an audience. And the reason is that it becomes tedious. It becomes a chore to listen to. And everybody has heard that type of program that never laughs at anything and especially not that itself. We want to make people laugh. We want to talk about real life things, as well. We don’t have to talk politics 24/7.

“When I think about the influence in this country, on the culture, comedians have always had such an influence. The reason is that when you’re laughing, you’re thinking, and you’re engaging and you’re building your bond. I think that one of the great barriers to success in radio and success for the conservative movement is the inability to bond on the deeper level of let’s share a laugh.

“I think there is a great joy when I find that I’m making a point that I consider to be important, and yet in the middle of it, we can all laugh.”

Ultimately, Michael Berry doesn’t view his role in talk radio as a political pontificator, conservative advocate, or a preacher from behind the Republican pulpit. He views his craft from a completely different angle.

“I view myself as an entertainer. The hardcore conservative listeners don’t like me to say that because that means you must not mean what you say, or you’re not serious. I mean every word I say. And I’m very serious,” Berry stated. “But I’m serious in the way Dave Chappelle is serious. And make no mistake, Dave Chappelle is having a huge influence in America today on how we view the First Amendment or the concepts of freedom of thought…the reason is, is because he’s dead serious while making you laugh.

“When I was really deciding that this was a career I wanted to pursue…I went and studied stand-up comics, because I felt like that was the place. Otherwise, I would just mimic the guys that were already successful, and I didn’t want to do that,” Berry continued. “I felt dishonest about that.

“So what I did, instead, is I went and studied comedians, and delivery and how you engage an audience and how you hold an audience and how you make a point without beating the audience over the head with it. And how you go from point to point, how you pivot, how you make it fun. A lot of these are sort of back porch conversation tricks, you know, parlor games of, of how we keep a conversation going except it’s a one one man conversation without it feeling like I’m lecturing you.”

During our conversation, Michael Berry admitted he can hear hosts around the country who have lost the will to create compelling content, who say things they don’t believe, and are no longer in love with the format that once enticed them to join the industry.

However, he’s made a vow to never lose the excitement that comes with working in a format he still thoroughly enjoys.

“I view it as I get to wake up every day excited to go to the studio. My dad worked for 40 years at a plant in the maintenance unit and he hated every day of it. But he had all us kids to take care of. I get to entertain every day and people come and listen to me,” he shared. “That really, more than anything else, that is the thrill. I know that sounds hokey, but it’s true.

“I think that most people probably don’t love what they do…I’m a megalomaniac. We all have to be to have the audacity to think that you can talk every day and people want to hear you, but I love it. It’s a thrill. I love to talk and I love to create stories and I love to create entertainment and create content. And when I hear from people that in some way they enjoyed it. It’s more rewarding than you can imagine, in the way that it would be for a pastor, or a comedian, or a songwriter, or a singer. It is incredibly rewarding.

“We live in an abundance of riches when it comes to content…but for them to choose to come and say I’m gonna let you entertain me,” Michael Berry concluded. “That is the ultimate compliment.”

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Do Radio Hosts Actually Care About What They’re Talking About?

So many shows do topics because they feel like they have to. Maybe the topic’s trending. Maybe it’s leading the news. But if you don’t care, listeners will notice.



A photo of a radio studio

If you don’t care, why should anyone else care about what you do?

That’s one reason why I didn’t watch the NBA All-Star Game Sunday night. You don’t get a 211-186 final if anyone is remotely making any effort at all. It’s an extended version of the pre-game warmup. Everyone’s throwing up threes with no defense. They might as well break into a layup drill. Nobody wants to get injured in a meaningless game. I’ve endured a lot of All-Star games among the major sports leagues, and I stopped bothering to watch years ago. I haven’t missed much.

That translates to other realms as well. This column focuses on the media, so if you’re, say, a talk radio host, you should be asking yourself whether you really care about what you’re talking about. That’s the threshold question: Do you care? Because if you don’t, are you really going to put in the effort to make the topic entertaining so that other people – your listeners – care enough to listen and stay with you for the whole segment?

So many shows do topics because they feel like they have to. Maybe the topic’s trending. Maybe it’s leading the news. But if you don’t care, listeners will notice. And “I don’t care about it” isn’t a particularly compelling talk radio topic, is it?

It’s easier for local sports talk – it’s a given that whatever you’re ranting about and whatever take you have, listeners care because, well, who listens to sports radio and doesn’t care about what’s going on (All-Star Games notwithstanding)?

News organizations, on the other hand, have a different goal: If it’s news that on the surface is dry and boring but still matters, it’s the reporters’ and editors’ job to explain why a viewer or reader should care. Ukraine or Gaza might seem remote to a lot of people, but their importance to a typical U.S. citizen can’t be understated, and it’s important (and often forgotten) to emphasize why they matter and what impact they have on everyone.

The simple fact is that the energy you project on anything you talk about or report upon is a reflection of what you have invested in the story. You can fake enthusiasm, but if you just truly don’t care about Taylor and Travis, you’ll just be going through the motions and that’s what the audience perceives.

On the other hand, if you’ve invested a lot of time digging into an arcane financial story and you know that what seems like a remote, inscrutable radio topic may have profound consequences for many consumers, emphasize that and make clear why the viewer or reader should care, and do it right out of the gate to grab their attention.

Here, a digression: Why do they even bother with the actual All-Star Game anymore? Take the NBA All-Star Weekend: Nobody will remember anything about the game (other than that one team scored over 200 points) but everyone will remember the Steph Curry-Sabrina Ionescu shootout. They may remember Mac McClung’s repeat dunk contest win or the celebrity game or Rising Stars games.

Why not just do the skills and challenges, which are usually entertaining, and skip the All-Star Game itself, which isn’t? Maybe add some contests and honors for past greats. Most of the people who trek to the All-Star venue are there for the parties anyway. And with baseball now doing interleague play all season, none of the All-Star Games involve getting to see players who don’t normally face each other in the regular season face off. They don’t need a game nobody in it wants to play. I recognize this will never happen.

But the main takeaway here is that it’s less true that you can’t make someone care about a thing they don’t care about themselves than it is true that if you don’t care, you have zero chance making anyone else care. Your poker face isn’t that good.

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Radio Was Built For Charity and Volunteer Work

Your charitable activities build a better world. Your radio show and station make a real difference.

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A photo of a volunteer

Art Bell once said, “We are all here for a Cosmic Blink. Use your time wisely.”  The wisest man in all of history, a fellow named Solomon said, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” All of us are drawn to radio for usually a basic human impulse…it is a narcissistic rage that exists in every baby. Look at me! Listen to me! My opinions are important!

Unless you are a completely narcissistic fool, you have looked in the mirror and wondered about why we are here. What is your worth in the cosmic blink? Ok, let old Uncle Peter (Yes, I went full third person) explain.

We have all been given an amazing platform. Not only to spout our beliefs, biases, and humor, but to touch our communities. Does your show have a charity? Why not? Does your station have a charity or a “Day of Action” to support local causes? The answer should be yes. Radio shows and stations raise millions of dollars to improve our society. We raise awareness of issues that create change. It is why we are here. 

Before I give you some random idea starters for your show/station, let’s talk about the charities that you personally support. Do you give a portion of your income to religious, humanitarian, or conservation projects that you believe in? You should if you don’t make these donations. I don’t know what floats your boat, but I think it is important psychologically to donate to organizations that do good things in our world. 

These donations allow a portion of the cosmic blink of our lives to pay it forward. Even if you don’t make a lot of money, a small donation helps you feel connected to our world. If you are particularly blessed by the fruits of your hard work, make that donation bigger. Investing in the charities and religious organizations of our choice gives us significance. Instead of the narcissistic screaming for change, it is an action step.

Your show can unify your community through service. There was a movement that is still going on today by some churches that take a Sunday off from a religious service to spend their day serving their communities. This can be painting an elderly widow’s home, cleaning a park, feeding the homeless, or other things. If you speak to homeless shelters, lots of people want to volunteer on Thanksgiving morning, but not so much in the middle of February. 

So how about a day of service for your radio show? Reach out to a local charity that needs volunteers and make it an all-day affair. Perhaps you can do your show from the homeless shelter. Interview the people who serve the downtrodden every day or interview listeners who donated their day with you? Make it big and use your platform to make someone’s life better.

For those of you who have been doing radio for a decade or less, I have had listeners reach out to me about something that I said on the air 25 years ago. It’s very humbling. Every day you get on the air trying to perform. Heck, have you ever wanted to scream “Is anyone listening?” I have. I had someone reach out to me on Twitter to share a moment that meant so much to him. When those moments happen, I thank them for listening and what an honor it was to impact their memories in such a way. You are making a difference for people every day. 

Your station may broadcast a big charitable event each year. Be involved in every aspect of the planning process. Buy in 100%. When you take full ownership of the station event, your interest will take this fundraiser to the next level. Talk about a way to build goodwill in the community. 

Do you want to create an unbreakable bond? Help a local charity. You will go viral. Take selfies with all of the volunteers and organizers. Put this on your social media. Make it big. Do something that makes a difference. Go to their events and volunteer to do anything. Likely, you will be an emcee, but, if they want you to wrap presents, shovel up some stuff do it. Be a servant. 

In our post-COVID world, I keep reading about disconnection. Civic groups and religious organizations are experiencing a crisis of participation. This is terrible. Our society’s drift into solitude is damaging. Census figures show that the average household size in the USA is about 2.5 people. This means there are a lot of people sitting in a home or apartment alone. These people are disconnected from society. They go to work, go home, and live their solitary life online. Humans are not built for this. Your radio show is a connection for them. By the way: Your community’s average age is probably around 37 years. Think of this. You are a lynchpin for building community. Your station’s charitable events help people belong to something greater than themselves.

You are an influencer. Be a leader. Build a community. Create belonging.

Your charitable activities build a better world. Your radio show and station make a real difference.

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