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20 years – 20 songs with an impact!

Tony’s 20 songs in 20 years!

As I awakened this morning, I couldn’t resist flashing back to my interview at KSUX with Jeff Miller, Pete Miles and Tom Spies back in the summer of 1997.  I was wearing an ill-fitting dress shirt and a tie that constituted exactly one half of my neckwear collection.  I had just returned from a play by play radio gig interview that turned out to be a 90 percent sales job in York, Nebraska.  When that General Manager asked me to sell him a pen in role-play fashion, I saw the writing on the wall while my tie was constricting my blood flow.  I knew I desired a career that needed, at times, to feel like a hobby.  I had a pretty well-paying job at UNL Public relations but it didn’t feed my soul.

So I’ve been tryin’ to slow it down this morning and I’ve been tryin’ to take it in. In this here today, gone tomorrow world we’re livin’ in, 20 years goes faster than you think.  Don’t Blink.

I figured out this morning, I’ve been at the KSUX for the same length as 2,452,800 songs playing on the station.  And when you’ve been exposed to that much country music, you tend to think in terms of country lyrics like the above tune from Kenny Chesney.  I actually started “working” on KSUX before I was on the payroll.  I asked to work all request Saturday night so I could learn the board before my official start date.  I never asked for back pay.  My old station in Lincoln gave me the evening job and decided to make it part time and only part opportunity.  Sioux City would give me an opportunity to grow in a company that promotes creative thinking and local choice.  Lincoln went through 3 ownership changes and viewed employees as names on grids.  For the chance to make Siouxland my home, I am forever grateful.  I have been compensated with too many positive moments over the course of 2 decades to enumerate here.  I am a lucky guy married to an angel of a woman who “gets it”.  She stands by me when the occupation calls for long hours, sacrifice and other challenges best suited for another article post or a counselor.

1997 doesn’t seem that far away for me…until you realize I was notified about the job post from a “fax” that was hanging in our Lincoln studio.  The ad called for your best cassette tape and resume.  I snail mailed by package and waited to hear back on my land line.   Next to my wired in phone at my cheap rent pink house in Lincoln was a scratch pad from the Budget Host Inn where my roomie worked briefly.  I had hand penned the phrases “Stay positive”, “Be a camel” and “Can I come up to meet you and interview?”  Our UNL commencement speaker a few months ago talked about how you should be like a camel because in life you may have to store water in your humps for a while until you can fill back up with good fortune.  I always liked this analogy and I would be reminded of this line many times when the radio gig was more challenging than I thought it was going to be.  And, also when life away from the studio would present challenges I did not see coming, I reminded myself waterfalls aren’t always abundant in the desert and would learn how to use my humps…my lovely manly lumps.  See?  I think in lyrics – and sometimes those lyrics are from the Black Eyed Peas.

When I was driving up after accepting the gig, I turned to MY new station 105.3!  There were 2 people talking about raffling off pies for like 10 minutes.  My sister Victoria turned to me and said “Uh, are you sure you want to work here?”  I thought about turning around and selling that GM a pen.  Then, I turned to 105.7!  It was 2:50pm and I heard Pete Miles and Doc Holliday doing a “cross-talk”.  It was the funniest things I heard on radio.  I was crying I was laughing so hard.  Ever since that moment, I’ve never looked back.  I would go on to meet so many caring and funny individuals in and outside of the building.  I’ve seen toddlers now graduating from college.  I saw more of my scalp with every passing year.  I got the opportunity to see my wife become the rock star she is today – all while I had a first row seat.  My oldest son resembles my father-in-law (who passed away in 1999) more and more each day.  My youngest son is training to be one of the most compassionate individuals in middle school in town.  And Siouxland has been the perfect setting to see miracles unfold daily.  Great things happen when you dream.

“And when you dream, dream big,

As big as the ocean, blue.

Cause when you dream it might come true.

For when you dream, dream big.”


This may be my favorite song ever played on KSUX.  It’s called “Dream Big” by Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band.  It was never a big commercial success, but if there is a “Camel referencing” powerful song in the 2.4 million songs I’ve heard – it’s this one.


So, with that tune in mind, here’s songs from every year at KSUX that really left an impact on me for some reason – maybe they might be worth a listen:


1997 – “Love is the Right Place” by Bryan White – I remember chatting with a listener about this when he requested it on “the swine line”.  I said “You know what the wrong place is?  Downtown Sioux City – after dark, that’s the wrong place”.  I was verbally warned.

1998 – “Guilty” by the Warren Brothers  Right about this time, they also played the Stagecoach.  It was one of the craziest shows I’ve ever attended.  And, I went to Nine Inch Nails a few years before this.  JJ Webb and I did shots with the fellas and it never for a second felt like work.   This year I also married my Shana Lynn.  Our sales lady Heather sang “I Cross My Heart”.  It was a year filled gulping water out of a waterfall.

1999 – “Wide Open Spaces” by “Dixie Chicks”  Also at the Stagecoach, JJ Webb broadcasting live said only one song summed up the new year.  We all expected Prince – “Party like it’s 1999”.  JJ played “Wide Open Spaces”.   (Radio always keep ya guessing)

2000 – “Say Anything” – Shane McAnally  It was not a big hit – but one of my favs.  Don’t feel bad for Shane.  He went on to become one of the most successful songwriters in Music City.  Check out his work some time.

2001 – (Tie) “Mrs. Steven Rudy” Mark McGuinn and “Smilin’” by Tim McGraw – two of the most optimistic tunes about life.  These two songs were in direct opposition to the horror America experienced on 9-11.  I was on the air with Ginger that morning.  That was my on-air bottom moment.  I felt so helpless.

2002 – “I Don’t Have to be me til Monday” by Steve Azar – My Nashville record rep Diane would sing this unknown song on the phone to me off and on for 6 months until it took off nationally.  This song, “Cruise” by FGL and many others rose to prominence because smaller market stations like KSUX took a chance on good music and other bigger stations took  of the mass appeal.

2003 – “Beautiful Goodbye” by Jennifer Hanson – About 3 times a week this year, I received a delightful call from a retired couple who enjoyed walking year round at 5am.  This year, I was also blessed with my son Trey.  At times, overcoming the challenges of autism is like walking in blizzard conditions in the dark with a stiff breeze in your face while wearing track shorts and a tank top.

2004 – “Save a Horse” – by Big and Rich – There’s been a few times in my role of Music Director dating back to 1998 where I would stop in my tracks and be floored by the originality and mold breaking of a tune.  I must have called 10 different people to play them this song.  It was like nothing I’ve ever heard.

2005 – “They Don’t Understand” by Sawyer Brown  –  This is the year, we welcomed our youngest son into the family.  Also, one of the toughest with Trey’s autism diagnosis.  While fighting through our new normal, this song almost seemed like it was divinely inspired.   This song would also pop up again a few months ago after a run-in with a lady at the mall.  It was never a big hit, but man, I think the world would be a better place if more people heard it.

2006 – “How About You” by Eric Church – I saw a Nashville showcase at Country Radio Seminar this year by a newcomer who played an acoustic song called “Lightning Crashes” that won over a room of jaded country radio programmers.  He was and is the real deal.

2007 – “Don’t Blink” – This song is so expertly co-written by Tucker Beathard’s father Casey and perfectly delivered by Kenny Chesney.  I know Chesney will be closely associated with beach and party songs, but this one will go down as my favorite.

2008 – “All I Wanna Do” by Sugarland – Completely personal reason.  I took my 2 year old Beau this year to a production room and he sang the lyrics to “the monkey song” as he referred to this ditty.   That’s one of the reasons I love the format – occasionally it can bridge generations and bring together family members who wouldn’t think would enjoy the same music product.  Certainly, Justin Beiber and Lawrence Welk falter where groups like Sugarland excel.

2009 – “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum – A country booty call song?  Seriously?  That’s genius.  A twist on this theme would come with Tyler Farr’s “Redneck Crazy” much later.  Fun concept.  (For the record, I’m still not sold on Joe Nichols new one – “Baby Got Back”.  That’s just weird.

2010 – “A Little Bit Stronger” by Sara Evans – This was a request I fielded from a listener on the way to a job interview.  I played it.  She got the gig.  She later thanked me for “my help”.  (I’m sure it was my extra effort and not her talent or resume’ – yeah right)  Moral of the story – if you are heading to a job interview, request this song on KSUX.  Our success rate is 100 percent.

2011 – “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” by Jake Owen –  I love me a good country song by a fall bonfire with making S’mores and drinking beers.  This song accompanies S’mores like wine is to cheese.

2012 – “Something about a Truck” by Kip Moore – See my truck blog after this article

2013 – “Merry Go Round” by Kacey Musgraves – This was like no song I’ve ever heard on KSUX.  I wish Kacey enjoyed more commercial radio success – she’s a true gem.  It was great to see her at Saturday in the Park last year.

2014 – “Workin’” by Big Smo – So, I’ve heard Hard Rock has hosted about 600 events.  One of my favorites was from a guy I never knew when his concert was announced.  There’s been a number of artists discovered at Hard Rock which have become artists I now follow closely.  That list includes Russel Dickerson, Ryan Hurd, Turnpike Troubadours, Kane Brown and Aaron Watson.

2015  – “Buy Me a Boat” by Chris Janson – A few years I prior, I had the pleasure of announcing Chris Janson at Awesome Biker Nights opposite “Mr. Workin’ Class Dog – Rick Springfield”  Mr. Springfield had a few thousand people gazing his direction.  Chris Janson was set to perform in front of about 75 fans.  I remember seeing his first single “Better I Don’t” just enter the Top 50.

I got up on stage and said “There’s a lot of people here tonight to see entertainment at Awesome Biker Nights.  As a matter of fact, there are two performers playing at the same time.  But only ONE has a current song in the Top 50 – and his name isn’t Rick Springfield, please welcome Chris Janson!”

Later at Anthem, he said I was the Rick Springfield intro guy – it was pretty cool since I didn’t even know if he heard me.

2016 – “My Church” by Maren Morris – She was slated to open the Charles Kelley show at Hard Rock before he cancelled his tour stops on his solo career – but at the first consumption of this song, you KNEW a star was born.

2017 – “Shoe Shopping” by Old Dominion – Another great concept for a song comparing shoes to relationships.  Genius!  It helps that I share a studio with a woman with a passion for shoes.  Right up her alley.  Shania had a song about shoes as well, but this one feels next level smart.

I’m not sure how many more songs I will hear on KSUX.  My hope is many as this has really been a great home for the past 2 decades.  I’m excited about the new music coming out of Nashville.  We get a sneak peek at all the talent most country stations don’t even bother to give an opportunity on-air with the Friday Night Spotlight show.  I know I am very thankful at the opportunity to share compelling music and my lame stories.

Thanks for reading and listening!


Tony Michaels

KSUX Program Director

Sioux City, IA

KSUXTonyM on Twitter



Here’s why I love “Somethin’ About a Truck” by Kip Moore.  Someday I will get a truck.  Someday.

“There’s Somethin’ about a truck – even for this guy…”


I seems like it happened last week.  (It was actually 1995)  I was starting my radio career working the 2-5am shift early Sunday mornings on “Lincoln’s Classic Rock – 92.9 The Eagle”.  Let me tell ya, the calls I received on the overnight request line would make a lumberjack blush.  I’m a little surprised there isn’t a “Desperate drunken calls to the rock station listener line” reality show.  There should be.  The entertainment value far exceeded the minimum wage and free coffee I earned.  I would occasionally fill-in on the evening shift but my “on-air time” was restricted to post bar closing.


Then, opportunity knocked  in the form of the Program Director of “96 Kicks”.  He strolled down the hall to speak with me.  The weekend guy just quit and they were desperate.  Big time.  The Wrangler wearin’, acreage ownin’ horse lover PD, Charlie Thomas,  asked me to do him a country favor and rodeo up.  I made my debut the next night.  I loved it.  I felt like I could be myself and have fun.  It was a perfect match, except…

“I didn’t live the country lifestyle”.  Charlie told me to get a pick-up, boots and a cowboy hat.  To this day I don’t know if he was serious or just messin’ with me.  I went to the mall that next morning and bought cowboy boots with a silver tip.  Candice tells me I should never wear them in public….or for that matter – in private.  Ouch.


Quick aside: I believe that line of thinking is so out-of-whack.  Great music is great music.  Owning boots or a truck won’t increase my love for the format.  I don’t understand people who HATE country yet don’t listen to it to formulate an opinion.  That’s like saying, “Man, I hate moon rocks.  I also hate rainbow dust and unicorn rides”.


Fast forward to May 21st, 2014.  (Thank God.  Who wants to hear lame radio stories from 2 decades ago, right?).  My Jeep stopped working.  My flux capaceter was malfunctioning.  Or maybe my compresser thingee.  In times like this, I call my vehicle counselor – Mr. Steve Nash.  He runs out to my broken down Jeep and diagnoses a problem with my power steering pump ma jig…  Candice offered up the use of her hubby’s beloved 1985 Chevy Silverado truck.  It has 240,000 miles on it, holes in the floorboard, sticky windows and makes frequent trips to the gas station.  I’m sold.  Beats walking to pick up the kiddos from school.

Charlie Thomas would be so proud.

My wife giggled and said “I am so NOT a truck guy”.  I can’t blame her.  I’ve never spent much time in a truck.  More on that later.


If you listen to the morning show, you know I lose man points on a daily basis.  This vehicle will earn some of those babies back.  On a beautiful Thursday afternoon, my 8 year old son and I drive to pick up “our new truck”.


Look at the smile on that kid.  I popped my collar in homage to a KSUX listener who called in that morning and said she expects truck drivers to wear Wranglers and live on a farm.  I’m oh for 2.


Candice said she would never she the truck again when I rolled off into the countryside.  Josie text “You’ll never see it one piece again”.  Fun snuffers.

The radio is tuned to KSUX.


The first song we hear from Florida Georgia Line:

This is how we roll

This is how we ride

We slingin’ up the mud, cuttin’ through the countryside baby


Beau and I high five!

I did the one finger wave off the steering wheel.  Surpirisingly, Hintonionaians waved back.  The motorists in Sioux City?  Not so much.  The index finger was used for texting.


We rolled and ride into the Headid ballfield.  Man, Chevy Truck and Little League baseball.  All we are missing is the apple pie.  My lovely wife and oldest son Trey meet us at the game.  We do a little tailgating and batting practice.  The head coach Travis nods approvingly, “new truck, Tony?”.  Heck yeah!  They don’t make ’em like this anymore.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him it’s just a loaner.


“We” win the game and decide to celebrate at DQ on Floyd.  (That’s the next best American thing to apple pie”. ) As we leave the drive thru was packed.  I execute a wicked awesome u-turn and exit the entrance way.  During which, I gas out those 5 families eating out at Sonic next door.  I may have also burned a hole in the ozone.


Kip Moore blast out of the speakers which work great:


And there’s somethin’ bout you and me and the birds and the bees

And lord have mercy, it’s a beautiful thing

Ain’t nothin bout it luck, there’s something bout a truck


My oldest Trey LOVED the truck.  He’s a great kiddo with a passion for pools, popcorn and now…pick-up trucks!  I wish I could describe the joys he had in “Old Blue”.    For a child with no language “he definitely loves rides in the truck”.  He giggles and smiles non-stop.  Who knew?


I roll into KSUX the next morning at 5am.  Head back home at 5:20am.  I left my flash drive in the pocket of my khaki slacks n the laundry.  Most cowboys experience the same problem.

I drive Candice (in her family truck) to Sneaky’s on Gordon Drive.  She informs me I can’t go “Wheee!” like the pig from the Geico commercials every time we go down a big hill or hit the gas.  Driving a truck is much more fun than driving a car or even a Jeep.  Not that mine works right now.  Darn pumpee thingee.  We do a “live broadcast” from the truck.  I demand to drive to a co-op.  We eat chicken intead.


I roll into the school parking lot a few minutes early to pick up my boys on the last day of school.  I sit on the tailgate next to an Audi I see every day there.  The Audi unusually  lets me into traffic a few minutes later.  She probably a) thinks I demand more respect in a truck  b) believes the rust may be contagious  c) wants to giggle at the city boy


We drive away jammin’ to Text Request Live with Jackson.  We hear that goofy song from Jerrod Niemann:


Put my Chevy in the ditch

A couple grand to get it fixed

Bank account runin’ dry

Boss ain’t got no overtime

Friday rolls around gotta get this party to town got nothin to drive but just outside I hear my ride\Gonna ride that donkey donkey

Down to the Honky Tonky


We turn up the volume.  We giggle in the truck.  It’s a moment I will never forget.  A truck can maximize the fun in our your day.  Even if it’s goofy fun.


Truck observation:  If you have a truck, your lovely spouse will expect you to do “truck things”.  In my case, we have a shed filled with old junk.  I spent 4 high quality hours loading up the truck with junk.  Beau and I journey to the dump the next morning.


Man, that was the best 20 bucks we ever spent.  That was so much fun.  I heard Disney World is awesome, but got our entertainment value out of our trip to the dump.  We threw junk into a big dumpster.   I sing “Going to the dump, the dump, to the dump, dump, dump” to the tune of The lone Ranger.  Just like my father did when I was his age.


Flashback:  It’s amazing how “the old truck smell” in the cab can trigger a memory.  My ever-so patient father was tasked with teaching me how to drive a stick on our small white Datsun truck.  After 6 weeks of practice and nearly killing us on Cedar Street, my pops put his arm around me in a loving fashion and said “we’ll get ya an automatic car, son”.  The line was delivered with equal parts compassion and disappointment.

The song in the background during my mental flashback?:

And he said, “Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love,

A secret that my daddy said was just between us.”

He said, “Daddies don’t just love their children every now and then.

It’s a love without end, amen, it’s a love without end, amen.”


Saturday afternoon was consumed by trips to Earl May, Indian Hills Wilmes True Value, and Menards.


I ran into a friend who said “Are you buying the store”?  I responded, “Dude, I have a truck”.


Truck observation:  People who drive trucks seem to be more driven than others when it comes to home improvement and helping people.  Some of the greatest people I know drive a truck.  My dad, Candice’s hubby, Candice, Baseball coaches, good dudes.  My father is a fix it man to the utmost degree.  He worked construction for 3 decades and maintenance for the next 3 decades.  I wish I had that mindset.  It may have skipped a generation.The truck makes me feel like I might still have some of that in me.


Sunday and Monday were trips to the river to go bike-riding and hiking as a family.  All four of us.  Happy as clams.  We just threw the bikes in the truck bed.  We have a bike rack that hooks to the Honda.  We tried assembling it one day.  We failed.  See above.  I hate that bike rack thingee.  This was easy.  It was natural.

Next two songs on KSUX?:

Luke Bryan comes on KSUX:


She was sittin’ all alone over on the tailgate

Tan legs swingin’ by a Georgia plate

I was lookin’ for her boyfriend

Thinkin’, no way she ain’t got one

Soon as I sat down I was fallin’ in love


And then, “Cruise”

In this brand new Chevy with a lift kit

Would look a hell of a lot better with you up in it

So baby you a song

You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise


Trey and I make a late night trip to KSUX to check on something.  Trey jumps into the cab and buckles up….in the driver’s seat.  “Not so fast lil’ buddy” I muster from in between my chuckles.


When we get home, my lovely wife says “You know, the idea of you owning a truck is really starting to grow on me”.


I owe Charlie Thomas an apology.  He knew something and was trying to tell a know it all 20 year old kid who knew everything a great life lesson.  Maximize the fun out of the country music lifestyle.    Maximaize the most out of life.


That’s the heartbeat of America.


I’d like to think this past weekend has made me a better country music Program Director.  I hope KSUX is the soundtrack to your summer and projects as much life as “Old Blue”.


It’s funny what you learn inside the cab of a truck.

Now, that sounds like a country song.