Kevin Richards didn’t have to worry much about picking a profession. He found something he loved very early in life and never wavered.
An award-winning DJ on the country music station WGNA-FM, 107.7, he began his career at the age of 12, and before that spent hours listening to country music on the radio while growing up in Corinth in northern Saratoga County.
He began working at WGNA part time while still a student at SUNY Plattsburgh and got a full-time gig after graduation in 1999 hosting the evening show. He quickly moved into daytime work and is currently on the radio Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. On Sundays, from 6-9 a.m., he also hosts “Classic County Hall of Fame,” which, along with the music, includes interviews with several of country music’s top names.
In 2000, Richards was nominated for the Country Music Association’s Medium Market Radio Personality of the Year Award. He was nominated again in 2006 and won it, and on Nov. 1 he may be back at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., for the 2012 CMA Awards looking to again be named Medium Market Personality of the Year. This year’s nomination is his fifth in 13 years.
Richards, who is single, graduated from Corinth High School, Adirondack Community College and SUNY Plattsburgh. He continues to reside in Saratoga County.
Q: How did you break into radio at such an early age?
A: I lived right down the road from this little radio station in Corinth, WSCG, and I just started hanging out there because I could walk there from my house. I’d go there after school, and I started doing the shifts that no one else wanted. I had to get a child-actor permit to work because I was under 14. I just always loved the radio. There would always be a country music station on the radio in my parents’ house, and I was fascinated by the music and the country music industry. It became a hobby and then a passion.
Q: How did you get to WGNA?
A: That was always what I wanted to do, because WGNA was known as the biggest country music station in the Northeast. So that was my goal. I worked at a few smaller stations in the Glens Falls area, always on a part-time basis because I was going to school. Then I started working at WGNA on weekends and holidays while I was at Plattsburgh. I’d drive to the studio in Latham for the weekend — it took about three hours — and then drive back to Plattsburgh. I’d take whatever hours I could. Then, my timing and luck was perfect. I graduated from Plattsburgh and a full-time job opened up immediately at WGNA. It worked out great.
Q: Why do you like your job so much?
A: I think it is certainly an interesting job, and a very worthwhile one. I love country music because I think it’s the kind that can maybe inspire somebody to do the right thing, or help them keep going through a tough time. I love the interaction I get when people call in for listeners’ requests, and every time you hear a country music song on the radio it relates to somebody out there listening. People hear their story on the radio, and they feel like they’re not alone. When I did the late-night show, the calls would be even more emotional and I’d get all the details. There’s not as much drama in the daylight, but I still get involved with the callers.
Q: What was your reaction to winning your CMA Award in 2006?
A: Well, I was thrilled when I first got nominated back in 2000, and then it took me six years to get nominated again. There are a lot of people doing this, and to get nominated out of hundreds of people was amazing. I never expected to win the award. I was completely floored. Then to be down there on that stage at the Bridgestone Theatre with all those country music stars, well, it’s something you fantasize about.
Q: Do you enjoy other kinds of music other than country?
A: I do. Second to country music, I love the standards; songs by Frank Sinatra and others that make up the American songbook. I love and enjoy listening to all the show business legends.
Q: How does your Sunday morning show, “Classic Country Hall of Fame,” differ from your weekday show?
A: That’s something I do that is pre-recorded, and it includes a lot of interviews I’ve done with many of the legends of country music. I’ve had Kenny Rogers on a few times and others. Along with the radio, I’m also writing for tasteofcountry.com, a national magazine which gives me even more opportunities to talk to legends or new stars and do feature stories on them.
Q: How do you like writing?
A: I hadn’t done that much writing because I’m usually on the radio or doing some public speaking. But I enjoy writing very much. It’s been something I’ve been exploring for two or three years now and I’m having a lot of fun. It’s something different that I can do but it’s still in my field. I think it’s something that’s really rejuvenated my radio career. Any time you can talk to and write about classic country artists it’s going to be great.
Q: How is country music’s popularity these days?
A: Right now it’s more popular than it’s ever been, and I’m basing that on record sales and radio ratings, which is direct proof. You can spit out a number of stats that support that, and you can see how ABC has devoted much of its programming to supporting the awards show. They’re putting the TV special on prime time so that really means something. I think more and more country artists are appealing to more and more people, and there are a lot more crossover artists than there used to be. Country music is becoming more and more mainstream.