Today's interview comes from the voice of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Shadoe Stevens is most well known for his highly recognizable voice, but his career spans more than just where his voice can be heard.
Shadoe Stevens began his career in radio, eventually taking over for the legendary Casey Kasem as host of the American Top 40 national radio show. After that came acting gigs major movies, as well as some personal struggles.
Over the years, Shadoe has gone on to create a successful advertising business and a growing art career. As if all this is not enough, Shadoe has now branched out into writing.
Amazon.com or Shadoe Stevens' website.
As big fans of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Bradi and I were very excited to have the chance to interview Shadoe Stevens. With so much ground to cover with Shadoe, we have decided to bring this larger than normal interview to you in two parts. Watch for part two tomorrow morning.
Be sure to scroll down and enter The Big Galoot Contest from FreeBookDude.com and Shadoe Stevens.
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
I used to meditate first thing in the morning for about a half hour, then would go work out. For 20 years it was Martial Arts. Then I began a new routine after I interviewed a Himalayan Yogi on my MentalRadio show in 2011. He taught me a meditation called Kriya Yoga. I began waking up in the middle of the night. For more than a year I have meditated for 2 hours at 3am before going back to bed. This is not merely a matter of discipline, it’s experiential. It is rewarding in ways that cannot be put into words. I now do Power Yoga three or four times a week.
So how did the name Shadoe Stevens come about?
Until I got to Boston, I used the name, Jefferson Kaye. I didn’t realize there were Jefferson Kayes everywhere. I thought it was a clever name.
Driving to Boston, I stopped for gas in Alamogordo, New Mexico. I called the program director at WRKO to let him know I was on my way. He told me they wanted to change my name. In Boston, there had been a Jefferson Kaye, a Jess Cain, and on WRKO-there was J. J. Jeffries.I needed a different name.
There I was, in a phone booth in Alamogordo, looking at an endless fence, stretching into the horizon, with a sign that read, “Do Not Enter! Atomic Testing Range.”
He said, “We’re thinking of calling you something like ‘Shadow Mann’ or ‘Shadow Lane.” I was horrified. Worst name I’d ever heard.
“The Shadow” was a top radio show, from the 1930s through the 1950s. Orson Welles was the original Shadow. It didn’t matter. I hated the name.
As I drove to Boston, my mind raced. I had to think of a good name. I was looking everywhere, looking for words and coming up with not so catchy names like Michael Roads and Richard Lane.
By the time I got to Boston two days later, I had a list of alternatives. WRKO however, already had jingles and production saying, “And now ladies and gentlemen, Shadoe Stevens!”
I was humiliated. I had to create a personality around name. I developed a back story, which I could say, it was given to me by God. It’s an example of “God’s baffling and incomprehensible sense of humor.” I would tell people it was Native American and means, ‘he who walks with light.’ When someone asks about what tribe, I would say, “it must be Sioux, I’m from North Dakota.”
Is it true you started your own radio station when you were only 10?
My uncle, who owned radio stations, heard I was spending days, on end, creating sounds and music mixes on a tape recorder. He heard the tapes and liked what I was doing. He sent me a gift.
I put it together, using a soldering iron. I was 10 years old.
It worked. I could broadcast into another room. I had a microphone, upstairs, in my bedroom. Down in the living room my parents listened to me. I’m thinking, “This is amazing!”
So I wondered, If it would go to the next room, could I broadcast to the neighborhood?” I added a 100 foot antenna from the top, of the third story, of my house, to the top of a tree in the backyard.
I also added a tape recorder and a phonograph, so I could play records, and built a microphone stand from an Erector Set.
I had a full-blown radio station in my bedroom. Each night, I’d broadcast to northern Jamestown, North Dakota. You could get the signal about a mile in every direction.
It was captivating. I’d put on a long-playing album and roam around the neighborhood. We, some friends and I, drove around, on our bicycles, with our transistor radios, listening to my station. We wanted to see how far we could hear it.
We’d be a mile away, we would go, “Oh my god, it’s so cool. It’s like magic.”
One day, I ran into a man who worked a local radio station.
He was the station manager and was doing a show called, “The Man on the Street.” He was interviewing passers-by, live on First Avenue. He asked me what interested me.
I said, “Well, art and radio.”
He goes, “Radio! Why are you interested in radio?”
I told him about my little radio station. He thought it was the greatest idea in the world. At 10 years old, I had a radio station.
By the time I was 11 years old, KEYJ-AM, in Jamestown, ND, hired me for a weekly rock show, on Saturday morning. I talked about what was going on at school and played rock and roll. I did that for few years, until I was a teenager, then worked on the station weekends and summers through high school.
When you were programming the format for the now legendary rock station KROQ-FM, did you realize what you were helping to create?
The MUSIC would be ALL NEW, all energy, all up, all exciting, and it was revolutionary, especially for the time. Almost every station used what was called “day-parting.” Day-parting meant playing only certain records at certain times of the day. Usually, this meant softer, with more ballads, during the day, with a harder edge through the night.
I didn’t day-part. This was, “All New, All Up, All Energy, All Party, All the Time.” When a listener came to KROQ-FM, they had a different experience than at other stations, featuring all cutting-edge music all the time.
New groups, playing new music were exploding from England. David Bowie , Queen, Glam Rock, Punk Rock, Iggy Pop and the Ramones. KROQ-FM gave listeners what they wanted. We specialized in “discovering and exposing” new music. The station exposed listeners to music and groups they’d never heard, and in an exciting package.
KROQ-FM went to air and took off like a rocket. In six months the station was a number station. KROQ-FM, in the blink of an eye, was an important station in southern California, but then the story gets very weird and dramatic.
The ‘Fred Rated for Federated’ commercials seem to have helped open a few doors for you in the 80’s. Was this the goal or did you look at these commercials as another job at the time?
I was doing radio commercials for Federated and came in to negotiate a new deal. During this meeting, I sat beside Keith Powell, the president of the Federated, in a conference room. There was another man. I hadn’t met him, but learned, that he’d been producing the Federated television commercials.
Powell played the spots over and over, on a giant screen. He went on and on about how much he hated the commercials; how embarrassed he was, with them. How sexist and stupid they were. If he had his choice, they would be off the air, immediately, but they were at the television stations.
He played the spots over and again. For two hours, he went on about how and why he hated them and finally turned to producer and said, “Don’t you understand? I want simple and funny, that make people remember the name Federated. Is that too much to ask?”
I raised my hand. It was the first time I’d spoken in two hours. “How about this. What if I did a parody of a pitchman, like the Dan Akryod Bass-O-Matic pitchman, on ‘Saturday Night Live!’" “I’d talk fast, and at the end, I’ll take a giant circus hammer, smash a television, and say, ‘Federated smashes prices. Then say, ‘Get it?’” Powell said, “That’s funny. it might work.” I said, “If it works, will you give me creative control? I never want to do the same thing twice or people would want to kill me.”
He said, “Fair enough.” He gave me the chance to do it one weekend, and business went up 500%.
It was extraordinary. Little by little, he turned everything over to me. For the next 6 years I did 6-to-8 commercials a week. No commercial ran longer than 10 days.
You hosted American Top 40, did you feel pressure to fill the shoes of the great Casey Kasem?
It was not easy. ABC Radio owned “American Top 40” and Watermark produced it. Mostly, everyone was paranoid. They feared I wouldn’t be good, despite what I had done in the past. They feared I couldn’t sound like Casey; that I couldn’t even read his copy, his script. Mostly, Watermark and ABS were afraid the audience wouldn’t like me. The show had to change to fit me. Watermark sent me to three different voice coaches. The first 4-hour show took 18 hours to record.
Starting out on “American Top 40,” in late 1988, I had knots in my neck. I kept thinking, “Why is this happening?” Over time, I worked it out and the show was a success. “American Top 40” aired in 110 countries, and for 6 years. I flew around the world to promote the show. It was a great life, and a lot of fun working with great people.
I had a different way of being warm, and a different sense of humor. In the first show, we did a theatre-of-the-mind piece. I walked through the American Top 40 Museum, with its marble floors and enormous, gold statue of Casey Kasem. You can hear my footsteps echoing and I’m going, “Wow, they built one, it’s big, it’s going to be hard to walk around in here it’s so big.”
I stayed on the show until 1995.
How did you end up working on Hollywood Squares?
Producer, Rick Rosner, was the first person to ever put me on television. He put me on the “Dave Garroway Tempo Boston” show in Boston, then “The Steve Allen Show” in Hollywood, and then became the new producer of “Hollywood Squares.”
He asked of I would do the announcing for the pilot, of the new version of ‘Hollywood Squares’?” I gladly helped. It became the syndication hit of the year and Rosner wanted me to join, the show as full-time announcer.
I declined his offer. I told him I had come a long way from announcing. I had a career on television, doing characters, such as Fred Rated, and comedy. I had a three-picture movie deal with Dino DeLaurentis, and I wanted to build on what I had done and not fall back to the old days. I turned him down three times.
He was relentless. He upped the offer. “We’ll put you in a Square once a month. You can talk about your other projects.”
I joined the show, in 1986. By the end of the season, I was “a full-time square.” I was on the show every day. My square as the middle bottom, the smartest square. It was incredibly enjoyable. I was also back for the 1998-2004 version, of "Hollywood Squares" with Whoopi Goldberg.
How did you end up on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson? Is Geoff really as rude as he is on tv?
I loved Craig Ferguson’s work from the beginning. He was Nigel Wicks, the store manager, on the “Drew Carey Show.” He’s a writer, an actor and great stand-up comedian. One of best talents didn’t emerge until he took over “The Late, Late Show.” He’s also an excellent host.
It’s interesting, how life works out. I TIVO’d the show every night and one day my agent called and said, “We just got a call from The Late Late Show. Would you be interested in being the voice of the show?” I said, “When do they want me there?”
Craig is one of the funniest people in television. He makes sure his guests and audience enjoy the show. He works without notes. He has a tremendous capacity to remember everything about his guests and really knows how to listen. And Geoff, even when he’s unplugged in an empty studio, when you walk by, he just stares. He can really stare. Rude? No, glib maybe, or snarky. I think he’s funny.
What’s this I hear about a project with you and Tony Hawk?
It’s one of the most creative concepts I’ve ever come up with but...I have more than a dozen projects I’ve created that I believe in and I bounce from one to another as time rolls by.
You have a lot on your plate how do you handle it.
I have a mantra: “Suffer or Get Busy.” Fortunately, I like being busy. I like the process. I have a lot of projects.
For a time you had a serious drug habit that almost killed you, how did you overcome that? What keeps you sober today?
My family intervened and convinced me to go into a re-hab 28 years ago. It’s a program for people in recovery who want better, happier lives, and it’s worked me and for millions all over the world. I stay with it.
Your daughter, Amber, nabbed a role on the series ‘Greek’. Was this the career path you wanted for your children?
I’ve only ever wanted my children to follow their dreams and do what makes them happy. Amber was born outgoing and on stage. She put on all the family shows at every holiday event while she was growing up. She got all the other kids together, came up with dances and songs, costumes, lights, and choreography. They were always charming, amusing, and full of life. I never imagined her doing anything else.
My other daughter, Chynarose, is going to school, studying the Beauty Industry. She’s fascinated by skin care, nails, make-up and healthy living. She too, is an artist, and just beginning to discover her remarkable abilities. She’s just discovering her passion.