Less Stuff, More Life | Jody Dean’s Cultural detox

Jody Dean is a DFW-Metroplex staple. I remember hearing his voice on 98.7 KLUV every morning as my parents would drive me to-and-fro. My parents were a big fan of the type of music frequently played on the station, some would call the songs “oldies” but to my parents it was as if they were on the radio yesterday.

In between the Beach Boys and Janis Joplin Jody Dean would chime in, his booming bravado commanded your ears, whether you wanted it to or not, and would inform you of the local news, the weather, the traffic and anything else he deemed was necessary.

Just check out the following bio from his website:

Born and raised in Fort Worth, Jody graduated from Paschal High School before attending Abilene Christian University. A member of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, he was also the original voice of AT&T Stadium. Not bad for a guy who started on TV at age 13 by playing Frankenstein on a show called The Museum of Horrors. Along the way Jody has also anchored television newscasts and talk shows, covered hurricanes and historic events, been in a few movies, done a little theater, announced rodeos, won a few awards – and once got fired three times by the same person.

He loves deep sea fishing, hunting, motorcycles, the outdoors, cooking, gardening, building stuff and sports – and he remains constant in his search for the perfect brisket. Jody and his beloved Fiona live with a bunch of hippies in East Dallas, where one of these days he’ll finish all the chores on his list. A sought-after speaker and emcee, Dean has three ridiculously awesome children he gives thanks for every day, and actually likes his teenage daughter’s music. Recently, he welcomed his first grandchild. She calls him “Poppy”, and you can call him “mush”.

How can I put this another way for all you non-Dallas readers? Jody Dean was radio comfort food. He made you feel good when you were stressed or nervous and you always assumed he would be there for you when you really needed him.

When I recorded my podcast episode with Jody earlier this year he had moved to Saturday nights on KLUV and was rolling out a new program called “Dusty Attics.” The premise was awesome: have people on the show to talk about their favorite songs, play said songs while the person would tell you why the music was important to them.

It felt like a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, not everyone agreed and recently the show was cancelled and Jody was let go by KLUV. Now, currently unemployed for the first time in what feels like forever I caught up with Jody to get his perspective on life and the current climate in our country:

Joe Shaw: Hi Jody, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. How have you been since you were a guest on the Podcast? What’s new?

Jody Dean: In a word, what’s new is “unemployment”…(laughs). It’s been a few months now since my old company decided not to renew my contract – but as my youngest son observed, I never would have left if they hadn’t made me go. Frankly, they did me a favor. I’d spent the last decade-plus killing myself over one job. Now I’m doing all the jobs I didn’t have time for – although I may slap the next person who asks me if I like “retirement”. I didn’t “retire”. Never intended or wanted to, and wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I tried. Lots of balls in the air, but the most rewarding thus far has been co-teaching a Communications class at Paul Quinn College. I’d heard school president Michael Sorrell speak at a luncheon, and told him “I’m going to say something I’ve only said to one other person in my life: I want to work for you”. P.Q.C. is the only place I wanted to go, and my first semester there has been more fulfilling than nearly anything I’ve ever done. Can’t wait for the next one. 

Joe Shaw: A lot of people are talking about what a big year 2020 is, both culturally and politically, what is your perspective on the year and what is your focus heading into 2020?

Jody Dean: Honestly, I’m worried. My eyesight may not be what it was 20 years ago, but I think age has improved my vision – and I’m not very comfortable with what I see. We live in the most wired culture in history yet find ourselves also the most disconnected. Compounding that is our apparent tendency to focus on the frivolous while serious matters go un-addressed. I’ll tell you this, though: my daughter and I went to see the new Tom Hanks film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” over Thanksgiving. It’s not at all what I was expecting. In fact, it was better. There are a ton of good lessons for all of us in that movie, and in the life of the real Fred Rogers. Everyone has pain. Everyone has hurts. Everyone gets angry. What we do with those feelings is a choice.

Joe Shaw: We have the ability to bring people together in a myriad of ways due to the ease of technology but why are we working even harder to divide ourselves?

Jody Dean: I said this a long time ago, not long after the fall of the Soviet Union. Whether real or imagined, we require a boogeyman – just like every great story requires a villain or a nemesis. Absent a bad guy, we’ll invent one. I just never imagined the extent to which we would make the “bad guy” each other. At some point, we decided those we disagree with can’t just be wrong. They also have to be stupid, or evil. Somehow we all…ALL…have to get away from that. I’m just as guilty as anyone, and that’s the dangerous part. It’s contagious.

Joe Shaw: Having been a DJ for so long I would imagine you’re pretty used to music bringing people together. What’s your favorite album that helps you spark a good conversation with people?

Jody Dean: That’s a really fascinating question. Because I worked in formats that only played the hit singles, I never really dug into the albums. My musical tastes are all over the road, too. There really isn’t a genre of music I don’t like. What I’ve always tended to do though is focus on the lyrics. For example, my kids and I had a really interesting discussion over Thanksgiving regarding Billie Eilish. My sons, who are older, are a little shocked at some of the subjects she addresses in her music (even though I can remember when they listened to some pretty shocking stuff themselves). My daughter, who is 14, gets Billie Eilish completely – because Billie is singing about the very things her generation deals with on a daily basis. So there’s that. I said the other day that if there was one artist right now that I’d want to sit down with for an interview, it would be Post Malone. I think the guy is as talented and versatile as any I’ve seen in a long time. But if you had to pin me down, I’d say it’s the songs that deliver ideas that make me think – and think hard. Johnny Cash’ version of “Hurt” is like that. John Michael Talbot’s Christmas album “The Birth of Jesus” is like that. Eddie Vedder’s “Rise” is like that. “The Living Years” by Mike & The Mechanics is like that. Ray Charles’ version of “America, the Beautiful” is like that. I keep coming back to lines like “who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life”. Think about those words. Mercy, more than life? That flies in the face of almost every cultural “Just win, baby” message we’ve been sending for years. Things like “…and crowned thy good with brotherhood” – which suggests to me that if we have a lack of brotherhood, we need to examine how much good we’re really projecting. My opinion is that if we’d just live up to some of the words we sing, the world would be a far better place.

Joe Shaw: You’ve had a lot of ups and downs in your life, how are things going for you lately? What’s on the horizon?

Jody Dean: Oh, good grief. You know, I don’t really see any “downs”. I’ve been more ridiculously blessed than I could ever ask or imagine. In fact, it ticks me off when people say things like “you deserve to be happy”. Someone please tell me where that’s written down. Seriously. If you could earn happiness, it would be wages – not a gift. Yeah, there’ve been challenges and disappointments – but there’s not one of them I’m not grateful for in the overall. Sure, there’ve been consequences for my foolishness – but bones heal stronger at the break. I have an incredible family, all of whom are in good health. Between Fiona’s nieces and nephew, my three children, one grandchild (and another on the way), we have seven kids in our branches of the family tree who leave me in awe. That’s just insane – especially given the paths I’ve taken. I’ve been given the chance to work with young people at Paul Quinn College who struggle for and appreciate life’s opportunities.I have kids I coached years ago who still think of me as their coach. We even have youngsters in the neighborhood whom we’ve come to treat almost as our own, and vice versa. I’ve become the cool neighborhood old guy with the white beard they run to down the street. I’ve been given opportunities to affect lives and the world in which I live. How does anyone ever “deserve” that? Truthfully, it makes me think of this Bible verse every day. “Who am I, Lord, and what is my house, that you have brought me this far?” (II Samuel 7:18)

Joe Shaw: One last piece of advice you want to give people heading into the new year?

Jody Dean: You know, when I started thinking about teaching a little, I sought out advice from friends who are teachers. One told me “You know, you won’t make a lot of money doing it”. I told her that I’ve made money (and blew most of it). What I want to do is make a difference. Forget about what you have or think you can “get”. It’s all merely on loan anyway. So the best advice I can give anyone is the motto I’ve come to live by over the last few years, and use as the slogan on my website: less stuff, more life.

Joe Shaw: Thanks for your time Jody.

If you want to listen to Jody’s appearance on The DTalks Podcast click below:

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