by Tracy Johnson
I still can’t believe he’s gone. It was my privilege to work with Kidd Kraddick for many years. He was one of the most gracious, kindest personalities I’ve ever met. Kidd was the first to give credit to others, and the first to make fun of himself.
He was more than just a personality on the radio. Kidd was an intimate part of listener’s lives. When working with air personalities, I often start a conversation with a challenging question:
If you disappeared from the radio forever, what would listeners miss about you?
Most personalities can’t identify a strong reason they’d be missed. That’s when we go to work on their personality brand. With Kidd, listeners felt the loss in a deeply personal way.
After he passed, fans flocked to his studio to leave notes, cards, and flowers. When is the last time you heard about something like that for a radio DJ? Some of the messages were heart wrenching, with comments like:
I feel like I lost a family member
You were there with me while I was raising my daughter alone. Even on the worst days, you made me smile and laugh. And somehow, you made me feel like it was all going to work out okay.
He had a way of making those around him feel great. In every conversation, he thanked me, and told me how much value and inspiration he took from our relationship.
I had the pleasure of working with Kidd for several years. He had a passion for learning, for finding a new way. He constantly evolved, looking for another key to unlock the next level of performance, even though he had reached the top.
But I learned more from Kidd than he ever took from me.
Here are 10 key things I learned from Kidd Kraddick that I’ll never forget. I will continue to pass these on so others can benefit from his legacy.
Kidd taught me how to shine the spotlight on others and allow it to reflect back on the show. He was a master of making those around him feel good and sound great.
Kidd Kraddick was the ultimate host of a party. He knew a host’s job was to insure his guests have a great time. And they did. Kidd threw a party every morning on the radio, along with his co-hosts, Big Al, Kelli Raspberry, J-Si and Jenna. They all became bigger stars because Kidd knew how to put them in a position to shine.
He taught me how personalities can be more likable with a self-deprecating sense of humor. And he did it without being wimpy. Kidd poked fun at others but made fun of himself even more.
He once told me he was frustrated at times because he had so many funny one-liners in his head that he couldn’t use. I asked what he meant by that and he said that most of the lines were really funny, but they didn’t fit his character brand. So he handed them off to partners and co-hosts – and sometimes even to listeners – because he thought it would make the show better if they delivered a line that poked fun at him.
Kidd taught me how to weave characters into a radio show creatively and in a way that added to the show without confusing the audience.
One of his recurring characters was “Must Be Nice Guy”, a character that is still one of the funniest things I’ve heard on the radio. It was Kidd playing a caller, and it was genuinely funny. Click to hear.
The first thing most of us think of with Kidd is how funny he was, but he knew that just being funny was one dimensional. Kidd taught me that creating emotional moments on the air is more important than just being funny.
Kidd’s success was built on creating emotional connections on the air. He developed Kidd’s Kids, a charity that takes sick kids to Disney World. And it lives on as part of his legacy.
Kraddick knew how to push the emotion button at just the right time. He knew when to ride it longer, and he when it was over and time to get back to the humor.
One example is his annual Breaking and Entering Christmas. Click to hear how he touched listeners on a personal level.
Kidd taught me how to showcase his cast of characters individually. so each had an specific role on the show that made the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
He never cared who had the “big moment,” as long as the big moment happened on his show. Character development grew through interaction and banter in nearly every break, and most of it was because of Kraddick’s ability to put his co-hosts in a position to just be themselves without thinking or over-preparing. That’s mastery.
Click to hear how the show’s banter helped define personality traits.
He taught me how to capitalize on opportunities by following story arcs that had been created. Kidd’s “I Have a Dream” week was a brilliant adaptation of a bucket list promotion that featured listener stories. And performing it the week of Martin Luther King Day added a touch of relevance that made it stand out even more.
But he didn’t stop with a feature that ran for one week of January. He regularly followed the story of listeners to the end. He capitalized on great moments, which built equity in his brand. This gave the show a unique method of re-telling the same story multiple times. And each time it got better.
Kraddick taught me to think big, a trait that is missing in radio today.
Kidd showed what radio could do with an idea, a heart and a purpose. Kidd’s Kids became a national, year-round charity for critically ill kids that has changed lives for kids and families.
Not only does it continue to this day, it’s spawned similar platforms like Bert’s Big Adventure. And it all started with Kraddick.
He taught me that every moment counts. Kidd never threw away an opportunity to entertain, including the first break in the morning.
Kraddick never treated that first talk break as a warm up. It was show time. The show started fast and kept up that pace all morning long because he knew that every moment counts.
Kraddick could be one of the least focused people I’ve ever met, in some areas. But in others, he was locked in on his goals like a cheetah tracking a gazelle.
Kidd taught me the value of focusing on the important things that could advance his brand, which was an odd one coming from a guy with terminal ADD. His recipe of success was to simplify his focus on “One Thing”:
This is a concept I’ve taught to hundreds of radio personalities, and will continue to pass along forever.
Finally, Kidd taught me to never stop learning, never stop growing and always seek excellence. In all the years I worked with him, he was passionate about what was next.
He never sat still or rested on his success. He was hungry for critique, feedback and input that could make him better.
Kidd once told me that giving him just one piece of advice per year that unlocked a new level of performance was worth everything. As accomplished as he was, Kidd could never get enough coaching. He thrived on it.
We miss you, Kidd.
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