Legacy Story

They have the most unique brand name in personality radio and have built a network of affiliates from their hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. What is the secret behind Free Beer and Hot Wings’ amazing career?  Selfish radio. It’s an impressive success story.

The first question is usually how they got their name. Gregg “Free Beer” Daniels and Chris “Hot Wings” Michels put the show together in college. They wanted to talk to men. What do guys want? Free beer. And hot wings. They found their radio names.

Great story, but it’s even more interesting to learn how they built the show and continue to build their legacy.

Free Beer And Hot Wings

Here are the three main attributes of the show:

  • It’s a talk show targeting men.
  • They’re mostly on rock stations, ranging from Active Rock to Classic Hits.
  • There are five personalities including Gregg “Free Beer” Daniels, Chris “Hot Wings” Michels, Steve McKiernan (also the Executive Producer), and Joe Gassman. They’re joined by the only woman on the show, Kelly Cheese.

The most impressive thing about the show is its passionate fan base. A research project asked listeners what station they would choose if the show went off the air. In two of the three markets researched, the #1 answer was that they would no longer listen to the radio in the morning. In the other market, “I wouldn’t listen to another station” was two percentage points behind the #1 answer.

Wow. Let that sink in. This show is keeping affiliate radio stations on the air

How do they do it? I asked them.

The Show Evolves

The show has changed in its 20-plus years as the personalities mature. Gregg and Chris talk about evolving:


Selfish Radio

Some shows follow a template. Others copy winning stations in another market. But the key to truly great personality radio is interesting people having fun together. It’s contagious.

The best shows find their own formula. The team defines it as Selfish Radio. Executive Producer and personality Steve McKiernan explains.

Part of being selfish is constantly striving to do it their own way…always. The show knows it’s not possible to win by copying another show.


Making Informed Decisions

Successful shows embrace change informed by data. Yes, the show charts its’ own course, but they are smart about it. Strategic Solutions Research conducted a massive research project to learn how the show can improve.

Was that scary?

The research not only gave the show confidence in performance by verifying how much listeners love them, but it also revealed specific things to improve.

The Keys To Selfish Radio

Many personalities are struggling through layoffs and downsizing. It can be discouraging. Today’s environment is different than when Free Beer and Hot Wings built their empire. But it can be done.

I asked the show for advice to young talent looking for that big break.

There are many ways to be successful for those willing to put in the work. Performing an improvisational show with people you like hanging out with sounds easy. And that’s the point. They make it sound easy. But it only happens by a commitment to success.

This is the hardest-working show in network/syndicated radio. They invest endless hours in preparing and performing, providing support for affiliates, and developing their brand on and off the air.

Here’s Kelly talking about what it takes to succeed.

Personality is the key to radio’s future. It’s the only thing that will sustain radio stations. Free Beer And Hot Wings have built a relationship with fans that can’t be replaced. It’s the single most important asset broadcasters need today.


Tracy Johnson:

The Free Beer & Hot Wings “formula” is pretty simple. It’s a team of good people that like each other working hard and having fun on the radio.

Threaded through the sometimes sophomoric humor an engaging conversation is a heart. The show is relatable because each personality is authentic. They become a part of listener’s lives.

And like all dominant personalities, relatability is where this show shines brightest. I’m honored to be their coach.

Share Your Legacy Story »

Read More Legacy Stories: