The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Radio Memphis General Manager and On-Air Radio Personality, Dianna “Dirty D” Fryer
Dianna “Dirty D” Fryer didn’t want to be a D.J. — she was set up by long-time Memphis, Tenn., radio/media veteran Ric Chetter who recognized her latent talent and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Fryer, general manager and on-air personality at Radio Memphis, is an advocate for unsigned artists and has a soft spot for all metal genres. She hosts two shows, Metal Music Mondays, and Radio Memphis Around The World, where she plays music from artists in every corner of the globe to listeners in more than 140 countries.
Her favorite thing is to provide a platform that allows musicians to soar and be discovered. When you don’t hear her owning the mic at Radio Memphis, you may find her at a local Memphis karaoke club pouring her heart out to Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.”
Listen to her shows at www.radio-memphis.com.
WiMN: Tell us the story of how Radio Memphis came to be.
DF: Wow. A lot really went into that. Radio Memphis was a vision that was created by long-time radio/media veteran Ric Chetter. The idea for the premise of this radio station was actually an answer to what true radio had been missing for a very long time…to deliver great programming with LIVE interaction that was focused around the real reasons for existing: the music and the artists.
One of the brainchilds that Ric conceived when working with terrestrial radio was a show and project called The Great Unsigned. It focused on giving independent artists huge opportunities with product companies, tour management groups and national advertising campaigns through promotions, live sponsored events and air play. After doing that, Ric learned that both the fans and the industry loved the Memphis sound, no matter what style of music. He also knew that we had a TON of talent in the entire Mid-South that not only needed a platform to be heard from, but one that had the ability to reach the masses.
Now, placing this full-service radio station online was the logical answer almost four years ago, as long as TWO THINGS happened:
1) The quality of the sound signal that we would put out had to exceed the normal standards for terrestrial radio.
2) We had to be LIVE, not streaming, not recorded for uploading and later listening, but LIVE. You know, the kind of LIVE that meant listeners could call in and everyone could get involved with the moment at hand… the way radio is supposed to be!!!
We did start out way ahead of the curve for this type of media and programming, but, you know? It turned out to be the best answer. We went from broadcasting in a studio out of the back of a house to now pumping out our HD-quality signal from the old Twilight/Leeway recording studio that’s located inside the Emmons Building in Memphis. I believe we show up in 140+ countries now… we’ve got thousands of listeners… and we are really getting to do our thing… LIVE of course!!!
WiMN: When Radio Memphis was founded, you weren’t really too keen on being on-air talent. Explain how you were brought along to the team.
DF: I never considered being on-air when I joined Radio Memphis. Period. I wanted to be involved with helping create the image and develop a brand. I felt it was more important for me to learn how this machine worked, not just internally, but how it would impact the artists, fans, advertisers and the music business in general.
We HAD to be willing to do what others were afraid to do; even more importantly, we had to keep the parts that did work for radio and combine it with new world technology, all while creating a solid plan on how to do good business and fair business on a new platform that was coming, that was HERE. Whether you wanted to or not, you were gonna have to deal with and do business on the internet and everything and everybody was gonna jump onto it, too.
I was more focused and I still am, really, on developing relationships with artists, listeners, clients and music groups. I wanted to know how radio as a business fits into the jig-saw puzzle of this CRAZY COOL circus we know as “the music industry.” It was all new to me.
I actually met and became instant friends with Ric while he was still with terrestrial radio. He knew at that point that I had worked with local musicians by helping create and putting together events for non-profit groups. I’ve done everything from motorcycle rides to full concert shows. I also did volunteer work for the promotions department at the station Ric worked for, so that I could attend the MEMPHIS IN MAY festivals and other station events to enjoy the music and meet artists.
When he decided that he needed to pull in help for Radio Memphis, Ric asked if I would join his staff. I really did not have the time necessary to devote to the cause…my life was going in a different direction at that time, but I ended up agreeing to help with a few live events and maybe play with some bumperstickers, nothing huge.
To get things going, I knew that the station needed some things, so I went ahead with making the contacts and all the arrangements necessary for our promotional materials. Then I began assisting in branding the station’s appearance, and about five days into our agreement, Ric made me the Promotions Director. I turned him down and we fought about it for two weeks…HARD. Obviously, I finally agreed.
Over the course of time, one step forward always lead to another offer resulting in another argument that lead to another level of advancement (I am currently the General Manager). Really – all kidding aside – all along the way, I was given great attention and provided awesome tools to learn, grow and develop. I was always afforded the opportunity to be on the ground floor of every process when it came to the station and its operations.
Now after being there for a about two or three months, I was told that I needed to hang out with the “the night guy” (Brother Doug), get to know him and keep him company. “By doing that, it will give you a chance to watch and have a better undestanding on how everything works with the equipment,” Ric said. NOW I know what was reallly going on… I was being set up!!!
Our night jock is a radio veteran and he didn’t need any help, nor did we spend any time working on operations. Brother Doug threw a microphone in my face and demanded that I talk to him. So I did. There was no prep… just free form, crack a mic, say-it-like-was radio. I had several “hangout” sessions with my radio family after that… but never considered myself a radio personality… not even after being dubbed “Dirty D” at that point.
After time passed (and apparently after Ric knew he wanted me on-air), he sat me down and explained to me that not only does the listening audience LOVE to have a live D.J. to interact with and get to know, but that women tend to do extremely well in radio because they can see things from both sides of the fence. He also said it was really a proven fact that the listeners respond to a female voice exceptionally well.
Then he suggested I become a regular personality on-air. Of course I said no — that was until I became very well-acquainted with the metal community. I really saw first-hand how limited the choices and support were for this genre and I wanted to do something to fix that. So, I asked Ric if we could create a show that someone else could do highlighting these artists.
I told Ric It would be a great avenue for them, that they would promote us and we’d gain even more listenership. We’d play all genres and it would be fun. I said it all and I had total “wins” across the board! And he agreed… with one non-negotiable stipulation: I had to host that show. I wasn’t gonna let these artists down, so of course I agreed.
After two or three quick sessions on how to run the board (remember, the night guy never did show me), I was thrown on the board, cans on, mic hot and told to have fun. Then, they shut the door and LEFT me with it. That was probably the best damn thing that could have happened to me. Not only did I realize how much I do love what I do… but I found out that I actually had a voice.
WiMN: You host two shows, Memphis Metal Mondays, and Radio Memphis Around The World. What can listeners expect on each show, and when and where can they chime in?
DF: Yes, I do! You can hear Memphis Metal Mondays every Monday night starting at 9 p.m., CST. I play independent metal artists from Memphis and the Mid-South till 11 p.m. CST, and then I’ll flip the switch and spin metal from all over the world till midnight, sometimes longer. There’s nothing better than slamming some metal after having to deal with a MONDAY.
Radio Memphis Around the World airs every Saturday from 1 p.m. CST to 5 p.m. CST. I created this show as our direct response to the insane support we were getting from all over: rock artists, pop artists, blues, country, all of it!!! So I spin all genres of music on that one.
With both shows, you’re gonna hear awesome music… I could be interviewing an artist, maybe even an industry pro. Sometimes a particular musician may be a guest D.J. and riding shotgun with me… we’ve been known to throw some live performances in the mix, so it really could be anything. Both shows are still evolving and I am always looking to see what I can do to make them better and really incorporate things more from the artists’ point of views, because it really is all about them for me.
You can find us at www.radio-memphis.com … and there are free apps for smart phones.
WiMN: What are some of the most exciting interviews you’ve done?
DF: I am gonna tell you that they are all exciting, really. Everything from new artists being ecstatic about being heard, to veterans in the industry that wanna offer the much-needed history lesson and advice, and the current music industry to national artists that wanna call to give the up-and-coming a little faith, hope and love.
We get to talk with a lot of different people, and they are all amazing. I’ve gotten to sit in with those who may have played with Elvis, to some of the best kings and queens of the blues, and ’80s metal bands I personally grew up with like Tora Tora, Shinedown and the original Saliva. Hell, we’ve even had the pleasure of having the king of wrestling Jerry Lawler spend time at Radio Memphis, who happens to love the local scenes. I love music and everyone’s story is awesome to me.
WiMN: You pride yourself in showcasing indie acts and unsigned bands. How important is it for you to offer a platform to showcase these musicians?
DF: You know, I get to listen to some pretty amazing talent. There is soooooo much incredible music out there, and I know that for most of these artists the only thing they need is to have the right pair of ears hear their stuff. I want to make that available to these guys.
THIS (Radio Memphis) is for THEM… We DO NOT take a dime from artists. You just don’t do that. We’re a radio station and we definitely run it like one. Our job is to help secure this solid platform through radio ads, concentrating on audience development and strengthening our business relationships, so that this music has a place to really launch from.
We have had artists that have been offered to be tour support across seas for major headlining acts; we’ve had bands have companies take their stuff, have it pressed and distributed on THEIR dime, just to return the profits back to the band because a certain region of the world had to have it. We’ve had a band be approached about using their music for a national commercial; we have had independent bands meet national bands and make tours happen, all from being heard on Radio Memphis.
I am very grateful to be a part of their journey and watch dreams happen, so it’s extremely important to me. If opportunities present themselves to these artists because they were found on Radio Memphis… then I feel like I am doing my job.
WiMN: How friendly is the radio scene towards women?
DF: I think the radio scene LOVES women!!! [Laughs] Don’t get me wrong… I think everyone has to be on cue and ready to talk from all angles… and the scene has not only evolved to give women a great place in radio, but in a lot of cases the successful ones are dominating it because they understand how men think and are STILL being ladies doing it. Make sense?
WiMN: How friendly is the metal scene towards women?
DF: From my view? The metal scene LOVES women, and it’s not because of the outfits or all of that craziness. Alright, it doesn’t hurt if the outfit is sexy [laughs]. I’m talking about the women that view themselves as ARTISTS; they have a confidence; they deliver a message through their music; they command attention; they perform and I mean really put on a SHOW.
Early on, it was very rare to see a woman just RIP IT UP in metal and be successful. In fact, it was almost always suggested that sexual imagery was absolutely necessary in order to succeed. Things are not like that anymore, and women can succeed in any genre if they choose to. It’s not about a woman/man thing, it’s about creating music.
Man, when you close your eyes you don’t even know what someone looks like. You sometimes can’t even tell who’s singing, but what you can tell is if that song grabbed you. Metal music might have really been considerd more of a man’s world a long time ago, but for me that idealogy is long gone. Are there as many women playing and fronting metal as men now? Not by a long shot. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really come a long way, but the only reason we are not seeing more women grab that mic, guitar neck, or drumstick is because of those individuals… not because of the scene. I think the metal scene wants MORE from more women: incredible songwriters, incredible voices and creative talents they are!! 🙂 Step up ladies!!!!
WiMN: Let’s have some fun. What is your favorite song to sing on karaoke?
DF: Damn. You found me out!! 🙂 Okay, actually there are two: “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler.
Believe it or not, when “Total Eclipse of the Heart” came out, I would sit in the driveway with a dual cassette jam box, have the tape playing on one side and record myself singing on the other side over and over and over again. Yeah, I know… it really was one of my all-time favorite songs.
WiMN: Best metal bands ever?
DF: Ever? WOW. What an unfair question… how can you narrow it down? So many come to mind!!! I have always been a Dio girl. I listen to ’80s hair metal, alternative metal, thrash, grunge, melodic-operatic metal. Operation: Mindcrime and Queensrÿche come to mind when I think melodic-opera style. Big shout-out to Pamela Moore. I did catch your interview with her, by the way. Talk about a talented woman in metal and in the industry… my hats off to her.
WiMN: What advice would you give to a young woman seeking to pursue a career as a radio announcer?
DF: Learn EVERYTHING about the business. Being on the microphone is only about 1/10th of what it takes to make things work on air. I can’t stress enough how important it is to spend time with the reasons WHY you would be on air. Cultivate those relationships with people and learn the entire processes.
The entertainment industry, be it musicians, actors, writers, media, radio, whatever, is just that – entertainment. It is definitely a lifestyle, and commitment to these types of things can not be part-time or only done when it’s convenient — that is, if you want to be successful at it. That would really go for any dream you may have.
I do know that when you wake up and you want to do it as badly as you need to breathe, when you are willing to sacrifice and have sacrificed everything you’ve got to make it happen, you might be on to something. As for radio? Believe or not, the less you talk and the more you listen will teach you just about anything you might need to know. Promise. 😉 xoxoxo