In a room covered floor to ceiling with posters of Texas Country music acts, John Hollinger begins his morning show, John and Steve in the morning. As the faces of Pat Green, Reckless Kelly and Larry Joe Taylor look on, Hollinger conducts business just as he has for the past 30 years.
On Tuesday, Hollinger will celebrate all the years that he has spent behind the ever-changing microphone.
Hollinger’s career has led him all over the nation, but he is happy to be in Texas. After starting his career in Brownwood, under the tutelage of long-time radioman Dallas Huston, Hollinger moved frequently. His many stops included Monahans, Odessa, Corpus Christi, Dallas and Abilene.
“I worked in Dallas, but I didn’t like it. It was very brutal and I thought ‘I don’t want to play this game, I don’t want to climb this ladder.’ It was then that I thought a smaller market was right for me,” Hollinger said.
After a short stop in Weatherford, where he met his morning show partner of 15 years, Hollinger headed to Stephenville in 1993 and has been around ever since. He has experienced many different work environments and many different types of music.
“I have played disco, top 40, old country, top 40 country, easy listening, classic rock and Americana formats,” Hollinger said.
Even though Hollinger readily admits that music is his passion, he also has a fervor for sports broadcasting. He spent some of his time around the state broadcasting high school football games and in a span of 30 years has broadcast for six different state championship teams.
Hollinger says that what he loves about radio is that “you do the same things every day, but they are always different.” He has had many days that prove his theory, both good and bad, but every day, no matter the circumstances, Hollinger must paint a picture for his listeners.
“My most memorable moments, albeit bad ones, were when I was on the air when the Waco compound was taken over and when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma. People hadn’t seen things like that before and it was our responsibility to describe these things to them,” said Hollinger.
Despite the challenges that these events can present, there are always golden days to look back on. Hollinger feels “blessed” to have been “in the right place at the right time” to see the six state championship teams. He also enjoyed the many interviews he has been able to conduct during his time as an on-air personality. He interviewed George W. Bush (prior to his presidency), Darryl Strawberry, Jose Conseco and many other Texas Rangers. He also remembers having press passes to the Texas Motor Speedway and wondering in the pit area one day with his partner in crime, morning show co-host Steve Ross. As they walked around, they spotted Dale Earnhardt’s black number eight car. Hollinger conspired with Ross and finally decided that he just had to touch it. Upon laying a hand on the racecar, Hollinger quickly retreated, right into the chest of Dale Earnhardt.
“I was so embarrassed, but once I apologized to Mr. Earnhardt, he shook my hand and told me that it was no problem,” Hollinger said.
During Hollinger’s rare time off, he enjoys spending time with his family and going on vacation with his wife.
“It’s funny, but even when we’re on vacation, we gravitate towards music venues. We get to enjoy them, though, not work them,” Hollinger said.
Hollinger took over the old KCUB station in 2007 and turned it into Mandatory FM, accomplishing a life-long dream.
“This has been a real rewarding opportunity. We love it here. This really is a family business (both his wife and son spend time on air and behind the scenes), but our family extends to the people that we’ve worked with for so long,” Hollinger said.
Mandatory FM is a station geared for the “independent musician.” Hollinger says he and his team have always rooted for the “underdog” and love to give people a chance to get their music on the air.
“We are really proud that our station plays independent music and we are also really proud that our station streams music live 24/7 all around the world. We have listeners in France, South America, Holland and Russia,” Hollinger said.
Throughout his long career, Hollinger has seen many dreams come true and enjoys the time he spends at Mandatory FM.
“It’s been a great journey, a culmination of a 30-year dream. I expect great things in our future. I hope to be around for another 30 years, but I’ll be really old by then,” he said.