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Living The Dream: Kent Crider Remains Cape’s Longest-Running Radio Morning Host
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Kent Crider smiles as he talks about his childhood dream in his River Radio studio room on Broadway in Cape Girardeau, his adopted hometown.

Wearing a trimmed gray beard and mustache, he looks cozy in a ball cap and a half-buttoned flannel shirt that reveals a maroon T-shirt that advertises BBQ on front. It’s the comfortable approach he carries on the air as he accompanies his morning listeners as they get ready for work, school, or as they commute. Or maybe it’s the look he has when he’s delivering the good news of where not to go.

“School closings, I wanted to be the guy that said, ‘Hey, you don’t have to go to school today,'” Crider said with a laugh.

It’s among the wide repertoire of duties he performs for listeners who have their radio dials set to 102.9, although officially named K103 Today’s Best Country. For them, he’s virtually omnipresent in a radius of up to 80 to 100 miles, a daily companion from 6 to 10 a.m., a time slot he’s held for 15 years.

It’s earned him the distinction of being the longest-running morning radio show in Cape Girardeau.

Kent Crider, right, an On-Air personality with K103 talks with Erik Sean, left, during his morning show Wednesday in Cape Girardeau.
Andrew J. Whitaker

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Crider said in his relaxing, friendly manner. “The bad thing is the wakeup at 4 a.m. but, to me, it’s the best show. It’s the most fun show for me to do at this point in my life is to be on morning radio.

“To be a part of getting people’s days started and get them the information they need to get the day started.”

Spliced around the current top 40 country songs, he’ll deliver “Birthday Club” wishes at 7:10 a.m., the “Incredibly Bad Joke of the Day” at 7:45, and provide an update on the entertainment scene in Nashville, Tennessee, with help from his buddy Jimmy Carter at 7:50. He’ll also have banter with colleague Erik Sean and guest interviews, with the likes of music legends such as Charlie Daniels or former actors like Jerry Mathers, of “Leave it to Beaver” fame.

“The music is the bricks, and what I throw in around it is the mortar,” Crider said in his unassuming style.

But “the mortar” connects and makes a bond, which Crider likes to do with his audience, whom he likes to think of as individuals and not as a collective group.

Kent Crider, an On-Air personality with K103 talks with Erik Sean (not pictured) during his morning show Wednesday in Cape Girardeau.
Andrew J. Whitaker

“When I’m on, I think about what all the listeners are doing, about the kids getting ready to go to school, about the moms and dads getting ready to go to work,” Crider said. “I think about how many people are in their cars and trucks, commuting, and I’m riding along with them. I feel like I’m a part of their life, and I have been for many years.

“I’m on first-name basis with people I’ve never met, just because I’ve been the guy on the radio. And if they want to reach out to me, call me and say, ‘Hey Kent, there’s a wreck on the Diversion Channel bridge, you heard anything about that?’ And I can say, ‘As a matter of fact, this is what is going on, somebody just called.’ Like, I’m part of hundreds of people starting their day, and just from sitting here in this chair.”

He imagines, much as he did when he was a child growing up in Marion, Kentucky. He chuckles as he tells about the passion brewing to put him on track for a 38-year professional career, the past 27 spent in Cape Girardeau with K103 in one capacity or another.

Around the age of 10, he said he used to do a “make-believe” radio show, which involved a tape recorder, 45-rpm records, a newspaper and his brother.

“I would play songs to the tape, and then I would stop the record player and I had the newspaper, and I would read things out of the newspaper: ‘Hey, there’s a fall festival this weekend at blah, blah, blah school,” Crider said. “I just mimicked what I heard on the radio, and I would turn the record over and play another song.”

Kent Crider, an On-Air personality with K103 talks with Erik Sean (not pictured) during his morning show Wednesday in Cape Girardeau.
Andrew J. Whitaker

When the boys in his neighborhood were playing basketball, he’d arrive with his recorder and sit on a picnic table.

“I did play-by-play and did the whole game, and then when the game was over we’d stop it and go sit on the table and listen to it like it was on the radio,” Crider said. “That was my thing. I just always wanted to be the radio announcer, and the more I did it, the more I wanted to do it, surround myself with people that were really, really good at it.”

He said he first worked in a factory after graduating from Crittenden County High School in 1976, but the draw to radio was inevitable. In Paducah, Kentucky, he met guys from the local radio station, WKYQ, hung out with them and eventually got to work a weekend shift, which evolved to full-time.

On his days off, when he could afford it, he took his recorder and drove to Nashville, where he worked his way backstage at the Grand Ole Opry as a radio-station employee.

“I weaseled my way in behind a lot of stages and got on a lot of buses,” Crider said. “I’d go up and knock on a bus door, Hank Williams Jr.”

He said the door typically would be answered by someone in the performer’s entourage in a gruff or indifferent fashion: “Hey, what do you want?”

Crider would tell them he worked at a radio station and played the performer’s songs and wanted to come aboard and say “Hi.”

“They’d come back and they’d say, ‘Yeah, come on in.'” Crider said.

It worked with Williams.

“I use to go get to sit in his bus and do a little interview with him or he’d do a liner for you: ‘Hey, this is Hank Williams Jr. You’re listening to Kent Crider on WKWQ.’ I’d play those and play his songs and all that stuff.”

Sometimes it was more than a brush with fame. He said he once spent an entire night partying with Williams, parceling out only one intriguing detail: “I wore his boots.”

Williams is only one of the many celebrities Crider has encountered and the Facebook page he keeps up on one of his two monitors, which bookend the control board for the three microphones, in his studio will attest.

The page features pictures of Crider, looking years younger in many, with such music legends as George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Bobby Bare, Porter Wagoner, Roy Clark, Reba McEntire and Kenny Rogers.

“I’m not bragging or anything, I mean, name it, I’ve pretty much talked to them one time or another, on the phone or in person,” Crider said.

He worked at the Grand Ole Opry flagship station, WSM, for two years and became a member of the Country Music Association. He was voted one of the CMA’s top three radio personalities in 1984, and no longer has to pay dues because of that distinction.

“I’m a card-carrying CMA lifetime member,” he said jokingly, revealing the card in his wallet. It allows him to vote on the CMA awards each year.

While he said working for WSM carried prestige, it was not too glamorous, with him locked into an overnight show. He eventually headed back to WKYQ in Paducah to become program director, and in September 1990 moved to Cape Girardeau to work for K103. It was months after the death of his mom and he was seeking new scenery.

It’s become his home. He calls Cape the most comfortable place he’s lived outside of his hometown, and he’s embraced the community.

He doesn’t spend all his time in a small studio, occasionally getting out to do remotes, like the one he will do Thursday when he will broadcast on location for three hours — 9 a.m. to noon — in the “Coats for Kids” collaboration with The Salvation Army.

Through his career, he’s spent time as a DJ for both rock and country stations, and likes a variety of genres. As he notes when he was in high school, “I’d have an Elton John 8-track in my car and take it out and put in Merle Haggard or Don Williams.”

But he did grow up heavily on classic country music, and he likes a country format. When asked about his favorite artist or song, he hesitates at the ocean of options.

“My thing is, I agree a lot of the old was great, but it doesn’t mean all of the new is bad,” Crider said.

He comes up with Midland as his “new favorite” group, citing two current popular songs “Drinking Problem” and “Make a Little.”

“I really think they’re up-and-coming,” Crider said.

Yes, Crider can change with the times, even though he said he does not like cellphones and has never sent a text message in his life. But make no doubt the man who operates the technology in front of him every morning is in tune with the past. He’s still the same boy, living his dream.

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