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The Morning Stampede - a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants show

Robin showers with them every morning. They’re there when Joanna bathes her youngest daughter. They keep Billie company while she fixes a ‘diabetic-friendly’ breakfast. And they’re a part of the “Liar’s Club” at Hay’s Chevron every morning. In fact, you might say that Derik Walker and Jeff McLean, the dynamic duo who make up country music station K102’s Morning Stampede, join an awful lot of people every morning as they get ready for a new day.

“They’re so comical,” explained Robin Carter who owns Just Simply Good Stuff, a local spice company. “The whole show is real lively and fun. It’s nice to giggle through the morning as you’re drinking your coffee.”

Broadcasting live every Monday through Friday morning from 5 am to 9 am (with a pre-taped Best-Of show Saturday mornings from 6 to 10), Jeff calls the Stampede “a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants show,” where the pair’s creativity is given free rein. They take calls from their listeners, run a “whose older” contest with celebrity birthdays, share off-the-wall true stories from national headlines in their “Stupid News” segment, and provide information on “this day” in country history.

Early in the show they call some lucky local resident for the morning wake-up call. Then, at 6:30 every morning, at least through the winter season, they provide a ski report and at 7 am they match up live with Jimmy Carter, “the Nashville Insider,” for all the gossip from the country music scene. They also do their own traffic reports.

But by far their “biggest draw,” says Jeff, is the Secret Sound. Each day at 8:15 they play one of a range of everyday sounds and listeners are invited to call in and guess what they’ve heard.

“The tenth caller gets a chance to guess,” said Derik, “and if the caller doesn’t get it right, it rolls over to the next day. The winner gets a big prize package and that’s something really different,” he explained. “Unlike other stations, we’re actually giving away something tangible that we’re holding in our hands.” Prizes have ranged from a stay at Quinn’s Hot Springs to a float trip on the River-of-No-Return.

A new feature that’s beginning to match the Secret Sound for popularity is something the pair came up with out of the blue—Slapfest Friday. “When we started this, the phone rang off the hook,” Derik laughed. “You can call in and nominate somebody for a slapfest—your mother-in-law, your rotten neighbor, whoever. It’s a lot of fun.”

The pair also plays music, of course, the station’s signature blend of “today’s stars and the country legends,” but it’s the chemistry between the hosts that draws their listeners.

“If I’m gonna be up that early, I need someone to help me keep my eyes open,” said Joanna Spencer, night manager at Zips in Sandpiont, where K102 plays much of the day. “I just moved to town recently, and I just love their personalities. They also give good information about roads and what’s going on, but it’s the way they do it that makes me listen—they manage to make me visualize what they’re doing. Like the country month they did recently—it just cracked me up. I don’t even have a favorite part of their show,” she added. “I like it all. They keep you involved.”

Although listeners may feel like Derik and Jeff are old friends, the Morning Stampede hasn’t yet been around a year. The show first began broadcasting on March 3 of 2008—Derik’s birthday, though he doesn’t say which one. And Derik, at least, wasn’t even a deejay when he started.

“I’d listened to Derik doing the snow report from Schweitzer,” Jeff said, “and I thought he’d be really fun to work with. He was really good.”

Dylan Benefield, general manager for K102’s parent, Blue Sky Broadcasting, agreed and Derik was asked to come in to talk about a job.

“I thought it was a joke, so I never came (down to the station),” laughed Derik. “I’m just a traveling bum,” he added. “I ran a wholesale company for 15 years, and then retired to Sandpoint. I thought I’d work part time at Schweitzer and ski a lot. Then I got denied for ski reporting.” Luckily that denial didn’t  hold, and Jeff had a chance to hear how Derik worked.

“I had this brainchild to pile us together and go crazy,” Jeff said. At first, the Stampede was a three-way effort, with Jimmy Silver added into the mix. It was Jimmy and Derik, in fact, who came up with the final idea that became the Stampede. Then Silver took over the radio’s Afternoon Drive, also on K102, and the Morning Stampede came into its own.

“People think we just come in and talk,” Jeff said, “but it’s really not that simple.” Jeff arrives at the station, located on Marion just off Hwy. 2 in Sandpoint, at 1:45 each morning to begin research for the show. He trolls various news and sports sources on the Internet to put together the news not only for K102, but for KPND and The Point, as well. “It’s a lot of work for three stations,” he said. Derik joins him at 4 am and they begin to make promos and think about their show for the day. “People think we know everything,” laughed Jeff, “but we don’t. We’re just two regular guys.”

Although the show is somewhat unstructured, there are also some rules they follow. “The first rule is to have fun and be yourself,” said Jeff. “What you hear on the air is real—it’s not really planned or contrived. And there’s no cussing,” he added.

“You have to teach yourself not to say um,” threw in Derik. “And you don’t want to say things the same way all the time—you want to keep it varied.”

“If you’re having a bad day, you really have to let it go,” added Jeff, who last winter piled the radio van into the ditch on Granite Hill and then, after being rescued, went on the air. “It’s almost like a customer service job.

“I’ve wanted to be in radio since I was a kid,” he added. “I wanted to be a sportscaster. I took a class in high school, and went to work for radio in Coeur d’Alene in 1980.” In 2002 he joined the Blue Sky Broadcasting team in Sandpoint, and has been on the air ever since.

“Country, by far, is my favorite type of music,” he said. “It’s the most honest and wholesome. It’s all about life, about stories. And the artists are pleasant,” he adds. “I’ve never had to deal with a bad one.”

There’s plenty of opportunity to find out what country music performers are like. “What I like best about the job is sending out text messages to all these country stars and they text me back,” said Derik.

Jeff says one of his favorite things to do is outreach—”Get out the vote was great, and going out to various remotes.” Want to know how to get a visit from the pair? Just give the station a call. “We’re just waiting to be asked,” said Jeff.

They both agree, however, it’s the listeners—especially those who take the time to call in—who make the show special. “It’s live and it’s interactive,” Derik said. “We talk to everybody—it’s an open-door policy here.”

Robin said she’s not one of those who has called in. “I’ve had to compete to get through!” she laughed. “I’ve tried to guess the secret sound but never got through on the phone. That’s a good thing,” she added, “as I would have been wrong.”

Whether she talks to them or not, however, Robin is still a fan. “I’ve been here for 26 years and this (show) is the best I’ve ever heard. The first thing I do in the morning is turn the radio on.”

Because radio reaches us only through our ears, listeners create their own vision of what the Morning Stampede must look like. “I wouldn’t want to guess what they look like,” said Joanna, “but I’d guess that Jeff is the youngest one.”

On location at a remote broadcast Jeff conducted for the grand opening of the new Goodwill store in Sandpoint, a lady approached where he stood with the mic. “I just wanted to see what he looked like,” she said, though she didn’t want to give her name. Did he meet her expectation?

“Well, I thought he’d be younger,” she confided.

Yes, Jeff is the older one (on the right in the photo above) and Derik (on the left) is the younger.

Although the hours they keep don’t quite match with the world around them, all in all, it’s a dream job, the pair agree. “Every day I think to myself, “Wow, I’m getting paid for this!” said Derik. Jeff says simply, “This is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”

If you’ve never heard the Morning Stampede, and want to get up early enough to catch the boys live, you can find them on your FM radio dial at 102.3 in Spokane, at 102.1 in Bonners Ferry, or at 102.5 in Sandpoint. If you’d like to try figuring out the Secret Sound, or just want to give Jeff or Derik a call, you can reach them on the hotline at 800-574-5102.

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Author info

Trish Gannon Trish Gannon Owner and publisher of the River Journal since 2001, Trish works out of Clark Fork on the east end of Bonner County, a place she calls, simply, "the best place in the world to live." Mother of three, grandmother of two and an inveterate volunteer, Trish is usually tired.

Tagged as:

Bonner County, The Morning Stampede, radio, Robin Carter, Derik Walker, Jeff McLean, K102, Dylan Benefield, Jimmy Silver, Blue Sky Broadcasting

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