Welcome to the first edition of Hosting the Hosts! In each of these web exclusives, you'll read stories told a little by station intern Drew Lacy and a lot by the hosts of your favorite shows. In this first edition, learn more about FM Odyssey host Fred Milgiore and how his show became the fan favorite that is is today.
Fred Migliore arrived in the studio for our interview barefoot, flanked by a golden retriever named Zero who announced the pair’s entrance with a booming bark.
“It’s kind of like putting the vacuum cleaner on in reverse,” Fred said, describing the experience of turning the tables to be the interviewee rather than interviewer. Zero circled below the desk with the occasional huff or sigh to request a scratch behind the ears.
Fred has conducted over 500 interviews in his more than 20 years in radio as host of FM Odyssey, garnering what he described as an “encyclopedic knowledge” of music and those who make it.
“I had loved radio my whole life,” he said. “I’d always wanted to be on the radio.”
After moving down from the cultural jungle of New York City to a more lackluster central Florida radio scene, he was struck by the idea for a different kind of radio show, one that would find its place in listeners’ homes on Sunday mornings.
“I envisioned people drinking coffee and eating bagels and just taking it easy,” he said, “and I wanted to offer a program that would stimulate them rather than just talk at them – I’d talk to them.”
The show would be called “Another Unconventional Sunday Morning,” he decided. “So I came down to the studio [WFIT] and I said, ‘I have this idea for a radio program.’”
The station’s answer?
“They offered me a jazz slot on Tuesday night, and I said no. I didn’t want to do that,” he said. “So I came in and I actually volunteered for a fund drive with the guy who was here on Sunday morning in the slot that I really wanted and we really hit it off.”
A month later, Fred’s phone rang on a Friday. It was the station, asking if he was still interested in the Sunday morning slot.
“I said, ‘Yeah!’ and they said, ‘Well, can you start the day after tomorrow?’ and I said, ‘Ye-yeah. Yeah.’”
He went in on that Sunday morning, an Easter morning just after the switching of the clocks for Daylight Savings.
“And it was the crappy time change,” he added. “So I had two things going in my favor: no one was going to be listening and no one was going to be listening. They were either going to be at church or they were going to be asleep, so this was really good for a first show.”
His introduction to radio was brief, to say the least.
“The guy who was on before me said, ‘That’s turntable one, that’s turntable two, here’s the button for the mic, and I have to go to Easter Mass.’”
And like that, he was alone in the studio, frantically reading through a studio instruction book on the back of the studio door and telling himself not to panic.
“The first show actually started with me talking and having the wrong microphone on, so it took me a second to kind of figure that one out.”
Despite the hiccups, he found himself at home in radio. “It just came natural to me,” he said.
But for the first few months of Another Unconventional Sunday Morning, Fred found himself receiving angry letters and phone calls about him and his show. He took the most logical step to address the complaints.
“I just stopped answering the phone at that point for about three or four months,” he said.
It wasn’t until Another Unconventional Sunday Morning’s first fall fund drive that the show’s real success began to shine through.
“I honestly thought and I think everyone else thought, ‘Well, that’s it for him. He’s not going to raise any money and his show’s going to go away.’”
Despite the occasional disgruntled listener, the show broke every fundraising record for the station in those first three hours.
“That’s when I knew that we had something here, and that’s when I started answering the phones again.”
Another Unconventional Sunday Morning continued to soar. A special tribute show to songwriter and singer Laura Nyro was picked up by over 90 stations around the country. Interviews with David Crosby, Denny Doherty and Judy Collins brought the show to more stations and an even wider WFIT audience, and Fred knew it was time to expand further.
“But we thought, wait a minute – we can’t name it Another Unconventional Sunday Morning, because what if others stations want to air it on Tuesday?” His co-producer in New York, Steve Matteo, suggested calling it FM Odyssey; the name stuck.
(And for those wondering, FM stands for the traditional “frequency modulation” acronym, not Fred Migliore.)
The show now airs in 35 different US cities, New Zealand and the Philippines. After more than 20 years, FM Odyssey remains strong.
“My journey is really not that different from other people’s,” he said. “What’s happening to me is, in most likelihood, happening to other people. And if I can take that story of mine and my experience and bring it to them, they might find that some part of that fits exactly into the space that they’re in in that moment in time. That’s the fun part, and that’s the reason that I do this.”
FM Odyssey airs every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on WFIT, 89.5 FM.