Dallas is a long way from New York City – just under 1,400 miles – but it’s even farther for Frank Reed, the Christian radio veteran who once called WNBC Radio and 30 Rockefeller Plaza home back in the 1970s and 1980s.
Semi-retired from his daily morning gig on Salem’s KLTY-FM in Dallas, Frank still hosts a program called “Keep the Faith”, customized specifically for KLTY. It’s a nationally syndicated show filled with guests, stories and songs designed to make ‘encouragement contagious!’ He also inspires and coaches others in Christian music radio. On this day, he’s preparing to head into the station to do some voice work, but he was willing to talk with me to discuss some memories of his early days in radio – some of which was before he became a Christian.
“I got into radio right out of high school. I was terribly insecure. But I really threw myself into the business. For many years, I just lived, ate, slept, and drank radio. I just loved it. I found out something that I was kind of good at. I started out at small stations, and I would just learn everything that I could there, and then just move on. And then, when I got to NBC, for just a young kid from Florida, it was just a tremendous ride. It was just such a thrill.”
Frank’s arrival to New York in 1977 came after executives at WNBC decided to clean house, firing the stations high-profile disc jockeys, including Don Imus, Cousin Brucie and Walt Baby Love. The station would now be the star, not the personalities. In addition to Frank, WNBC brought on Ellie Dyland, a diminutive woman who would become the first female to host a morning talk show. All the hosts, including Frank, were in their 20s.
“When I look back on landing the job, I can see God’s sovereign hand in the situation, even though my life at the time was totally devoid of anything spiritual,” Frank recalled.
Frank would enjoy an 8-year run at the famed New York City station. The late shock jock Don Imus returned to WNBC in 1979, taking back the morning slot. Howard Stern joined the station in 1982. And then there was Frank, in a timeslot between the two.
You might say Frank Reed’s early days in music radio were stereotypical. He was chasing fame and his own small fortune. He’d meet fellow disc jockeys, including Don Imus, at a bar after work. There were other vices. He’d take the Long Island Railroad home each night, and find a seat in the bar car. Here he was with his own show on big time radio, had good enough ratings, a solid salary – but something wasn’t right, and he knew it.
Then came a panic attack that led to a trip to the hospital, and the realization that he had lost control of his drinking. In desperation, Frank turned to Alcoholics Anonymous. The meetings were helpful, and he began seeing parallels between AA and the Christian faith.
“I knew that my faith was seemingly real at times in my past, I just did not have a clue of how it related to me now,” Frank Reed wrote in his memoir, Frankly Speaking. A psychologist told him it was clear he needed to make a decision, though the doctor didn’t say what the decision might be about. But Frank knew, and sitting on the Long Island Railroad, he prayed and committed his life to the Lord. “I release these areas of my life and everything as best I can to you,” he told Jesus. “Please show me the truth, and guide me in the days ahead. I surrender all, every bit of it, just for the sake of knowing you. Amen.”
So now he was a growing Christian – and still working with Don Imus and Howard Stern.
People began noticing the change. He wasn’t proselytizing on the air, or even confronting his colleagues with God’s Word. When someone asked why he was acting so differently, he said, “Well, I guess you could say I re-found the faith that I grew up with as a kid.”
The shock jocks saw Frank as a good-natured target. “Did you talk with Jesus today, Captain Frank?” Imus would ask him on the air. Frank would respond with a smile, telling him yes, and they’d banter back and forth. Howard Stern was more biting. But the jabs began taking a toll, and Reed started to consider resigning.
“Thankfully, I had a really good pastor that I was sitting under,” he told me. “His name was Clyde Michener. And I was talking to him one day and he said, ‘Look, whatever you do, don’t leave there because it gets a little uncomfortable. When you’re supposed to leave there, God will make it crystal clear.’ I’ll never forget it. It was such a word from God.”
As Christians, we regularly interact with a hostile culture, along with people and personalities that can sometimes try our patience and even try and put us on the defensive about our Biblical convictions. It’s the mature and faithful Christian who doesn’t run, but rather leans into the opportunity the Lord puts before us – even, in the case of Frank Reed, interacting with shock jocks on the radio.
You can catch Frank on “Keep the Faith” Sunday mornings from 6am-noon in Dallas on 94.9 KLTY, or listen anywhere on the KLTY app or stream at KLTY.com.