Oakland Magazine – May 07

By Ginny Prior

Big Rick Stuart is hard to pin down. When he’s not hosting the 4 p.m.–10 p.m. slot on KFOG, the popular radio rocker at 104.5 FM, he’s mountain biking, motorcycle racing or taking friends out on his boat at the Oakland Yacht Club. He’s also a rabid Raider’s fan; so I was able to catch up with him at Ricky’s Sports Bar in San Leandro.

Who gave you the name “Big Rick Stuart”?
My first radio job ever, I went on the air using my first name, Richard—which I shortened to Rich—and my last name. It was up in Clear Lake, and the guy who came in after me said, “What’s your middle name?” I said, “Stuart.” He said, “From now on you’re Rick Stuart, because every time you said your name it sounded like you were sneezing.”

And where did the “Big” come from? Does it just describe your linebacker physique?
Actually, I went from Clear Lake to my college station at USF. So, I was a freshman in college, and I’d been doing radio for like a month, and everyone made fun of me and said, “Who are you? Big Rick? Are you Big Rick now that you have a paying job?” It was kind of a joke at first. It’s lasted 35 years.
When you were doing afternoons at Live 105 in the ’90s, you had a traffic guy named Sal Castaneda. You guys really clicked.

Working with Sal Castaneda was great. He’s really talented. I love watching him on [KTVU] Channel 2.
But to me he’s still this little voice on the cue speaker saying, “OK, I’m ready in 10 seconds.” And in 11 seconds the cell phone would cut out. We’re still friends to this day.

It seemed like you could really cut loose at Live 105. Does KFOG let you be as creative as you’d like?
Wolfman Jack—and he’s one of my heroes—had a great saying. He said, “It isn’t about Wolfman. My job is to make it fun to listen to the music you like.” So, as opposed to a talk show, where you’re filling up the hour with your incredible brilliance, which I would be a complete failure at, if I run out of something to say, I just press the button and there’s a cool song.

You’ve had some pretty sweet voice-over gigs—even a video game.
I had one pretty good game for Electronic Arts—a motorcycle riding game. I was the track announcer. I was [yelling out stuff] like, “Oh, my, God, I can’t believe it!” I was kind of like the John Madden of the game. Talk about a really different world. Radio is this live thing. This was more like perfecting something over and over.

What’s this penchant you have for motorcycle racing? Live radio isn’t enough of an adrenaline rush?
I don’t know. I just try to do things. I think it makes you more of an interesting person. And I think that leads to a bigger understanding of who listens to my show. But the motorcycle racing—I’m really slow; I’m really bad at it.

Any embarrassing bloopers you want to share?
A band called Rage Against the Machine had an album called Guerilla Radio, as in freedom-fighter guerillas. We were doing this big promotion, and you were supposed to hear the secret sound and call in, starting on my show on Friday afternoon. Off the air, I played the sound, and it was a monkey gorilla. I told someone, “Do you realize how stupid this is going to sound? We should have someone re-record this.” And they said, “We can’t. Everyone’s gone.” It was a total WKRP moment.


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