The Kyle Meredith Interview

Late last year, I wrote a story on Consequence of Sound interviewer/ WFPK Music Director Kyle Meredith for my gig at TOPS Louisville. It was intended to run in January of this year, but the issue ended up being a bit too full of content and it was bumped. Efforts to get the story rescheduled never quite panned out, so I’m presenting it here.

I found Kyle to be very sharp, knowledgeable, and possessing an innate curiosity and sense of empathy that I would say are the keys to his great ability as an interviewer. I think he’s a good guy, I’m happy for his success, and I’m also happy that this is finally seeing the light of day. 

This was written as he was moving towards securing his current gig on Morning Joe, something that he alludes to at the end. 

As follows:



WFPK Music Director and masterful interviewer Kyle Meredith has made quite a name for himself, all while being based right here in the Derby City. He’s a man who believes in reinvention and moving along to explore new ideas when the time is right. “I’m a fan of things having an ending,” he says, and then laments the fate of TV shows that linger past their prime. “There’s not too many shows that can still have fresh new ideas after the fifth season. I don’t want to be like a character on a show that’s been on too long.”

Looking over his career, you can see where Kyle has put this principle into practice ruthlessly over the years, continually moving from the comfortable to the challenging in search of the next big idea. He reminisces about his first experiments with radio, all the way back to being nine years old when he and his friends would record themselves on cassette making mock programming. “We had a kid who would do sports talk, we would DJ and do jokes and stuff. I don’t think that if you asked me then I would have had the presence of mind to tell you that I wanted to work in radio, but it was definitely something I was into.”

Music was always a passion and in 1998, before he was out of high school, he got a gig with a company that specialized in street level promotions on behalf of record companies. “I was on the phone with the interviewer, and I was claiming to be a college student because I knew that’s what they wanted,” Kyle remembers, “the guy asked me how many hours I was taking. I had absolutely no clue what that meant. I just said I wasn’t sure, and after a pause, the guy said ‘Oh yeah, man, who keeps up?’ Luckily, they really needed somebody in this area, so I was hired.” It would be the first small step on a remarkable journey that no one could predict.

That job put him into continual contact with local music stores, venues, and radio stations. When an internship opened up at LRS a couple of years later in 2000, Kyle jumped on it. He took it seriously and stuck with it when others did not, and doors kept opening. He would end up on the air for the night shift, then the afternoon drive time, then he became music director at just 21 years of age. This all happened inside of nine months. It was too much too soon. “I wasn’t ready for that,” he laments, “I don’t know if anybody could be at that age. I couldn’t make it last.”

Although he lost that job, Kyle stayed on the radio waves. He found himself on DJX as the self-described “stunt guy” during the morning show. “I was doing things like going out in the cold wearing silly costumes and sticking microphones in people’s faces while they’re just trying to pump their gas or whatever, asking them goofy questions that they didn’t want to answer,” Kyle recalls. It didn’t feel like he was living his best life, and when the opportunity to work on the other side of the industry again came along within a few years, he took it.

Kyle found himself as a band promoter, something that he enjoyed doing for five years, representing top groups. However, when he heard the word in 2008 that there was an opening at WFPK, he was intrigued and, looking for another new horizon, checked it out. “I went after it because I heard that they had an opening on the night shift, but I missed it. They had filled it just before I came in.” Undaunted, he worked as a fill-in host and pitched a few ideas for shows. One of them made the cut, and that became Weekly Feed, a series that Kyle describes as ” a wrap up of the web’s biggest, newest and most discussed songs creating buzz in blog land.” It was a hit, so much so that it found national syndication…and soon won Kyle the position of music director at WFPK. This time he was ready, and he still holds that position today.

Weekly Feed was a hit, but true to form, Kyle still ended it after six years and started Speed of Sound in 2013, a series dedicated to interviewing musicians, usually gleaming golden nuggets of information in seven minute installments. Interviewing had been his favorite part of the Weekly Feed and his natural aptitude for candid conversation has taken him far. The pedigree of the guests on Speed of Sound was mind-boggling. Paul McCartney, Tori Amos, Emmylou Harris, Styx, and John Cale to name just a few of his guests.

Kyle brought Speed of Sound to a close at the end of 2016 and boiled his technique into a longer form series called Kyle Meredith With…, a program devoted to longer form interviews that is a partnership between WFPK and Consequence of Sound, a hugely successful and influential website devoted to exploring music. He says that the key for successful interviewing is simple: “Ask the question and then shut up. If you shut up, they keep talking, and that’s when they get into their deeper truths.” Kyle is also a big advocate for doing the due diligence and heavily researching his guests so that when they have their conversation he’s prepared for almost anything. He attributes his success to hustling and pitching, always looking for ways to keep building. “So many times, things have worked out for me because I just kept at it, kept showing up. It’s amazing how often that ended up being the key.” 

So what’s next for Kyle Meredith? “There is something that I’m working on that might be a big deal that I’m not quite ready to speak about,” Kyle says, coyly. “I won’t make any promises because it might not pan out, but if it does…I will just say it will be very exciting.”

One thing is certain where this young man is concerned- whatever he does, it’s sure to be remarkable.   






Kyle has conducted hundreds of interviews over the years with notable musicians. These are a few of his favorites.

1. Paul McCartney- “The first thing that I heard when I answered my phone was that familiar voice saying ‘Oh hey, Kyle!’ That was it, I felt like that was my entire resume right there.”  What was originally slated to be a quick Q and A became a real and lively conversation, complete with Paul talking warmly about his time with the Louisville Lip himself, Muhammad Ali.


  1. U2- Kyle was flown to Chicago along with a few other journalists to see the band perform and even attend a soundcheck ahead of the show. The handlers told him and the others to not engage with the band, but Bono had other ideas. “He saw us and immediately started talking to us and got right with us…then when he sang, he was standing right next to me! I knew the words to the song, so I sang along.” Luckily, Bono was amused. “So technically, I can say that I sang a duet with Bono.” The next day his interview with the Edge and Adam Clayton was nearly undone by technical difficulties, but it was fortunately salvaged.


  1. Dwight Yoakam- The country legend invited Kyle on his tour bus for a somewhat raucous talk, one that Dwight enjoyed so much that he didn’t want it to end. “The stage manager kept kind of banging on the door telling him it was time to go stage, but we just kept right on talking.” Dwight’s parents lived in Louisville and he was born in Pikeville, so he decided to take all the time he liked with a fellow Kentuckian.


  1. Father John Misty- Over a series of interviews, Kyle has managed to become friendly with the critically acclaimed artist known as Father John Misty, and Kyle has continued to be granted interviews with him even after he has largely disengaged from doing any other press. At one point when Misty was engaged in a bit of a feud with Taylor Swift, Kyle asked him off air if he wanted to discuss it on the record. “He just said ‘Why don’t you ask me when we’re on the air, we’ll see where it goes.’ He ended up going into very deep detail on the matter, and I let it unfold.” It would seem that the trust that Kyle builds and allows to flourish might just be his greatest strength. 







Gene Vincent in 1960

gene and friends

The plane touched down at Heathrow airport in the early morning of the 5th of December, 1959. It was a Saturday. Gene Vincent sauntered out, his bum leg a constant cruel companion and reminder of that bad motorcycle accident just before fame and stardom came for him. Looking out, he was shocked at what he saw. His life would never be the same. Although it was the crack of dawn on a weekend morning, a huge crowd had amassed. Newspaper photographers snapped shots. Executives from radio, record companies, and television all jockeyed for attention. Best of all, fans screamed and cheered on their genuine rock ‘n’ roll idol, come to conquer and hold court.


This was a fantastic relief, for pickings back in the American homeland were growing leaner by the day as the decade grew to a close. As fast as it had come on the scene, rock ‘n’ roll in all its rebellious fury had cooled to freezing temperatures. After that other plane had crashed and extinguished the lives of Buddy, the Bopper, and Ritchie Valens, after Elvis joined the army and let them cut his hair, after Jerry Lee’s controversial marrying habits hit the public scene, after Little Richard made his first flip flop back to the church, after Chuck got arrested on trumped up Mann act charges, after the top of the charts got free and clear to be populated by pre-fab cats like Fabian…well, by the time the Payola scandal hit, it was almost like overkill. Things got tough, gigs dried up. The Blue Caps were a large band with a lot of members, and Gene couldn’t pay them all. It got ugly. The taxman, always a mortal enemy to rock, loomed large over the home of Gene Vincent.


Home just then was the American northwest. Gene had been living in Oregon with his second wife and first child, Darlene and Melody, respectively. By all accounts, he loved his family and tried to do right by them, but as was often the case, Gene’s self destructive streak caused problems. Booze and pills were as ever present as milk and bread are in most homes. He waved guns around. Sometimes, they went off. Gene would get pick-up gigs in the surrounding area, showing up and playing with bar bands for a few hundred bucks, but that was just another let down. The more time elapsed between Be-Bop-A-Lula, his lone big hit, and the present tense, the worse he got. A new manager named Norm Riley knew just the thing to get traction under Gene’s raggedly spinning ass- somehow, he found out that England wanted rock ‘n’ roll, even if America had given it up and only wanted to fill its ears with milksop. As Gene stepped foot in the United Kingdom for the first time, it was like destiny fulfilled. The crowd needed Gene as much as Gene needed the crowd.


The day after he landed, Gene was guest star on a bill with some of England’s best efforts at capturing the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll; Terry Dene, Vince Eager, Dickie Pride, Johnny Gentle, and the ostensible main attraction, Marty Wilde. If you guessed that those names were probably not on the birth certificates of any of the above, you would be correct. Every act on the line-up was in the employ of one Larry Parnes. Parnes, a self styled show-biz impresario and Svengali, later a hero to Malcom McLaren, who would make a name managing his own outrageously named boys Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious in the Sex Pistols, had been spending most of the previous decade grooming young men into “all-around entertainers” with a hint of sordid danger and drama. They were designed to scratch the itch young rock fans felt when those hit records from America weren’t often followed by world tours from most of their performers. Parnes wasted no time booking the genuine article when the chance emerged.


“We want Gene! We want Gene!” the audience chanted, and then they absolutely erupted when the man himself limped on stage. Marty Wilde’s band backed him up, after only one single rehearsal. There was really no need for more, since knowing Gene Vincent’s tunes was de riguer for any band worth its salt. The lead guitarist was one Joe Brown, and it was unlike anything he had seen or been a part of. “Gene’s voice was great and much louder than the band. There were lots of screaming girls,” Joe recalled, “and as a musician, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t just listen to the music.”

Photo of Gene Vincent

Impressed by Joe, Gene would take him along to join the house band as he appeared on Boy Meets Girl, a television series produced by Jack Good, a man who would later find great success with the programs Ready Steady Go! and Shindig. Gene appeared on the show, snarling, howling, and waving his microphone stand around like a madman in what would become his trademark, a full eight years before Elvis and his comeback: black leather. Rockers of Europe paid close attention, including the Beatles, who later mimicked his shiny, dark as midnight wardrobe. Previously, Gene favored bright reds and greens in stage wear, wild patterned shirts and white pants. Good would take ultimate credit for the sartorial switch, with a very British sense of origin: “Gene wore a leg iron,” Good would say, “so he hobbled a bit. I was a Shakespeare fan, so hobbling to me meant Richard III. I even thought of giving him a hunchback, and I’m glad I didn’t! Then I thought, ‘He can also be moody like Hamlet’, so we’ll dress him in black from head to toe and put a medallion round his neck.”

gene_vincent leather

At the start of the show, Gene came on without an intro and ripped through 11 songs. Be-Bop-A-Lula, Summertime, Baby Blue, Frankie And johnny, Blue Jean Bop, Say Mama, Five Days, I Got a Baby, Rocky Road Blues, Right Here On Earth, and Wild Cat came exploding out like bullets from one of Gene’s guns. The tape would be divided and aired over the course of three decidedly better than average episodes of the series over the course of a month. Meanwhile, Gene enjoyed one concert after another in which crowds went wild at his antics. Joe’s mind continued to be blown. “Gene liked me to crouch down so that he could swing his bad leg over my head,” Joe reminisced. “He was very accident prone and at one stage he was in plaster up to his thigh. He swung his leg up in the usual way, but caught me on the side of the head. It knocked me flat and squashed my guitar.”


Memories of indifferent American crowds and other tribulations and indignities faded like a bad dream as Europe unfolded and opened up for him as easily as unwrapping a piece of candy. Another TV show in Paris led to another maddened crowd, and then Gene wrapped up the end of December with a string of shows in Germany. Once back in England, he played a show in Kingston where a young fan named Adrian Owlett saw him for the first time. “After that there was no one else,” Owlett would later say, ‘Presley? Forget it. When he got out of the army, we went to see G.I. Blues, and it was just total disbelief watching Elvis turn into a wimp….Gene never became a wimp.”


With time, Owlett would become a producer and manage Gene in the UK, but unfortunately, not before Don Arden beat him to it. Becoming known since as “Mr.Big,” “the English Godfather,” “the Al Capone of pop,” and by any number of less printable monickers, Arden began a notorious career as a rock music manager with Gene. He would cheat him and suck at his income like a vampire, and then in the years to come go on to do the same to the Small Faces, the Move, the Electric Light Orchestra and Black Sabbath. In that final case, his antics cost him his relationship with his daughter, Sharon, the future wife of Ozzy Osbourne. Interestingly enough, Arden had begun his career as a performer himself before he went on to screw them over- he had sang for crowds in black face and impersonated Elvis Presley before the post mortem trend to do so. Ever attracted to the spotlight, once he got his hooks in Gene, he would even serve as MC at his shows.


gene eddie

Gene’s old friend -or what would count as one to a man living fast in his mid-twenties- Eddie Cochran soon made the British scene, there at the end of that January. As has been celebrated in print, film, television, and song, few could hang as tight with Gene as Eddie, and vice versa. Darlene visited about the same time that Eddie came over to play, she would say “him and Gene would stay up half the night, playing their guitars and acting crazy.” Joe Brown was with the duo constantly, he remembers “Gene was extremely strange. He had a very strong death wish. He was always buying guns and knives, and he was in a lot of pain with that leg…He was sort of a natural lunatic. He never shot anybody with those guns he had, but he sure frightened a lot of people. Me and Eddie Cochran used to keep an eye on him. Eddie was sort of an older brother to Gene and looked after him.” This was perhaps particularly telling, as Gene was the elder of the two, and Eddie was really hardly more than a lad.


Joe continued, “Gene would be sitting there looking sort of maudlin, and Eddie Would ask ‘Are you OK, Gene?’ and Gene would say ‘Eddie, tell Hal (that’s Hal Carter, the road manager) to get me a hamburger.’ Or if someone was bothering him, he’d say ‘Eddie, get this guy outta here! He’s buggin’ me!” Perhaps Gene said it best, in an interview years later: “Eddie and I were as close as two guys can get without being queer.”

gene and eddie

As tough as things had been for Gene, they were equally rosy for Eddie. He had won the heart of a songwriter named Sharon Sheely. They were quite a talented couple- she had written Poor Little Fool, which was based on her experience dating one of the Everly Brothers. Ricky Nelson had his first hit with that track, putting a nice paycheck in her purse. Her and Eddie worked together in the studio, and they were a good fit. They were well on their way to great things. Increasingly, the studio was the domain of Eddie Cochran. Following the legendarily tragic plane crash that took away the immortal trio, Eddie lost interest in doing much traveling. Touring in those days was a shady proposition for those young entertainers. The record labels saw them as part of a fad at best, potential public relations problems at worst. Town to town they would face angry protesters, backwards minded people resented  “race music” becoming pop music.  Promoters left them out to dry in horrible conditions, shoddy vehicular accommodations were entirely too common. The law of averages was against anybody traveling like that so frequently back then. Perhaps one scrape too many and losing friends and contemporaries left Eddie with premonitions of an early death. And besides, he wanted to stick around the studio. He had been producing sessions. Instrumentals, pop tunes, doo wop, it was all wide open. The outtakes of recordings from that period are revelatory. Here was a kid, no more than 20, calling the shots with men twice his age. His skills at over dubbing were uncanny; on one recording, he cut both guitar parts and finishes recording the Third Man Theme with just a few more seconds to spare than it takes to listen to it, start to finish.


When the long distance call came from a very excited Gene, Eddie was initially reluctant, but the stories of the glory happening in the Land of Avalon were finally enough to convince him. He had one major condition that needed to be met: he flew over on a for real jet airliner and not a small plane, and then travel by land for his time there.


Gene and Eddie would co-headline England’s first ever total rock ‘n’ roll tour, a Larry Parnes production billed as “A Fast Moving Anglo-American Beat Show” with Tony Sheridan (who would record with the Beatles a few years later), Joe Brown, and Eddie Cochran in the first half, then George Fame, Billy Fury, Billy Raymond, and Gene Vincent to close the show. Gene was billed as “The Rock ‘N’ Roll Idol Of Millions.” Audiences often merely tolerated their countrymen on the bill, who were as in awe as they were jealous of the yanks. “The first thing I noticed about Eddie was his complexion,” Marty Wilde recalled,  “we British lads had acne, and Eddie walked in with the most beautiful hair and the most beautiful skin – his skin was a light brown, a beautiful color with all that California sunshine, and I thought, ‘You lucky devil.'”  George Fame was astounded at Eddie’s talent. He would tell the press years later “we were told to report to this club in Soho to meet them. I remember Eddie playing guitar and we were astounded. Apart from his own stuff, he could do all that brilliant finger-style stuff that Chet Atkins did. Then he played this amazing intro to What’d I Say, and apart from a few blues enthusiasts who had the Ray Charles record, nobody had heard it before. He played What’d I Say every night and within six months, every band in the country was playing it.”


The first night of the tour would be the worst, as the gang faced Glasgow, often called “The Death Place” by those in show biz. The crowd was reverent towards the American rockers, but Billy Fury faced a hail of glass bottles. Undaunted, the tour rolled on. London, Cardiff, Manchester, Leeds, they took them all by storm as the months flew by. Jack Good captured for posterity a number of great performances of and between Gene and Eddie, principle among them an absolutely scorching rendition of White Lightning. The moments were fleeting, more than anyone knew.


Darlene left for home. “There was no way I could be a real mother, living out of a suitcase,” she said. Plus, Gene had knocked her up again. “Gene thought it was great. He was happy and wanted to have a boy. But I wasn’t so sure. We had a lot of problems. Gene sort of had a split personality.One side was an angel, the other side was the Devil.” Just as Darlene left, Sharon arrived to join her young love. As much as Darlene disliked the wild life on the road, Sharon seemed to embrace it, staying up late with the fellas and cutting up with them, ever devoted to Eddie. As fate would decide, she would be with him on a horrible night in April. Spring had arrived, the boys and the girl were taking a few days to return to the States and take a look around before returning to Britain to tour around the land that had become their new home away from home.


The three piled into the back of a cab in the late night of the 16th of April, 1960. It was a Saturday. They were on their way from Bristol to London and the Heathrow airport. The driver lost control of the vehicle, and, it is said in an effort to protect her, Eddie moved over Sharon, slamming his head on the car’s ceiling. He would never regain consciousness, and he died the next day.


Gene Vincent would never be the same.


gene broken