Jamey Johnson kicked some dust up and had quite a few of his fans fist pumping Friday night, August 12th when he took the stage in Lincoln, Nebraska as part of the Lincoln on the Street event, and berated the local radio station, New Country KX 96.9. The radio station brought three of their on-air personalities out after opener Blackberry Smoke was done performing to promote the radio station and Jamey Johnson, and Jamey didn’t take too kindly to the presentation.
“I thought we had a good deal worked out. Y’all don’t play my music, and I don’t play yours, so stay the fuck off my stage! ‘Kicks’ whatever the fuck your name is, who gives a shit?’” Johnson said to the crowd.
After the incident, multiple employees of the radio station took to social media to tell their side of the story, and Saving Country Music reached out to the station’s Content Creator, Rob Kelley, for comment. Kelley also happens to be the individual who helps curate the country list for all of the country radio stations owned by Alpha Media, which operates 250 radio stations across the United States, including numerous country stations.
Rob Kelley of Alpha Media confirmed that even though the station’s morning show did take the stage for a presentation, they did not personally play any music during the set break that may have riled Jamey Johnson or the crowd up. They also were on stage 15 to 20 minutes prior to Jamey Johnson performing, not right before he took the stage.
Rob Kelley has also confirmed that the station received an apology from Jamey Johnson’s management team for the “outburst” on Saturday evening (8-13) after video of the incident had gone viral. Jamey Johnson’s management said they will no longer have radio station presentations before or between his performances.
Rob Kelley tells Saving Country Music about the KX 96.9 morning show personalities who were part of the presentation, “They were personally hurt more than anything else, because they’re all fans. That’s the worst part. Our station is kind of unique. Are we a mainstream station? Yes we are. But we also play a lot of Red Dirt music, not in a huge rotation, but we also play music that’s way out of the box compared to other stations. I’ve probably got 400 spins on Bailey Zimmerman. I bet I’ve got 400 spins on Zach Bryan. Both of those songs are in medium on my playlist. We do have a corporate recommended list, but it really only comes down to about 20 songs with the hits that are happening right now. We play Aaron Watson. We play Wade Bowen.”
Others have pointed out seeing American Aquarium, Randall King, and Mike and the Moonpies also in the rotation over the last 24 hours. Though KX 96.9 were not the money promoters behind the Lincoln on the Streets event, the radio station was the publicity promoter for the event, and had been posting about it for months.
“We’ve been in partnership with the Bourbon Theater, which puts on Lincoln on the Streets, so it’s basically a community event. We’re promoting it through our socials, doing ticket giveaways for Jamey Johnson. So somewhere in the mix of this, management cleared us to be up there [on the stage] to do that. So it took us all by shock more than anything. We’ve never been despised by somebody like that on stage.”
Some of the DJs took it in stride though. On-air host “Husker” Nick Gregath took to Twitter after the incident to say, “Jamey Johnson just openly mocked me on stage because I’m the morning show guy and I am so fucking honored.”
Gregath was there with his father and father-in-law, who are also big Jamey Johnson fans. “For the record. I don’t give a shit what Jamey Johnson had to say about us,” Gareth continued. “I like his music. He has an image to keep up and if mocking us helped him out then cool, I’ll play my part. Only gripe I have he didn’t play mowin’ down the roses or lonesome song.”
It also appears that Jamey Johnson’s beef with country radio is not universal. As news of the incident spread, some DJ’s piped up about their positive experience with him.
“I work on air at a locally owned country music station in GA The Bear 92.5,” says Dustin Fordam. “We just did a show with Jamey Johnson a few weeks ago. He was super nice backstage and allowed us time all during the show in between acts to entertain his crowd as well … One of the best shows we hosted all year! Of course we do play his music as well as many other outlaw country artists!”
So Jamey Johnson’s issue appears to have been with KX 96.9 specifically, but Content Creator Rob Kelley says he understands why it happened.
“I’ve been playing Jamey Johnson’s music since ‘The Dollar.’ I get the whole thing, the anti-radio, anti-Nashville thing. I’ve heard it from other artists as well. It fires up your base in a similar way some politicians fire up their base. I get it. But to take a shot at somebody who is just trying to promote a community event, we’re just trying to get people there, and get people fired up, and even try to get mainstream people who listen to the radio station to come out and check this guy out because he’s cool, that’s what hurts. Sometimes ‘cool’ is not on the radio, and I get it. There have been a lot of artists that were the right artists at the wrong time. Jamey Johnson came out during a huge pop country thing. If Jamey came out today with artists like Ernest and stuff like that, he’d fit right into some of the stuff we’re doing.”
“I wish him no malice,” Rob Kelley continues. “If that’s the tactic that he would like to do to rile up his base, more power to him I guess. Unfortunately, we were out there to promote a community event, Lincoln on the Streets. He was the act, and we were trying to tell everyone in Lincoln how cool the guy was, and this is what he did to us. So, it’s how it goes.”