WASHINGTON — May 6 has been proclaimed Sports Junkies Day by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
On this day in 1996, The Junkies made their debut on 106.7 WJFK-FM.
It was a different time: the world didn’t yet know Monica Lewinsky, Tupac was still riding, D.C. was without baseball and Heath Shuler was still a quarterback for the Washington Redskins.
On May 6, four pals from Prince George’s County, Md. first cracked the microphones, hitting the nation’s capital with a fraternal energy that would buzz through social circles around the Beltway for decades to come.
Early Junkies listeners didn’t quite know the meaning of the word “silly,” not in the way they were hearing it used, anyway. Though they would soon embrace a lingo they would never stop having to explain.
Former Junkies producers, entertainment reporters and guests have all hit it big time — you’ll find remnants of their legacy sprinkled throughout the media landscape at large. Even the man who gave them their first break is a producer for Howard Stern.
It all began with the humblest beginning in 1995, a cable access television show in Prince George’s County. For John-Paul Flaim, Eric Bickel, John Auville and Jason Bishop, their chemistry, four friends ribbing each other over their latest flub — or “botch” — was the bedrock to their success. It was organic, fresh, not some banal concoction cooked up in a Corporate laboratory.
It’s what grabbed the attention of late Washington Times columnist Dick Heller, compelling him to spread the word to his readers:
These four guys had been talking sports since they were kids, see, and they thought it would be cool to do it on TV. So they got this show on a cable-access station – sort of like Wayne and Garth – and now they’re knocking ’em dead all across Bowie.
It wasn’t quite that simple, but almost. And guess what? Their show, “The Sports Junkies,” is good – very good, in fact. Original programs and reruns are shown on Bowie Community Television on Tuesdays at 4 p.m., Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and Fridays at 9 p.m.
That column ran in The Times on Monday, March 25, 1996. That day, they were invited to the WJFK studios in Fairfax, Va. by Assistant Program Director Jim McClure to put together a demo tape. Soon after, they were given a regular on-air role, Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., on WJFK’s “New Sports Weekend.”
Their rapid rise continued: A year later, after their weekend duties were expanded to include Sundays, The Junkies were hired full-time to replace another D.C. radio staple, Doug “The Greaseman” Tracht, on weeknights. From 1999 to 2002, they reached national appeal with their show in syndication on radio stations across the country.
From there, they moved to mornings on alternative-formatted 99.1-WHFS — with dual-market reach between D.C. and Baltimore — for three years, then to middays back on WJFK in 2005, and finally to their current home, mornings on WJFK, in 2006. Ratings success followed them at every stop along the way.
The Junkies celebrated their milestone in their own self-mocking way Friday morning, listening back to recordings of their early broadcasts while cringing at the regional Maryland accents they’ve since purged from their dialects.
They were also treated to a special surprise, congratulatory well wishes from celebrity friends of the show: comedians Frank Caliendo, Tom Arnold, Bob Marley and Rich Vos, Redskins QB Kirk Cousins, and fellow radio hosts, SiriusXM’s Gregg “Opie” Hughes and Jim Norton (with whom they once shared a radio lineup).
Remaining on the air 20 years is a milestone seldom reached in the radio industry. Think of all the shows you’ve listened to through the course of your life. Any of them still around?