By Johnny Griffith
Chances are that at some point over the last 25(ish) years or so your radio dial has ended up on 89.5 KVNE, either by accident or by design, and if so, then you heard this really, really positive morning show guy over there named Mike Harper.
You might have wondered, as I often have, how could a person be that positive in the mornings, but upon getting to actually know the man, you realize that this condition doesn’t just affect him in the mornings; Mike Harper is this positive a vast majority of his waking hours.
Perhaps it’s born of a realization of the blessings in his life and appreciation of the fact he gets to enjoy mild Texas winters instead of being stuck in the deep freeze of his original hometown Cincinnati. Or perhaps it’s truly a by-product of doing what you love and loving what you do. Either way, we decided to sit down with the “Voice of Encouragement” and get a better picture of the man behind the mic.
Johnny: I read somewhere that you did a stint in the marching band. What instrument did you play?
Mike: I played the bass drum because it was the loudest. Seriously. I only knew one volume. Deafening.
Johnny: Being from Cincinnati, who are you more interested in trying to get an autograph from: Pete Rose, Boomer Esiason, Peter Frampton, or Venus Flytrap?
Mike: Pete is my sports hero, and I already have a couple of his autographs. I love Frampton, so he’d be next. I can relate to Venus, so he’s a close third. No offense, Boomer.
Johnny: I’ve read bits and pieces of your bio on the web. What prompted you to leave what had to be at the time, a decent, if predictable, career for something that was the opposite of predictable?
Mike: I’m thankful for my 13 years with General Motors, but I’m not sure I would’ve survived another 13. It appears I’m missing the “large, heavy, industrial-equipment” gene. My injuries were mounting, not only to my flesh and bone, but to my central nervous system as well. I think I did everyone a favor by getting out of there. Others may have also gotten hurt if I didn’t exit soon. (I notice, however, that the company has never been the same since my departure in 1990.) I also realized my heart was in more creative and musical endeavors, so when the opportunity came to jump into Christian radio, and my lovely wife and life partner Lois said, “Go for it,” I ran to Tyler like Rocky did after Adrian said, “WIN!”
Johnny: When did the idea first hit you that you could “do” radio?
Mike: When I was a toddler listening to 1360 AM WSAI in Cincinnati in the early 1960’s, I applied for the job, but they had a rule that all employees must be potty trained.
Johnny: When and where was your first radio gig?
Mike: WNSD, 1976, senior year at Colerain High in Cincinnati, doing the lunch hour. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was so cool. I’m sure some FCC laws were broken.
Johnny: How did your journey detour to Tyler from Cincinnati? What has kept you here this long?
Mike: I love Tyler! This has been a dream come true. Huge vats of God’s favor has been dumped on me with a loving family, a fantastic place to work, and more friends than I deserve. We actually bought a home in Forney to be closer to our kids and grandkids, but I still spend most of my waking hours in the Rose Capital. And we have Stanley’s BBQ here! So I’m here to stay.
Johnny: What brought you to the Christian radio market?
Mike: A Blue Geo Metro (badump bump). Seriously though, living in Shreveport at the time, I was a new Christian and always loved radio. When I heard about KVNE, I drove to Tyler to inquire about volunteering. I offered to do whatever was needed, but of course I hoped to land an on-air gig. There happened to be a Saturday afternoon shift available, and within a few weeks I was on as a part time DJ. I knew very little about Christian music, but I was a new believer, and doggone it, it was RADIO! I would have done it for free. I kept that part to myself; I think that was wise.
Johnny: So you’ve been on air with KVNE since the late 80’s and have certainly seen much evolution in the Christian music scene, who were your favorite artists, by decade since you’ve been in the business?
Mike: Well in the 80’s it was Petra; 90’s: DeGarmo and Key; 00’s: Third Day; 10’s Tobymac; with an Honorable Mention: Rich Mullins, Sara Groves, Steve Taylor, Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, MercyMe, and Picasso. (Just seeing if you’re paying attention.)
Johnny: Are there any local artists that have come along during your tenure who really stick out?
Mike: Dallas Holm, Paul Baloche, and The Tuxedo Cats.
Johnny: Every organization has its individual strengths and weaknesses, where do you feel KVNE hits it out of the park as far as accomplishing its mission?
Mike: A definite home run in recent years has been in community outreach. We have been very present in East Texas through billboards, hosting mini concerts, partnering with other ministries to collect food, supplies, clothes, and even Valentines.
We help promote local events and show up with our station van to encourage and pray with attendees. We’ve been able to put our tent in front of local businesses for our “Prayer Stops,” the purpose of which is to simply be there to pray for anyone who needs it. And, really, who doesn’t need it.
Johnny: What have been some of the challenges along the way with focusing on family, focusing on the job, the always awkward work hours, and managing to maintain a semblance of the positivity you are famous for?
Mike: As our four kids grew up, one by one they started to move away: three to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, one to the Houston area. (Was it something I said?) Two of our sons who live near the metroplex have since given us a total of three grandchildren. We knew then that we had to be closer, so we moved to Forney.
This has been such a life changer. I now commute 170-miles round trip about 15 times a month. I won’t pretend it’s easy, but I get a chance to see my grands much more often, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As Tobymac said, “I wanna be a daddy who’s in the mix.” They can’t get rid of me!
Johnny: Speaking of family, when is the next generation of Harper’s going to be hitting the airwaves?
Mike: You can hear the “Owen and Pops Show” coming soon to a radio near you. (He’s 4 years old. How did he get an agent so soon? Especially one who finagled his way to top billing?)
Johnny: As you sign off daily from your time on the air, what do you hope you’ve at least managed to accomplish?
Mike: I hope we’ve encouraged someone with word of hope or a laugh. And if I can get through a morning show without spilling anything, that’s always a victory.
Mike can be heard at 89.5 FM (kvne.com/mike) on the radio or online weekday mornings along with co-host Carrie Parsons from 6-10am.
No puns were harmed in the making of this article.