September 29, 2008

Love Him, Hate Him, Tesh Is A Success

By Eric Stark

Even John Tesh doesn't think of himself as cool - just tolerable.

That's where the debate begins: How much Tesh can you stand? Is he likable, or is he annoying? You decide.

This is the same guy who played a Klingon for an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and wrote the popular NBA theme song for NBC.

Google Tesh on the Internet and you'll find comments like "I hate John Tesh" and "Tesh is a tool."

For some, Tesh resentment began during the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, and escalated in 1996 during the Atlanta Olympics. His commentary during the gymnastics competitions at those events was deemed too dramatic. Bob Costas, the face of NBC sports for nearly three decades, said the following on "The Tonight Show": "As an Olympic commentator, John Tesh is a great piano player."


"For some reason, people love to hate me," Tesh said during a recent telephone interview. "I don't even Google my name anymore."

Then there's this: More than 8 million people listen to his radio show, which is heard on more than 300 stations nationwide. He's sold more than 7 million albums during his career and has written a best- selling book. His many awards include six Emmys.

He's doing something right. His radio show, "Music and Intelligence for Your Life," which airs locally on WARM-FM 103.3 from 7 p.m. to midnight, won two Radio Ink Readers' Choice Awards in 2006 for best daily music program and best weekly music program. WARM is sponsoring Tesh's 7 p.m. concert Friday, Oct. 3, at Calvary Church in Manheim Township. Tickets cost $20 to $150 and are available at or by calling 877-801-4995.

Tesh stays clear of sappy talk and dedications on the radio. He concentrates on providing facts to his listeners, sort of like an on- air coach. There's no celebrity birthdays, no gossip. The show started in 2003 as a way to serve his wife, actress Connie Selleca, who between a career and parenting never had time to read. His researchers collect snippets of information - from tips on finance and dressing for important meetings to did-you-knows like "Air is an ingredient in ice cream" - which Tesh delivers in less than two minutes. Quick hits of practical info.

"I'm not a personality," he said. "I'm a quarterback no one remembers. I have 10 great researchers. It is important that I'm not getting in the way of the information."

The show's battle cry: If it doesn't move you forward in life, you won't hear it. The format keeps growing in its primary demographic, women ages 25 to 54, but both genders are listening.

"We're getting guy listeners now, which is very unusual," Tesh said. "They won't admit they are listening to Tesh, but I get e- mails from their wives."

A former news anchor, Tesh is still recognized from "Entertainment Tonight," which he co-hosted with Mary Hart from 1986 to 1996. He left the show because its racy content was a bad fit for his family.

"I don't do a Christian show on the radio or tour, but it is a Christian guy doing the show," he said.

At the Oct. 3 concert, expect musical variety - gospel, hip-hop and Christian music - and talk about Tesh's life. He wants to motivate people to pursue their passions.

"I'm not Billy Joel or Elton John," he said. "I'm the guy who used to read the news that you just paid to listen [to me] play the piano. If I can do this, so can you. You should go after whatever you are passionate about."

Staff writer Eric Stark discusses trends and tidbits in broadcast media each week in the Sunday News. He can be reached at [email protected]

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