Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Anyone who's lived in the Lowcountry for any length of time will remember the old radio station, Q107. But even more memorable was the morning team of Michael D and Kato. Back in the day, the Michael D and Kato radio morning show “The Rude Awakening” was kind of a big deal. WKQB “Q107” was considered the No. 1 hit music station in Charleston in 1988, before Hurricane Hugo all but destroyed the station one year later.
They were considered hilarious, but obnoxious shock jocks, Michael D went to the dogs and is now a veterinarian. Kato, real name Chris Watson, is now a published author.
A Mount Pleasant resident, Watson has just released a paranormal murder mystery set in Charleston, titled “The Handyman,” published by Holladay House. It's a partly dark comedy about a redneck psychic who lives right here in Mount Pleasant – on Six Mile Road, in fact. Watson figured locals were overdue for a good story and said it's the first in a series, all of which will be buried up to their necks in the Lowcountry.
“I appreciate Pat Conroy, Dorothea Benton Frank and Karen White as much as anyone, but I feel it's time we had a protagonist who saw Charleston through a less SOB (South of Broad), more blue-collar perspective,” he said, “with sarcasm and swear words and rednecks who talk to dead people.”
Watson currently works as managing editor and senior producer for a very large New York-based radio network whose reputation he swore he wouldn't tarnish by revealing their association.
John Wright is a tattooed, pick-up-driving, beer-drinkin' son of the South. He swaggers when he walks, twangs when he talks and doesn't much care what anyone thinks about it. And lately, he's also finding he can see ghosts and talk to the dead. It's putting a real hitch in his plans to kill himself.
A year ago, John was a new husband and father, a young construction contractor in Charleston, South Carolina working hard to build a future. Then came the accident that killed his wife and infant daughter. Now he makes ends meet as a handyman, struggling with post traumatic stress, drowning his guilt in bourbon every night, planning the way he'll end his suffering. Until he meets an old Charleston blue blood who suspects her daughter's apparent suicide was actually murder — and the victim herself calls on John to avenge her death. Either John is going mad, or he truly can speak to the dead. And he realizes the only way to find out the truth is to put aside his own pain and listen to the ghostly voice that will lead him to a murderer.
Watson loves this character because John Wright is the last person in the world who would believe in psychic phenomena and the last person in the world anyone would expect to be a psychic. “You take someone who doesn't believe in something and drop it in their lap and watch how they deal with it,” Watson said.
Watson said his character has a very gritty, blue collar, redneck humor that is evident, even when things get really dark.
“The Handyman” puts a new twist on a familiar genre with the unforgettable character of John Wright. His no-nonsense redneck outlook and dry Southern humor both lighten the novel's darker themes and anchor the supernatural elements, making for a rollicking read with an unexpected ending. “The Handyman” is engaging, suspenseful, frequently moving and always fun. “The Handyman” is available from Holladay House Publishing in stores and online. Visit www.holladayhousepublishing.com and www.amazon.com for more information.
Watson was an Airforce brat who was born in Alaska and moved around so much that he lived in eight states and two foreign countries before graduating from high school. He went on to college in North Carolina and got a radio job to work his way through college. Watson moved to Charleston in 1986 to take the job with Q107. His on-air name, Kato, came about because Michael D liked the reference to the Green Hornet's sidekick. That name grew into Kato the Wonder Puppy.
Watson still uses the name Kato professionally depending on the circumstances.
He went on to get married in 1989 and moved to Buffalo, New York a month after Hurricane Hugo hit.
He worked in New York City for 12 years at a large network, but by 2003, he and his wife began missing the Lowcountry.
They moved back to town and Watson still works for the network and telecommutes. Watson did work locally for a while upon his return at Coast 92.5 with Janet Walsch.
Watson holds a degree in theatre and has always been a writer. “I wanted to be an actor,” he said. He wrote plays and essays, and says, “I was the guy in class that when teacher announced a term paper, I said 'Oh good.' I could bring my grade up if I needed to.”
He started in radio in high school and after college, realized radio would be his career. It allowed his creative juices to flow because he could still write and produce comedy and act. “It all sort of fell together in a big pot and I could use all three to make a living,” Watson said. “Q107 was consistently the top-rated pop station in town because the radio hosts did things over 25 years ago that radio stations to this day can't believe we a did in first place. In a “B” market like Charleston, it is unheard to be that outrageous. It sounds cliche, but we really were outrageous.”
Watson has seen radio change. He said most people in the industry point to 1996 when President Clinton signed the Radio Telecommunications Act (revised) and removed the limit on the number of stations and media properties a single company could own. When that happened, larger companies bought smaller companies consolidating resources and laying off staff, he explained.
“Local personalities were let go in favor of syndicated shows – some of which are quite good,” he said.
“Local radio, more than anything, suffered.” For example, he said, Q107 was successful because they kept it local, talked about local issues and local people. “I love Charleston. I love the way it smells, it looks ... I love how wonderfully, elegantly screwed up it can be,” he said.
“The Lowcountry is such a microcosm of different backgrounds and deep histories from traditional downtown snobs to rednecks to Gullah. You can hear half a dozen southern accents within 20 square miles in Charleston. It's fun to write about and you can find anything you need and no end of things to explore.”