The name Steve Savage is familiar to most Black Austinites. He has been the general manager for 88.7 KAZI FM, Austin’s oldest community radio station, since 1996. What many may not know is that “The Savage Jock”, was a volunteer deejay for the station a full decade prior to that. Although his entry to the world of deejaying was rather accidental, it has been where he has lived and breathed for over forty years.
Born in Utility, Louisiana, a town small enough to be described as a patch of land, Savage did what most school-age boys in his high school did – play sports. After an injury ended his football career, he switched to track and field, running the half and full mile events. Despite the change, football games remained a huge form of entertainment for the locals. The sock hops after the games were especially the place to be. Young Steve noticed that the girls in his town were drawn to the deejays, and by his sophomore year, he became that guy. He deejayed the after-game sock hops for the last three years of high school. A friend of the family approached Savage’s mother, a strict churchgoing woman about a deejaying gig at a local club. With the offer of an unheard-of $20 per hour salary and a promise to keep him away from drugs and alcohol, she agreed. Savage looks back with pride at his ability to help his mother with the bills doing a job that he loved.
This incidental foray into deejaying resulted in Savage being a mobile deejay for years. In 1996, Larry Williams brought him to KAZI as a volunteer deejay and trained him on the board. “I like to play the B side,” he noted, referencing his tendency to play more than an artists’ current hits. People liked his style and he became a popular personality on Austin’s local radio scene.
When I took over KAZI, the station was $65,000 in debt
When an opportunity opened up, Savage accepted an interim Station Manager position for three months. That three-month job turned into 35 years. “When I took over KAZI, the station was $65,000 in debt.” Although he understood that part of the job was to raise funds for the station, he did not like the idea of begging people for money.
Rather than just requesting donations, he sold airtime advertising so that people got something in return for their funds. With the support of long-time associates, he created a revenue-generating model that included advertising, grant funding, and community events. This three-way approach turned the station’s financial status around. Of all his accomplishments during his time at KAZI, leaving the station over $70,000 in the bank despite all the setbacks that came during the pandemic, is the one in which Savage takes the most pride.
Although Savage parted with KAZI in August of 2021, his heart is still with radio for the community. He is the founder and general manager of online radio station ATX Soul Radio. He looks forward to using the platform to explore the many global opportunities that online radio provides.
This transition has been a time of great reflection for Savage. Following the prompting of people who know his story, Savage was inspired to share it with the world. He is writing a series of books that chronicle his personal and professional life story.
The first book, The Making of Steve Savage: A Legacy of Life, Culture, Music and Soul was published in November of 2021. Future releases will include pictures of the people and events that have helped make him the person he is today. Savage looks back on the past with gratitude, and forward to the future with optimism.