Ken Matthews is passionate about all topics of conversation
We spoke on the phone last Thursday night for nearly two hours. There were two things I knew for sure; I was stopping Ken Matthews from taking out the trash, and his wife was going to be mad at me.
Matthews has a passion for people, politics, pop culture, the piano and guns. And believe me, we talked about all of that. Her energy bursts through the phone and microphone, and in conversation it seems that she is interested in everything, including meeting new people.
The man earns his living as a host of the new union member Ken Matthews Show, airs weekdays from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET on Talk Media Network. He was a regular guest host for Rush Limbaugh and is still on WHP 580 Harrisburg, now Matthew’s flagship station, where he has been heard for over eight years.
He was born in New Jersey in the early 60s. The family realized no one was forcing them to stay in New Jersey and moved to Florida to live among alligators and manatees. They lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, about an hour north of West Palm Beach. Matthews then attended North Carolina State University and studied political science. “I couldn’t finish because I was doing too many shows,” he jokes.
A down-to-earth guy, Matthews recently welcomed some new neighbors, and they naturally struck up a conversation. “I don’t know their policy, but they are young, health conscious and have two beautiful children,” Matthews said, the couple praised him and his wife for their two sons driving safely through the neighborhood. “What they didn’t know was that I told my boys that our new neighbors had small children and they had to ‘crawl’ down the street.”
Like Kenny Rogers, a good parent knows when to tell their kids to crawl and when to run. Matthews is as improvisational and funny as heck, probably why he’s been a successful morning jock for as long as he has been.
“In front of the new neighbors, I even wore a T-shirt that read, November 3, 2020. Never forget. It didn’t even phase them.
The man clearly loves his children; her sons are a source of pride, even though they use an inordinate amount of household items like toilet paper. “When you’re 18 and 20, you shouldn’t need to use an entire roll in one sitting (pardon the pun).”
Matthews’ youngest son will soon be graduating from high school and started cooking at a restaurant when he was just 14 years old. “He really likes it. Something about the job appeals to him and he makes a lot of money. He shows up for work, which is rare these days.
Today, showing up for work entitles you to a promotion.
“My other son graduated from high school three years ago and has had a few jobs; grocery stores, dairy products and landscaping companies.
He said he was in no rush to push them out into the world. “It’s so unpredictable these days,” Matthews said. “I’m not a negative person at heart; these are just weird times.
Matthews also loves America (apologies to Tom Petty.) Whenever his sons complain or complain, which apparently isn’t often, he reminds them how bad we have it here.
“I tell them they’ve already passed what most kids will never have,” Matthews said. “I tell them they have air conditioning, heating, a car and parents who love them. I tell them that living in this country is a blessing.
He’s in the Lehigh Valley, so I figured he’d be a regular at Iron Pigs games. The Iron Pigs are the Triple-A affiliate of the Phillies.
“I haven’t been to an Iron Pigs game in five years,” Matthews said. “It’s touch and go for me. I enjoy a good game, the camaraderie that comes with it if the weather is perfect. Everything must line up. I prefer to look in a sweatshirt in the fall, the fresh air. I don’t like it when I sweat more than the players.
Matthews said neither of his parents went to college, but he never knew anyone who read more, self-taught more than them.
“As far back as I can remember, they read everything,” Matthews said. “They read newspapers, manuals and books. They told me that if I wanted to advance in the world, I had to learn and read about everything.
He consumes books voraciously. “I read four books a month and have read almost every book in my library.”
And that includes the thesaurus.
Growing up in Florida, Matthews became interested in diving. “My father said I could do it, but I was going to take diving lessons. If I wanted to sail, I had to go to the Coast Guard Auxiliary and train.
Matthews lived in Fort Pierce, not far from Fort Lauderdale. “That’s where I learned to love water,” he says. “I’ve always been afraid of getting too far from the water. It’s a mental thing.
He’s been a lifelong NRA supporter. His father was fine with that, as long as he did what was necessary. “My dad was one of those guys who said you had to learn whatever you chose to do. If you wanted a gun, you had to learn how to shoot, practice.
He met his wife in Maine and got engaged. “Then I got fired,” Matthews said. “We started planning a wedding and I got fired from another job.” They are approaching 32 years of married bliss, and Matthews has chosen the perfect gift.
“I’m going to empty the dishwasher,” he jokes. “There’s a slight chance I’ll clean the bathroom.”
Hope his wife has a great sense of humor.
Matthews owes part of his radio success to the late Rush Limbaugh. He replaced Limbaugh about 100 times. Matthews shocked me when he told me that Limbaugh was a disc jockey before becoming the talk radio giant.
“He was a flame-throwing rock and roll god in Pittsburgh,” Matthews said. He even offered to send me a tape of Limbaugh’s disc jockey antics. “He turned the AM radio dial back on.”
Limbaugh? A rock and roll god? It’s hard to imagine Rush in a Dash T-shirt. Matthews said Limbaugh was observant, sensible and very respectful.
“He was saying things that a lot of people meant but had trouble saying,” Matthews explained. “He was a showman, an artist and told us about his trials and tribulations. I listened to Rush long before replacing him. He was saying something, and 7 million listeners were saying, “Hey, he’s absolutely right.”
Matthews said if Stephen Colbert talked about getting on his private plane to go somewhere, people would think he was an ass. If Limbaugh said the same thing, people were comfortable with that. That’s who he was.
He said Limbaugh would go further, explaining why they had to park the plane in a certain area of the airport. “When Rush said he went golfing with Trump last week, he was just speaking, not dropping names.”
“I have this theory,” Matthews began. “The people in charge of us, who want to control us, don’t want us to have a conversation like you and I are having right now.”
His years as a morning sportsman were fruitful and fun. In fact, he said his preparation between the seemingly different stages was remarkably similar.
“These habits are the same,” Matthew said. “The pacing, the entertainment values, the segmentation of shows. If you’re prepping for a music show, there are times when you find yourself saying, “I can’t say that on air.” When you’re on talk radio, you realize you can say whatever you want.
Matthews described his “Morning Show Ken” as a sarcastic, fun, America-loving guy who loved his job. As much as he loved being a morning jock, what he does now is much more valuable and enjoyable.
“Then like now, I like to provide a ‘common sense portal,'” Matthews explained. “Now I’m still that morning guy with a major in political science; I’m a patriot, all mixed in a big blender. I’m still a little smart.
He’s been in the business for over 40 years, and he describes himself as a late bloomer.
“I get up and love going to work,” Matthews explained. “I get overexcited. I get upset if I wake up in the middle of the night and see that I still have four hours to sleep. To feel that way for as long as it lasts is pretty special.
Matthews said what he learned from Limbaugh, and his team was like earning a master’s degree in radio.
On the air at noon, he begins to prepare thoroughly at 8:30. “I also do it at night,” Matthews said. “It’s a big change. I can stay out late and don’t have to get up at 3am. It’s good.”
Matthews pulls all his own cuts and sound bites. “I’m ready to rock at 11:00 a.m.,” he said. “I’m able to grab a bite to eat, keep an eye on the televisions or the wires for the latest news. I am absolutely delighted with my shift from noon to three.
When we talk about differences and opposing points of view, Matthews says he has the perfect story about what’s wrong with things.
Matthews told me a story about Van Jones, a CNN correspondent. Van Jones went to a summit with Donald Trump on prison reform. Van Jones told Trump about heartbreaking cases where people shouldn’t have been jailed.
“Van Jones said Trump called and wanted change immediately and demanded that some people be released,” Matthews said. “Van Jones was amazed and said he wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen the answer with his own eyes. Someone was actually doing something rather than just talking about it.
Matthews said Van Jones told the story even on CNN and how he had never seen anything like it before.
“CNN crucified him for this,” Matthews explained.
One of the benefits of a high profile gig is the connections you have. Matthews had the opportunity to take one of his sons to the White House for his birthday. “He always hated getting up early,” Matthews said of his son. “So, I told him that was how it was going to play out. He was going to have a suit and not look like a baggy teenager when he visited the leader of the free world. Some people show up with Eagles t-shirts. Not my son.
His son reluctantly agreed.
Matthews even took a photo of himself and his son in front of JFK’s portrait at the White House. A woman who worked there said Matthews and his son were the best dressed on the tour that day.
Surely they put on their Eagles t-shirts as soon as they got home.