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His Voice Powered AT&T Stadium. Now His Hands Build Movie Sets.

Jody Dean worked as a radio and television broadcaster in North Texas for 50 years. These days he’s acting and building sets for, among others, Taylor Sheridan, creator of Yellowstone.
| |Photography by Steven Visneau
Jody Dean, pictured in his workshop. Steven Visneau

Jody Dean worked as a radio and television broadcaster in North Texas for 50 years. He was the original voice of AT&T Stadium. A few years back, though, after a long run with KLUV, Dean found himself—ahem—with some time on his hands. While he still does voice work, these days he’s acting and building sets for, among others, Taylor Sheridan, creator of Yellowstone.

Why doesn’t the Casa Linda Rodeo Goat have a burger named after you? That would be a high honor. That would be right up there with the Texas Radio Hall of Fame and the Paschal Hall of Honor.

Skip Hollandsworth from Texas Monthly lives in the neighborhood, and he’s got a burger named after him. Brad Sham has one. But as a former Billy Bob’s announcer and the biggest media celebrity in that part of town, you should have a burger. Mark Louis lives on this side of town. Until there’s a burger named after Hawkeye, there doesn’t need to be a burger named after me. He’s still got a job!

When was the last time you were at Billy Bob’s? I emceed the Texas Trail of Fame induction ceremony there in October. It’s like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but these are Western contributors, people who’ve added to the culture. Taylor Sheridan was inducted that night. He and I both went to Paschal High School, in Fort Worth, about 10 years apart, and we secretly invited his former drama teacher, Sue Williams. We didn’t know how it was going to work, because Taylor has a reputation for not wanting to revisit his real past. You know, he’s got a Hollywood bio, and he sticks to it. We were a little nervous. He saw her and went over and grabbed her and hugged her and got up onstage when it was time to do his thing, and he threw away his speech and thanked her for 12 minutes. It was so cool.

Have you ever gotten to hang out at his ranch? No. I’ve been lucky enough to work for him, but I don’t know him. Well, I know his signature on my checks.

You’re about to do some work for his show Land Man, starring Billy Bob Thornton. Are you going to get to build an old-school oil derrick? It’s actually set more in modern day. Rather than Giant or There Will Be Blood, we’re gonna be in the age of bridge plugs and wireline services. I think it’s going to be more of a comedy. I think Taylor went for that, to some degree, in Tulsa King. Putting Sylvester Stallone in Oklahoma is just brilliant.

Lowe’s or Home Depot? Whoever’s got the tool I need. Elliott’s, Ace. I love Rooster Home & Hardware off Northwest Highway. Those are great folks.

Billy Minick taught me so much, including don’t get drunk and fall down at the rodeo. That’s bad.

Your bio says that you were fired three times by the same person. Who? [laughs] That was Billy Minick, the guy who brought bull riding to Billy Bob’s. Billy taught me so much, including don’t get drunk and fall down in the rodeo. That’s bad. I had gone through a breakup—one of scads of breakups. And so I decided the antidote to that was shots of tequila and bottles of Herman Joseph’s beer. He fired me that night, and he hired me again the next morning at 5 am because they had a big charity event for children that featured donkey basketball. I had the worst hangover in history, and he hired me back to get even with me. I love that man. 

You served as a Santa Claus last year for the first time. How did it go? Somebody asked me if I enjoyed it, and I said, “I’m not sure ‘enjoy’ is the right word.” I did find a great deal of meaning in it. It’s live performance. It’s live theater. It’s a solo show. You have no idea what the audience is going to throw at you. This beautiful little girl with these huge almond eyes came up. I said, “What would you like for Christmas?” And she said, “I would like to not feel lonely anymore.” God, your heart breaks. I said, “That’s OK. Sometimes, I’m lonely, too.”

What advice would you give someone who is considering a late-in-life career change? Embrace the “Now what?” You get to the end of anything, even if it’s by your choice, and you go, “OK, now what?” You can either be afraid of that or you can say, “OK, let’s go.” I didn’t retire from radio. I was retired. After three or four decades of doing that, it’s shattering. It can really be devastating. So you’ve got to take a look at your situation and say, “OK, now what?” And that can either be a terrifying phrase or a really exciting phrase, to be honest. Get excited by it. It’ll keep you young.     

This story originally appeared in the February issue of D Magazine with the headline “Tool Time.” Write to [email protected].


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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…

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