On February 20, 1987, Steve Gorman boarded a Greyhound bus in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, with $1,200 cash—much of it won in a bingo game— a ticket to Atlanta, and a vague notion that he wanted to be a rock star.
The 21-year-old Gorman, a Western Kentucky University student had been convinced by a fellow student, Clint, that they should drop out of school and move to Georgia to form a rock band with two teenagers that Gorman had never met. It’s not unusual for college kids to dream of such things; however, Gorman’s musical experience consisted of drumming for a band that did cover tunes for three New Year’s Eve parties and playing a handful of gigs for college students in the previous months.
Gorman was expecting Clint to pick him up, but his friend had car trouble that night. He recounts the scene from there.
“So I get off this bus and there’s this guy that looks like Emo Philips standing there, and he’s like, ‘Are you Steve?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah,’ and he goes ‘I’m Chris,’ and I’m like, ‘Hey, where’s Clint?’ and he says, ‘We’re going to go get him now,’” Gorman recalls.
The moment he got in the car with these strangers, Gorman jumped in with both feet in more ways than one. He and Chris bonded immediately and despite the fact that Gorman had no goals and no direction–he didn’t even own a drum kit–there was a strong belief that in the larger sense, he had the ability to get where he needed and he’d found the right people to help him get there.
It certainly wasn’t the way most people would plan it out, but Steve Gorman isn’t most people. For him, that’s always been the only way it would work.
“Chris,” of course, was Chris Robinson. He and Gorman would go on to form half of The Black Crowes. The group formally broke up in February 2015, but not before the band cut nine studio albums and four live albums and became one of the greatest rock bands of the last quarter-century.
But the band’s beginning, and Gorman’s too, were inauspicious. He was booted from the first band he ever joined at Benfield Park Elementary school in Maryland.
“Because I refused to learn the bells, I got kicked out of the band. I literally was in the band for a month and the guy said, ‘You’re done,’ because I just wanted to play drums and that was it,” he recalls.
Still, Gorman always had a sense that his musical career wasn’t done. At 10, his family moved to Hopkinsville, and during his senior year of high school, a friend gave him a turn on his drum kit.
“In my head, I spent my whole life knowing I could play drums, just feeling like I should be doing that. I played—not well—but I knew how to do everything. I could just get around on the kit. But that was it. I didn’t think about it again because there doesn’t seem to be any path to get anywhere. I didn’t know anybody that was—I’m the only guy with Devo records that I know in Hopkinsville; I don’t think anyone’s going to jump into this with me,” he said.
But Gorman held on to the thought. Three years later as an upperclassman at WKU, Gorman, a dissatisfied broadcasting major, had a revelation.
“I turned 21 and I’m a year away from graduating and I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ I don’t even want to do this any more. I just want to play drums, and I’m 21, and I’m the youngest of eight kids, and… I was looking at them, going, ‘Not one of them has a job in what they got their degree in,’ and I was finally starting to look at the world as an actual place I have to enter soon, like, ‘Summer camp’s gonna end when this Pell Grant goes dry,’” he recalls.
“And I thought, ‘Well, I’ve gotta try this,’ because I said if I don’t do this, if I don’t try to do something with a band, I’m gonna be that jerko 40-year-old talking about, ‘Well, I was gonna be in a band,’ and you know, I didn’t want to do that.”
The seeds were sown for the band that became The Black Crowes, but the transition to legitimacy wasn’t smooth. The Crowes got their first big break when they mailed tapes out to various labels; A&M Records bit, but the band promptly threw that chance away after its A&R guy asked the band to make some changes and the Crowes refused.
“We were just total arrogant jerks, but ultimately we just didn’t like the guy. We didn’t feel like he was a guy we wanted to work with but instead of telling him that, we just told him to [go away],” he recalls.
A year later, the Crowes were offered $500 to play at a club in New York, which spawned a second chance with A&M.
“We walked in the dressing room and the door opens and this guy walks in and this big, fat dude with a scraggly beard says, ‘How are you guys doing?’ And we had this thing—we never wanted to admit it, but we were terrified. We’re in New York; is this the guy who’s going to kill us and take our money? We’re just like, ‘What do you want, man?’ We’re trying to act like we’re cool and he goes, ‘I’m with A&M Records,’ and we’re like, ‘You’re not like the guy we met with A&M Records last year,’” he recalls.
The man’s name was George Drakoulias.
As Gorman remembers, “The minute we met him we said, ‘Whatever that guy says, we’ll trust him.’” That approach paid off. A year later, the band released “Shake Your Moneymaker,” and the rest is history.
Gorman had to put off another dream to achieve the musical accolades. A huge sports fan growing up, he wanted to be a sportscaster and hence chose broadcasting as his major. One problem: he hated it.
“Broadcasting was just boring me to death. … I didn’t want to know about how TV worked. I didn’t want to learn about cameras and boards and all that. I just wanted to get there and do it. Give me the shortcut. So I would have never made it in that field because there’s actual, real adults in it that do the work, and that wasn’t me. That wasn’t gonna happen,” he said.
But Gorman never put that dream to bed. He was constantly attending sporting events wherever he went on tour and became an avid listener of sports talk radio just as it was exploding in popularity in the 1990s. Somewhere around that time, he decided he’d like a shot.
By 2004, Gorman had moved to Nashville. A few years later, the door cracked open. Gorman’s child went to the same preschool as local sports talk show host Willy Daunic, and Gorman came on for a guest appearance with Daunic and George Plaster on 104.5 The Zone.
“And it was funny, because I went in there and [Daunic’s] just going to say, ‘Hey, the drummer for The Black Crowes is here,’ and he had no idea any of this [sports talk show hosting dream] was in my head, and I’m thinking, ‘This is my in, I don’t know where this is going.’ … and when you’re a guest, you can say whatever you want and I was just going off and going on these tangents, and it’s really funny,” he remembers.
Two weeks later, Gorman was on the air solo sporadically at The Zone with his own show, but touring got in the way.
“I never got any momentum. I’d do three-straight Sundays and I’d come out there doing like, ‘Okay, that had a minute or two of flow,’ and then I’d go away for two months,” he said.
There was also the issue of finding his voice and delivery.
“I had eight stories with written-out thoughts. I was reading, and this was so unnatural, but I had to go through it. It was like, ‘Yeah, this would be great if it was a blog, but this is radio,’” he said.
But practice makes perfect and before long, Gorman, now touring less, had moved across town to 102.5 The Game, where he had a Monday-through-Friday show from 10 to midnight where he honed his craft.
Just as that demo tape had opened doors for the Crowes a couple of decades before, Gorman caught a similar break here when a Fox Sports Radio executive took note of Gorman’s talent.
“Terry Bulger did a piece on me for Channel 4, and some marketing guy that’s a friend of a friend of mine in Boston, someone I barely know, saw that and kicked a link up to his boss, and three people later, they just kept forwarding it on,” he says.
Before long, Gorman got a phone call from that executive.
“I just gave him my vision on where I wanted to take this, how far I wanted to go. I had a very clear [vision]; I’m at ‘A’ and I can see ‘Z,’ and ‘B’ through ‘Y’ is very foggy to me. I know where I want to go, but how do I get it there?” he recalls.
By July 2013, Gorman left The Game for Fox to fill in on weekends. Six months later, he had his own nationally-syndicated show, Steve Gorman SPORTS!, five days a week with co-host Jeffrey Gorman, his cousin. (Steve originally bounced that idea off Jeff in 2000.) It airs 5-7 p.m. CST each weekday; listeners may catch it online at FoxSportsRadio.com.
It’s hard enough for anyone to make it to the pinnacle of his profession in one competitive field, let alone two, but that’s what Gorman’s done now. Ask him how, and he sums it up simply:
“If you stick to your plan through life, you’re never going to go very far. You’ve got to be willing to see when a new door opens and run through it. … Life rewards action. You can plan all day long.”