From the lofty broadcasting heights of TV's popular "Entertainment Tonight" to a simple syndicated radio show and occasional musical performances, John Tesh's career may appear to have fallen in recent years. But Tesh seems happier than ever, doing what he believes in most and keeping his integrity.
His increasingly popular radio show, "Music and Intelligence for Your Life: The John Tesh Radio Show," airs in the Salt Lake area weeknights, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., on KBEE ("B-98.7," FM). This is a music-intensive show that balances songs and talk/information very well.
"I wish I could take the credit," Tesh said during a telephone interview. It's his producers who insist on playing at least nine songs per hour.
With its magazine-style approach, Tesh's show offers advice about improving relationships, with some well-researched advice, surveys and tidbits. It originates from a studio in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Tesh said the credit for that goes to his staff of seven researchers who find all the information he uses, making it a treasure trove of advice but also an expensive show to produce. "I get 300-400 e-mails a day," Tesh said, adding that it's far more response than he ever got from his "Entertainment Tonight" co-host duties.
The show has an estimated 8 million listeners each week on more than 150 radio stations across the nation, even though the show doesn't air in most of the nation's biggest cities.
Surprisingly, the 52-year-old Tesh says this show, which started as a weekend program four years ago and then expanded, wasn't his first try at radio. His first broadcasting job was the "news guy" for Rick Dees' radio show in the 1970s.
What does he enjoy most about doing radio? Not having to dress up is one thing, he said, but it's primarily the talk-show format. "I like contact with people on a daily basis — taking a pulse."
After working for big companies and feeling out of touch, his own company and radio show have a grass-roots feel that Tesh says he appreciates.
Still, most people probably wonder why in the world he left "ET" in 1996? "My daughter could not watch the show," Tesh said. "When you have a 9-year-old little girl in your house, you suddenly realize that you need to pick a vocation that the kid can actually share with the rest of the fourth-grade class."
Tesh said he mostly enjoyed doing the show, but toward the end of his tenure he had conflicts with producers over risque things they wanted him to say, which, as a result, fell to his co-host, Mary Hart. "I wasn't any use to anyone. I felt I should have left three, four years earlier."
He purposely doesn't have any entertainment news on his radio show these days. And his 9-year-old daughter, Prima, piped in during this interview to say that her father promised not to air anything a 9-year-old shouldn't listen to.
"We cut some commercials out," Tesh said, commenting on how strict he is about doing a family-suitable show.
After leaving television, Tesh pursued music full-time. Soon, however, he said that his two "girls" insisted that he get a real job, as they were tired of his being gone from home on musical tours. Hence, the radio show. And his concert appearances have been reduced by almost half, 35 to 40 each year.
By his "girls," Tesh is referring to his daughter and his wife, actress Connie Selleca, to whom he's been married for 13 years. He said that Selleca has her own skin-care business and will occasionally do TV movies — but she recently declined a TV series based in Hawaii, as it would have taken her away from the family.
He still enjoys music and said that Salt Lake's Abravanel Hall holds a special spot in his heart, since he did his first real concert there about a decade ago.
"There's nothing that makes me happier than music," Tesh said. "When I play piano, I feel (the Lord's) pleasure." Tesh is also music director of the church he regularly attends.
Despite his strong Christian lifestyle, Tesh said he is careful not to talk about that on his radio show. His Web site, www.tesh.com does delve into that area, however, for those who are interested.
In his concerts, Tesh will also sometimes conclude, and then tell the audience he will now do some religious selections for another 30 minutes for those who want to stay. And he says that very few get up and leave.
Tesh has three gold albums, six Emmys, two Grammy nominations, an Associated Press Award for investigative journalism, a Keyboard Magazine Award and several No. 1 radio hits, and he's done two tours as an Olympic announcer/composer.
His last three CDs — "A Deeper Faith," "Christmas Worship" and "Power of Love" — were strong on the Billboard Pop and Christian Music charts. "Power of Love" was nominated for a 2003 Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
With a background in journalism, music, TV and radio, Tesh is versatile. But these days, it's just radio and music — and his family — that keep him busy.