Pouring coffee in his kitchen, dog and kid toys underfoot, Darryn Yates appears to be a pretty normal guy in jeans and untucked plaid shirt.
But give this host of his own “modern-day variety show” a microphone, a pair of sunglasses and a camera, and the organizer of mayhem emerges in one very quick burst:
“We do hidden camera. I go to a drive-up and order something weird and then we see if they give it to me. We do interviews, we have music. We talk sports. We shoot everything on location. I sat down with Gilby Clarke — he was the guitarist for Guns n’ Roses — (when he was at Frawley’s in Granite City) and that will be on the first episode. The Blue Oyster Cult will be in Highland (Sept. 19) and we’ll be there for that. We went to haunted houses in Alton and that will be on a future show. ...”
Darryn, 43, pauses for a breath. It’s 8:30 a.m. and his wife Crystal, 34, and their two kids took off in the SUV not long ago. The dogs are tucked away upstairs. He doesn’t have to be at his full-time job at a St. Louis law firm until 10. He’s settled into a director’s chair in his “man cave” lower level, which also serves as the location where he tapes his lead-ins for the weekly “The Darryn Yates Show.” He does the editing upstairs.
Pushing it a bit
The Maryville resident, born and raised in Granite City, aired his first half-hour show a week ago on Charter Spectrum Channel 198 at its regular time, 11 p.m. Thursdays. You can see a repeat at 1 a.m. the following Friday and Saturday. Even if you aren’t a subscriber, catch the show on YouTube.
Darryn likens the show to a trio of known quantities on TV: “Think of it as ‘Entertainment Tonight’ meets ‘Practical Jokers’ with a splash of ‘Saturday Night Live.’” The unscripted show leans a bit past a PG-13 rating.
“I’m a guy who pushes it a bit,” he says with a grin. There are 25 bleeps in the first episode. Darryn counted.
Charter Spectrum is glad to be along for the wild and wooly ride, though.
“Darryn is an upbeat professional. He has a great crew and what he has put together is awesome,” said Ben Fisher, an account executive. “He has what St. Louis needs.”
Darryn has assembled a motley crew of characters to people his show: co-host Donny Blake, Hungover Howie (Hirshfield) who does a variety of skits. Bad Attitude Bill (Delaney) hates everything and does a segment called “Ask Bill.” Heather (Deranja) the Nutrition Vixen tries to keep everyone in line, he said. Average Andrew (Grass) handles sports, Wild Whitney (Wilson) is “just wild” and Kid Arthur (Frentzel) believes he is part werewolf and vampire.
One of his sponsors is P. Callis Promotions, which books rock groups into venues in the bi-state area and provides access to musicians for interviews and the backstage scene.
A born showman
Darryn has been back in the area since 2009 after a long stay in California, then Nashville.
Mom Carolyn said she and husband Ron, who still live in Granite City, knew they’d raised a born showman.
“He was always very creative, always the organizer in the neighborhood: ‘You be on this team, you be on that team.’” she said, laughing. “I think this is all natural for him. He can get along with anybody.”
A 1990 graduate of Granite City High School, Darryn also was “a total jock,” he said. Dad Ron was his high school’s longtime football coach. The team’s waterboy as a kid, Darryn went on to play baseball, football and basketball. And the guitar. His bedroom walls were covered in music posters.
“I was born and raised to have a garage band,” he joked, noting that his height and size meant he’d never make in his other passion: pro sports.
He organized his first band in 10th grade. “It was Red Destiny and it was an ’80s cover band. That’s when it all changed. The music bug bit me hard.”
He survived a year at Illinois State University, came home and begged his parents to let him go to California.
“I needed to pursue other things,” he said with a shrug. “My dream. Whatever.”
They made a pact: He’d go to San Diego, where a friend lived, and try out that dream, but also earn a college degree. He got a bachelor’s in communications in 1995, with emphasis on radio, TV and video work.
The conversation with his parents afterward went like this: “I’m just getting started. I’m not coming home yet.”
He moved to Studio City, Calif., in 1996 and over the next eight years worked at a radio station and some record labels, did some substitute teaching, shot some music videos and played in a couple bands.
In 2004, he formed On Tracy Lane, writing all his own music for the band. The name comes from Darryn’s address growing up on Tracy Lane in Granite City.
By 2005, he was back in the Midwest. But he wasn’t about to give up on entertaining. He toured with the band and cut some CDs in St. Louis.
“I know people look at this as black and white,” he said of what constitutes success in the entertainment world. “But I just had to go down that path and that was OK with me.”
He went South to Nashville in 2008, reformed the band, landed a contract to go to Greenland and played for U.S. troops there, wrote some music he licensed — from which he still gets residuals —and worked a full-time job.
By 2009, he was back in the metro-east. The band was on hiatus, the economy tanked and he couldn’t find a job.
Ready for another run, Darryn had his sights set on New York. Then Crystal Cavins came into his life and that settled that.
“My parents were very happy I met her,” he said, grinning.
He found a kindred spirit in Crystal, who said she understands his drive to make a career in entertainment work.
“It’s a very intense passion. He’s driven — something I’ve never seen,” she said. “It’s an admirable character. ... I know he has to have a day job, but I hope (the new show) is what he gets to do every day.”
Marriage, house in Maryville and two kids — son Tayven, 4, and daughter Dayahna, 2 — Darryn still wasn’t done with the entertainment industry.
“I did music for a year or so, then in 2010, well, my friend Jerry McFarland and I had a joke: ‘If we ever settle down, you and I are going to start a bad-ass TV show.’ I said let’s do it. Let’s fire it up.” The two started The Mayhem Network, an audio/video production company, in 2010-11
They tried an earlier version of “The Darryn Yates Show” show as a podcast and then a web series, but it didn’t fly. Darryn made some good contacts, though, and hosted a couple of St. Louis AM radio shows in 2014 and 2015. He was nominated by Riverfront Times readers in 2014 as among the Best AM Radio Personality and Best Radio Show (Music). But, he got kicked off of one station for his wild-talking ways and lost the other when the station couldn’t pay its bills.
Darryn went back to his variety show idea, this time with more “creds,” as he says, with a regular place on cable where he has a wider audience and with a “cool calamity” of a product he hopes people will watch and enjoy.
“I’m an overall entertainer, that’s what I am, whether I get paid millions or not,” he said. “If I’m doing this for fame, I’m doing it for the wrong reasons.”
‘The Darryn Yates Show’
When: 11 p.m. Thursdays
Where: Charter Spectrum cable channel 198