Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Atlanta Radio’s Best & Brightest

Atlanta, like all other radio markets, is somewhat stripped down these days. Yet, bright spots still abound across the dial. This issue contains our selections for the top on-air talent in town. The picks are strictly my opinion, and you probably will not agree with all of them, and you might feel some folks are missing.

The criterion for being eligible for selection is broadcasting from an Atlanta radio station. No personalities voicetracked from another market were considered. Syndicated shows are eligible if they originate from an Atlanta station.

So here we go, starting with the low end of the FM dial. After the FM choices, we’ll move to AM.

Steve Goss – WABE-FM – Steve worked at WPCH/WLTM for over 25 years, going back to the Beautiful Music format, with dead air programmed in and #1 12+ ratings. His professional and easy-going style makes him sound even better as the local host of Morning Edition than in his AC days.

Lois Reitzes – WABE-FM – Lois has been on the air at WABE for 30 years. She has a flair for hosting a classical show and sounds both major market and distinctive. After serving as PD for 15 years, Lois is now Director of Arts & Cultural Programming.

Dennis O’Hayer – WABE-FM – Dennis established his authoritative as well as affable presentation as the longtime host of WGST’s “60 at 6.” He has also been the moderator of a show on WABE’s sister station, WPBA-TV, and a reporter on WXIA-TV’s news. He now brings his considerable skills to his job as local host on WABE from 3 to 7PM.

Mara Davis – 92-9Dave FM – Mara has been at the station for 15 years and under two of its incarnations, Z93 and Dave-FM. She is engaging, interesting, opinionated and fun, and is one of Atlanta’s most talked-about radio people. While Mara’s overall talk time has been scaled back somewhat, she’s at her most creative on Radio-Free Lunch in the noon hour.

Margot – 92-9 Dave FM – Margot’s smooth delivery creates an ambience like that of KINK-FM and other successful AAA stations. She is so into the music, a definite plus for a format whose listeners are all about musical discovery. Her knowledge of music really comes across on “Dave After Tomorrow,” a program showing how songs from all eras and genres have connections. Margot is Dave-FM’s music director and the visionary behind WZGC-HD2, Dave Roots.

Cindy & Ray – Star 94 – Ray Mariner is so smooth while Cindy Simmons is kind of valley-girlish with a slightly goofy edge. But, it all works, as it has from day one. Content is topical and fun, with lots of audience interaction. After getting stellar ratings in afternoons, Cindy & Ray moved to morning drive this past spring, where they reestablished Star 94 as an Adult CHR station. In mornings, C&R have come up against a juggernaut called The Bert Show, and while Star’s AM drive ratings are up, they are not among the top stations. Getting there will require time and patience.

Darik at Night – Star 94 – When a personality loves what he is doing, it comes right through the speakers. And, that’s one reason why I enjoy listening to Darik Kristofer so much. He sounds like he’s having a great time doing the show and interacting with listeners. Darik has also shown growth as an air personality since he joined Star 94 about 2 years ago. Finally, he has appeal to his young evening audience, but his sound is also adult friendly.

Jason Pullman & Kristen Gates – 94-9 The Bull – Including The Bull’s morning show took a little debating. Jason Pullman was not selected because of his broadcast delivery because he really has none; he speaks as if he were talking to you across the kitchen table. (I’m not saying he’s not capable of an excellent broadcast delivery because he proves he is, on the many national commercials that he has done.) However, Jason is very quick and funny, as well as friendly. And, Kristen is the perfect foil for his humor. She enjoys a more prominent role than she had as morning co-host on Kicks. The chemistry between the two appears to be copacetic.

Maverick – 95-5 The Beat – Maverick is The Beat’s elder statesman so to speak; he was brought in during the colorful Sean Phillips days. He actually has been in Atlanta radio longer than that, having worked weekends on Q100 when it was just a baby. Frankly, I always felt Maverick was a utility player. But, he apparently purchased the Beat edition of Rosetta Stone and now has a “Beat accent.” He’s definitely with the program at Atlanta’s #1 for Hip Hop.

Knox – Project 9-6-1 – Knox provides real entertainment in the evening hours and relishes his job as a personality. He and his drop-ins are simply fun to listen to.

Kaedy Kiley – 97-1 The River – I know what you’re probably thinking. She used to be great, but she’s on The River. She can no longer use her considerable talents. That’s true, but Kaedy is still the consummate professional with a mastery of music. At least she does her quiz. Hiring Kaedy was a win-win for her and the station.

Steve McCoy & Vikki Locke – B98.5FM – This is the show that broke the mold, the music-intensive, liner-reading mode at Cox’s Atlanta AC station. In truth, it was the second time that Cox’s Bob Neil tossed aside his playbook and hired a personality morning show. He had seen what grabbing Rick & Bubba had accomplished for Cox’s Birmingham country station, WZZK. With the Steve & Vikki package, B98.5 instantly got a well-oiled, well-established, family-friendly morning show hosted by two of the market’s best. The station also picked up a ton of potential in endorsements by McCoy and Locke.

Jordan Graye – B98.5FM – Jordan is another Atlanta personality who is a real broadcaster, meaning she thoroughly enjoys what she does; what comes out of the radio doesn’t lie. Her voice bubbles with personality, much more so than the stereotypical female AC midday jock. Jordan is a nice person, and that comes across too.

Kelly McCoy – B98.5FM – I’ve heard it said that Kelly McCoy has read basically the same liners for the past 20 years. Yes, the station is highly scripted. But, Kelly’s rich voice and broadcast talent still come through loud and clear.

The Bert Show: Bert Weiss, Jeff Dauler, Melissa Carter & Jenn Hobby – Q100 – On his way to becoming President of CMT, Brian Phillips stopped to launch Q100 and tapped the co-host of the Mix 107.3/Washington morning show, Bert Weiss. Of course, the rest is history. Weiss’s ability to talk to and relate to listeners, and the blend of relationships, celebrity interviews/news and current issues have made The Bert Show the gold standard for morning radio. Dauler, Carter and Hobby add intelligent insight and perspective.

Adam Bomb – Q100 – He might not have the big voice of a JJ Kinkaid or Robert W. Walker, FM CHR stars from the seventies and eighties. But, Adam sounds good and delivers a quintessential CHR presentation full of energy. His fast pace is just right for evenings, when the audience and the Q100 playlist become younger.

Cadillac Jack & Dallas McCade – Kicks 101-5 – They say every cloud has a silver lining, and the Citadel Leap Year Day Massacre in 2008 paved the way for two of Atlanta’s best morning hosts to get together. I’ve always thought Cadillac had a unique sound that made him a great country jock. Dallas is also a true talent, always up and sounding happy. I’ve heard it said the show is not funny. Well, the show doesn’t try to be funny. The audience loves the hosts, and that’s what matters.

Frank Ski & Wanda Smith – V-103 – I never felt Frank Ski was a great personality based on his broadcast skills. But I guess I was forgetting about several things, like community involvement, charity, working hard and showing up everywhere. Oh, did I mention being a lightening rod? And, broadcasting on a station that perennially goes to the Super Bowl doesn’t hurt. How could I not include a personality who earned a share of 20.6% among the 18-34 demo in the latest Arbitron PPM’s? Is that not slightly amazing? And the pundits said PPM would put a serious hurt on V. Wanda Smith and Ms. Sophia complement Ski by keeping us laughing.

Ryan Cameron – V-103 – Ryan Cameron is a master storyteller. Consequently, V-103 in afternoon drive sits at the opposite end of the spectrum from the typical Urban station. Ryan has a captivating style all his own and intelligently discusses issues with his listeners. He also can be very funny.

Greg Street – V-103 – In 1995, former V-103 PD Tony Brown recognized that Hip-Hop, not yet a genre of critical mass, was the future of Urban music. He hired Greg Street to do a Hip-Hop show in the evening. It worked, and Street’s show was Atlanta’s ratings leader in his daypart. He left to go to Dallas and returned a few years ago. Smooth and Hip-Hop do not often go together, but somehow Street manages to be the smoothest Hip-Hop jock in the universe.

Art Terrell – Kiss 104.1 – Art’s predecessor, Mitch Faulkner, has one of radio’s golden voices. When he left and Art took over, the voice contrast was pretty dramatic. But, it soon became obvious that Art Terrell has a terrific booming voice of his own, is friendlier sounding, and has more on-air personality than Faulkner. Mitch might be the better voiceover guy, but Art makes Kiss sound great as he accomplishes a lot within the formatic limitations.

George Mason Dixon – 106.1 WNGC – His station sits on the cusp of the Atlanta market, but George Mason Dixon has perfected the sound of a major market country personality, always having the perfect inflection. He makes this well-programmed station sound as good as it should.

Silas “SiMan” Alexander – Majic 107-5/97-5 – A true Atlanta radio veteran, SiMan has plied his craft in prominent dayparts on V-103, Kiss and 102.5 before moving over to the new Majic 107-5/97-5 this past spring. He has a great voice and substantial talent, and skillfully brings his listeners through the evening hours. That SiMan is a super-nice person in real life is evident when you hear him on the radio.

Maria More – Hot 107-9 – Maria exudes both street and class when she speaks into the mic during middays. Hot is a well-programmed machine, and Maria is a big contributor to keeping it running at full efficiency.

Emperor Searcy – Hot 107-9 – Emperor Searcy takes over after Maria More and continues the superb execution of the format. He sounds at ease and confident, and his delivery contains an element of excitement. Searcy is a high achiever, also working successfully in the music business and voicing commercials yet finding time to give to the community through various outreach programs.

The Durty Boyz – Hot 107-9 – The Boyz (J. Nicks and ET) take listeners to the wild side of Atlanta radio every evening. Their show is a party on the air as well as one of the market’s most interactive programs. Call and ask them to let you go.

Scott Slade – News/Talk 750-WSB – The host of Atlanta’s Morning News comes across as a natural. He has the voice, poise and experience to be the ultimate professional. Waking up with Scott is a pleasure as he skillfully tosses the ball to his cohorts and then catches it back. Scott has been honored with just about every radio award there is.

Neal Boortz – News/Talk 750-WSB – I’ve heard it espoused that Neal now “phones it in,” that he no longer puts himself into it. As a listener, I have to disagree. Boortz is smart and creative, and understands it’s about entertainment. He still delivers the ratings to prove that.

Clark Howard – News/Talk 750-WSB – A sharp businessman as well as broadcaster, Clark Howard walks on water in this market. He’s highly trusted and respected. He may not have the best radio voice but manages to overcome that with high-quality advice that commands attention.

Herman Cain – News/Talk 750-WSB – Yes, he does not have perfect diction. But, he does conduct an intelligent talk show and exercises some reason, which is often not the case in Talk radio. Herman is someone worth listening to based on the incredible heights to which he rose in the business world. As the promo says, “You just might learn something.”

Chris Dimino & Nick Cellini – 790 The Zone – Chris and Nick are sports guys first and radio people second. Yet their broadcast talent is good enough to make it all work. In my opinion, these guys paired together are the best sports talkers in Atlanta and show superb knowledge. Their appeal is demonstrated by their moonlighting activities, Chris with Falcons Radio and Nick with CBS 46 (WGCL-TV). By the way, they make up two-thirds of “Mayhem in the AM” on The Zone.

The 2 Live Stews – 790 The Zone – Who says Sports radio can’t provide your daily entertainment fix? Brothers Ryan and Doug Stewart do sports talk that sometimes veers onto other subjects. Their Hip-Hop sports program is the most different show on Atlanta Sports radio. Zone PD Matt Edgar showed his ingenuity with these hires. Originating from The Zone studios, The Stews are syndicated by Sporting News Radio.

Atlanta Radio’s Best Newscasters:
Rob Stadler – Star 94, Pete Combs – WSB-AM

Thanks for reading. As always, your comments are welcome. Email me at roddyfreeman@bellsouth.net.

Roddy Freeman

Link to Rodney Ho’s AJC Radio & TV Blog:

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