04/26/2018 -- Atlanta, GA - Ryan Cameron poses for a portrait in the Buckhead community, Thursday, April 26, 2018. Ryan Cameron, the former "King of Atlanta Airwaves" with local radio station V103.3, is now taking on a new role in life as a partner for a branding agency. In addition to working at the local Atlanta branding agency, Rakanter, Ryan hopes to keep empowering the Atlanta community through his foundation. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

2018 Atlanta radio year in review: Ryan Cameron, Katt Wiliams vs. Wanda Smith, Jamie Dupree

Originally posted by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Most of the drama from Atlanta radio this year emanated from the R&B and hip hop stations. 

Here are highlights of some of the biggest radio stories of 2018: 

Wanda Smith and Katt WIlliams

Photo: AJC

Wanda Smith vs. Katt Williams: In certainly the most bizarre Atlanta radio story of the year, comic and Emmy-winning actor Katt Williams in September  showed up at V-103’s studios to support a fellow comic appearing at Norcross’ Atlanta Comedy Theater. But instead of a standard promotional appearance, they convinced Williams to go on air and it went sideways when he began roasting her. (Read a recap here.) Then things got even crazier on Saturday night outside the comedy club when Williams and Smith’s husband LaMorris Sellers got into a verbal fight that led to Williams running into a neighboring supermarket. Wiliams, to the cops, said Sellers pointed a gun at him. He chose not to file charges and Sellers later said his gun merely fell out of his waistband after tussling with Williams’ bodyguard. In an exclusive interview with me, he said he never pointed a gun at Williams and the video footage in the area does not show him doing so. The entire sequence went viral, if anything. 

Ryan Cameron leaves V-103, returns on Majic: In perhaps the biggest surprise, the hometown favorite chose not to re-up with V-103 as morning host and announced he was going to become a partner instead at a marketing/brand strategy start up called Rakanter. He said at the time that this was a strategic mid-career move that could pay off significantly in the pocketbook if successful. Cameron, who had recently divorced his long-time wife, also said he was finished with radio. But this past fall, he decided to get back into the radio game on rival R&B station Majic 107.5/97.5 in the afternoons. He said he would continue working at Rakanter. 

V-103 host Frank Ski at The Palm, one of his favorite restaurants in Atlanta.
Photo: Ligaya Figueras

V-103’s Frank Ski returns to mornings: Ryan’s departure and return created a cascade of changes. V-103 was able to bring back Cameron’s predecessor Ski full time. He was paired up again with Wanda Smith and they were able to boost ratings to boot.  When Majic hired Cameorn, it offered its afternoon show SiMan and Chubb Rock the night job. But the pair turned that down, opting to go into syndication. Majic decided to add Jared J from V-103 to the mix. He had worked with Cameron, who ironically lobbied for Jared to take over mornings at V. (Also, Ski announced in December, he was having a baby with his new wife Patrice Basanta-Henry.)

Photo: Marquavia Queen Smith

Classix 102.9 takes form:  With Kiss dropping Tom Joyner after 20-plus years, Urban One (which owns Joyner’s syndication arm) had to find a home for him in Atlanta. It dumped its old-school hip-hop station Boom 102.9 to accommodate the legendary morning host with an old-school R&B format. The station also brought in veteran jock Mitch Faulkner,, syndicated host D.L. Hughley and Niecey Shaw to fill out the line up. The ratings have been modest since its debut. Kiss created a local morning show led by Art Terrell to fill Joyner’s space, then lost afternoon host Sasha the Diva to syndication. 

Porsche Foxx departs Mix 87.7. The former V-103 host was given a new lease on radio life courtesy of Mix 87.7 owner Steve Hegwood. After two-plus years, she chose to leave in December and promises a new locale in 2019 but hasn’t said where. 

Jamie Dupree 2.0: Cox radio correpondent Jamie Dupree - a regular fixture on WSB radio - lost his voice in 2016 in a way that made it impossible to do his job. But Cox knew how valuable he was and he continue to report and write for the website. Doctors were baffled. Eventually, a doctor at Cleveland Clinic diagnosed it as an incredibly rare neurological condition where his tongue involuntarily protrudes and his throat closes when the brain sends the signal to talk. There is known cure or even treatment. Cox hired a text-to-speech technology to use past audio of Dupree to piece together a system where the company re-built his voice. Dupree now types in his copy and it comes out in audio form in what sounds like a slightly robotic version of his voice. It’s not perfect but it allows him to do his job. He dubs it Jamie Dupree 2.0. 

After five-plus years with News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB as a morning host, Herman Cain will air his final show on August 2, 2018.

Herman Cain ends his run on WSB: Over a span of 18 months, Cain went from three hours, to two hours, to one hour, to no hours on WSB starting in August. It was a gradual transition to the new show led by Eric Von Haessler. Cain,  who is now 73, ably served WSB for several years after Neal Boortz retired. Von Haessler is about two decades younger. Cain can now be heard on his website. 

Photo: Rodney Ho/Radio and TV Talk

Brian Moote leaves Bert Show: After just two years, Moote left the Bert Show to co-host his own Los Angeles-based morning show. It was an amazing opportunity for Moote. Bert Weiss gambled on a newcomer to radio Moe Mitchell, also his first minority cast member since he started the show in 2001. He also elevated Davi Crimmins to the now four-person morning show primary cast. 

Shelley Wynter

Changes at Talk 106.7: The talk station this year added two new conservative  voices: Shelley Wynter and Mike Brooks. The Kim “The Kimmer” Peterson also was moved from noon to 3 p.m. to 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Brian Joyce (often a target of the Kimmer) was ousted from his afternoon spot. 

Spanish music changes: El Patron - which had aired more traditional Mexican regional music for many years - became Z105.3, which focuses Latino pop music. This reflects the broadening diversity of the Hispanic population in Atlanta. In the meantime, rival Mexcian regional music station La Raza 102.3 added 107.1 to its signal. enabling it to expanded its base. 

Photo: Rodney Ho/Radio and TV Talk

R.I.P. 99X’s Sean Demery: Demery, who helped create and shape the alternative rock station 99X during its formative years in the 1990s, passed away following a massive stroke that left him almost fully paralyzed. He was considered a quirky on-air host and a programming guru who liked to do his own thing. His last gig was in Portland running KINK-FM. 

(Also passed: former Kicks 101.5 host Wylie Rose of cancer at age 44.  And Hugh Wilson, who created “WKRP in Cincinnati” in homage to the Atlanta top 40 station WQXI-AM.)

Atlanta's Payne Lindsey, the podcast host and creator of "Up and Vanished" spoke with Dateline NBC about the Tara Grinstead case. CREDIT: NBC

Monster year for podcaster: This was a great year for podcaster Payne Lindsey. His podcast with HowStuffWorks about the alleged killer of Atlanta children 38 years ago called “Atlanta Monster” was a huge hit. Plus, his first “Up and Vanished” season brought attention to the murder of Georgia teacher Tara Grinstead. Though is podcast didn’t lead to the two suspects, they were arrested after all the publicity. He also created a second season of “Up and Vanished” that is as much about a strange little town in Colorado as it is about the woman who disappeared there.

Super weirdness at Power 92.3 Jamz: An R&B/hip-hop station run by someone identifying himself as Larry Edwards (but could very well be Enoch Kirkwood) started at 92.3 in May. He leased it from a company that chose to drop fellow urban station 96.7/The Beat because he was uncomfortable with iHeartMedia’s bankruptcy protection filing. The station seems to be connected to a former HD2 station at 101.5. It also raised the ire of iHeartMedia by including Power in its name. iHeartMedia already has a top 40 station in town called Power 96.1. 

Photo: Jennifer Brett/Atlanta Buzz

WABE changes: With Dennis O’Hayer retiring from morning host and Amy Kiley let go in afternoons, the station found two replacements: former Fox 5 host Lisa Rayam in mornings and Jim Burress in afternoons. It also launched a successful historical podcast “Buried Truths” focused on civil rights cold cases

Two AM stations die: Reflecting the increasing obsolescence of the AM dial, two Atlanta-based AM stations went dark this year: 1690 WMLB-AM “The Voice of the Arts,” a quirky music station run by Joe Weber for about 21 years shut down in part because Weber had moved out of the state and no longer had the energy to keep it going. And gospel station WYZE-AM at 1480 closed own in November due to technical issues the owners decided were too cost prohibitive to fix

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.