Photo: Jeff Dauler, Wanda Smith and Cadillac Jack all lost radio jobs in 2019. (CR l-r Rodney Ho/Getty/publicity shot
Photo: Jeff Dauler, Wanda Smith and Cadillac Jack all lost radio jobs in 2019. (CR l-r Rodney Ho/Getty/publicity shot

2019 Atlanta radio year in review: Jeff Dauler, Cadillac Jack, Wanda Smith, Talk 106.7, Tom Joyner

Originally posted Monday, December 30, 2019 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

This was a bizarre year where morning hosts lost their jobs but their co hosts kept theirs. This happened at V-103, Kick 101.5, 94.9/The Bull and Star 94.1.

And an entire station disappeared - Talk 106.7 - after a Christian company turned it into a syndicated music format. 

Here’s a quick summary of the biggest Atlanta radio stories of 2019:

Star 94.1 changes: Jeff Dauler was let go in a messy transition that featured passive-aggressive and not-so-passive-aggressive comments between Dauler and his former co-host Jenn Hobby. Once close friends while on the Bert Show, they tried for three years to take down Bert Weiss with a show that was similar to Bert’s show minus Bert. Dauler, now a lead as opposed to sidekick, focused more on positivity and while ratings did improve from what Star had before, they didn’t improve enough. So Star kept Jenn, dropped Jeff and re-vamped the show to become Jenn and Friends. The station also changed the rest of its daytime line up and hired a new program director. We’ll see how much of it sticks come 2020. 

Kicks 101.5 changes cast, nameAli Mac was cut from the morning show while Kicks kept Cadillac Jack. Then the country station booted Caddy in July after 26 years at the company and recently brought in new guy J.J. Kincaid to pair up with Caddy’s former co-host Dallas McCade. And the name Kicks is no more after 38 years. It’s now New Country 101-FIVE. Why are they spelling out five? That’s the mystery. It sounds the same on air! The station also hired a new program director as it attempts to regain its once dominant country position in Atlanta, long ceded to 94.9/The Bull. 

Photo: CR: Rodney Ho/ New Bull morning host Spencer Graves

94.9/The Bull changes: Despite the fact the station was beating up on Kicks, management dropped morning co-host Jason Pullman in January without explanation. They kept Kristen Gates and brought in Spencer Graves from St. Louis. The good news: ratings continued to be strong with the new guy. 

Jade Novah and JR are the newest members of V-103, joining the morning team with Frank Ski. CREDIT: V-103

V-103 changes: In January, veteran hosts Wanda Smith and Miss Sophia were ousted in favor of two Millennials: Jade Novah and JR Smith. They kept Frank Ski, who was once the dominant morning host in town during his first run there. Novah, a musician, didn’t quite take the medium, having never done radio before and left in the summer. No replacement has been named. Ratings for the show have been pretty flat compared to the prior show. 

OG 97.9’s adds a live show: OG97.9 debuted jockless five years ago and did well for a translator signal as a classic hip-hop station. This year, Cumulus created a new syndicated morning show targeting R&B stations and placed it in Atlanta on OG 97.9: former Kiss host Sasha the Diva with Miami’s Rick Party, who worked briefly at V-103 in the 1990s. 

Kara Stockton and Shannon Burke pose with Jacob Boyak, fan of the show at 10:45 a.m. on May 31, 2019. Boyak brought a 1.5 liter bottle of Jameson whiskey as a gift to the team.

Talk 106.7 goes silent: Atlanta-based Cumulus appeared committed to compete with news/talk WSB when it changed the station name from NewsRadio 106.7 to Talk 106.7 in early 2018. But a year later, corporate decided to sell several stations nationwide to Educational Media Foundation, which placed a syndicated Christian pop station on 106.7 called K-Love on June 1. Oddly, the hosts had a long goodbye, staying on air for more than three months aware they were departing. Shelley Wynter is doing part-time work with WSB. Shannon Burke ultimately found a gig back in OrlandoMike Brooks keeps working on Court TV and has a show on Real 1100 (along with Burke). And the Kimmer launched a podcast after failing to find a traditional radio gig. 

- Tom Joyner retires. With his fan base aging, Joyner, 70, made the announcement in early 2018 that he would retire at the end of 2019. His final show was Friday, December 13 after being on radio for nearly a half century and 25 years in syndication. The legendary Dallas-based jock was on Atlanta’s Kiss for most of his syndicated career but spent his final two years on Classix 102.9. 

Rickey Smiley/Headkrack:  Joyner’s departure has led to a scramble to fill his time slots. Urban One’s Reach Media plans to place Rickey Smiley’s revamped show in many slots in early 2020. In Atlanta, Russ Parr will take over mornings on Classix while Smiley remains at Hot 107.9 Headkrack - formerly part of Smiley’s show - launches his own show with several personalities from D.C. and will remain in Atlanta. But Headkrack’s show will not be heard in Atlanta at its debut. 

- Hurricane Dave sexual harassment suit and countersuit: In August, the head of Urban One Atlanta’s programming was sued for sexual harassment by a former jock Shorty Mack, who also claimed he sexually assaulted her. He was fired and has since filed his own defamation suit denying all her charges

Photo: CR: Rodney Ho/ The Kimmer taping his fourth podcast on December 20, 2019.

Podcasts proliferate: Several former jocks in town opted to go the podcast route rather than a traditional radio gig. Former Star 94.1 host Jeff Dauler, with his wife Callielaunched a podcast called the Upside, focused on gratitude and it opened strong. Cadillac Jack is planning his own podcast with his wife Donna and the Kimmer started his own earlier this month, asking for folks to pay a monthly fee. 

Photo: RODNEY HO/ Cancer survivor Kyle Klerk of Lilburn signs Neal Boortz's head for the third year.

Boortz retires completelyNeal Boortz left his syndicated daily radio show in early 2013 but kept his fingers in radio by doing a short daily rant and launching his own subscription-only podcast. But the Naples, Fla. resident decided in August to stop completely and just relax

- Rest in Peace: WSB radio host Pete Combs passed away earlier this month after a brief battle with cancer at age 60... Bob Bailey, a former jock at 96rock and Z93, died in November also from cancer at age 66... Former WQXI-AM general manager Jerry Blum - the inspiration for Art Carlson on “WKRP in Cincinnati - died in February of congestive heart failure at age 86. 

Carl Dukes and Mike Bell make their debut on the Talkers magazine Heavy Hundred 2017 at No. 32.
Photo: Rodney Ho/Radio and TV Talk

- Ratings update: 92.9/ The Game pulled in some of its strongest ratings ever this year. Fish 104.7 was No. 1 for four months mid year then settled back into its normally solid ratings. News/talk WSB was at the top for most of the year while V-103 remained the biggest performer among 25 to 54 year olds. Majic had a big year, often beating V-103 in mornings with Steve Harvey carrying the morning load. Kiss made a comeback under a new program director. Alt 105.7 had its worst year to date. 

FILE - In this March 2, 2015, file photo, Howard Stern arrives at the "America's Got Talent" Season 10 red carpet kickoff at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, N.J. Stern is staying on Sirius XM to produce and host his show for another five years, the parties announced Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File) ORG XMIT: NYBZ160

Nationally: Sirius/XM Howard Stern released a book and actually spoke to me and my colleague Melissa Ruggieri... His nemesis Don Imus died at the close of the year... IHeartMedia emerged from bankruptcy protection earlier in the year... U.S. audio streaming grew 28 percent year over year, according to Nielsen, and Spotify dominates the world subscriber list... TikTok’s growth was also notable and it helped break Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.”

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About the Author

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