Exclusive: Jeff Dauler's new time slot at Star 94

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Monday, February 1, 2016

In November, Jeff Dauler shocked the Bert Show community by leaving for rival Star 94.

But Star left one issue dangling: where would he land? Mornings or afternoons?

The station today told staff the news: Dauler will join mornings with Mike Marino, current afternoon host.

"I've got a guy in Jeff Dauler who has 15 years with a highly rated quality morning show," said Star general manager Mike Fowler, who oversaw Q100 from 2003 to 2006 and knows Dauler well. "What better place then to put him back in mornings where everyone is used to listening to him? It was a logical step to put him back in mornings."

A third person - likely a female - will be named later in the month. Fowler said he won't launch the show until that final ingredient is added. But if all goes right, he said he hopes to have the morning show ready to go by early March.

He wouldn't name the three candidates but has stated in the past his interest in reuniting Dauler with Jenn Hobby. The duo worked together on the Bert Show for a decade until 2012. But there is a potential hitch: Hobby recently had a second child and left Kicks 101.5. Question: will she want to go back to radio at this point in her life?

Dauler, in an interview, said he stays in close contact with Hobby and they remain good friends. But they have purposely avoided talking about job opportunities while she's still under contract with Cumulus. (Her non-compete with Kicks ends February 15.). "If she and Fowler connect," he said, "it's certainly something I wouldn't be opposed to."

Fowler said he decided to team Marino with Dauler because Marino is a strong personality himself. He joined Star in 2013.

"Like Bert, Marino can help drive the show," Fowler said. "Jeff is an idea guy and the funny guy. We need Jeff to be funny. This will allow it."

Dauler said he's excited to have Marino involved. "He's fantastic," he said. "And depending on who comes in as co-host, we might be relying on him to take care of the DJ duties." [That means the typical introductions after commercial breaks.]

As for a show name, Fowler said the station will come up with something once the third person is hired.

Dauler himself preferred mornings when he first talked with Fowler simply because he has been doing that time slot for two decades in different markets. But once he had gotten used to sleeping in, his feelings toward afternoons softened. "I would have been fine either way," he said.

Still, he added, "I love mornings. It's what I know."

Dauler said once he gets a female co host, he wants them to have a 50-50 relationship. "It's going to be an ensemble cast," he said. He likes the way Cadillac Jack and Dallas McCade work on Kicks and would like to emulate that.

"It will be fun to watch the evolution of the roles," Dauler said, "and see how things develop. I'm excited about the whole process. I'm sure the show we debut is going to sound completely different from the show that exists in six months. It's going to be a group of people who had never worked together."

Drex, Cassiday and Tingle, the Star morning show the past year. They will be moving to afternoons soon. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

This move means the current morning show Drex, Cassiday and Tingle is moving to afternoons. That show launched at Star in early 2015 before Entercom took over. As is typical of any new morning show, their numbers have lagged behind the rest of the station. They averaged a 3.05 share among 25 to 54 year olds in 2015 vs. 3.85 for the station as a whole.

Fowler noted it can take two-plus years for unfamiliar hosts to gain traction in this market.

Star 94 had a personality afternoon show with Cindy Simmons and Ray Mariner from 2004 until 2009 before moving to mornings.  (Cindy was cut from Star a year ago and Ray, after a short stint at sports talk station the Fan, is now in New Orleans. He recently subbed in briefly in mid-days at Kicks.)

Asked if the Drex, Cassiday and Tingle team might perceive this to be a snub or demotion, Fowler demurred: "I think everybody over here believes in the vision. We are here to win. A lot of times, there is more listening in afternoons than mornings."

[UPDATE: Drex Rener posted this on his Facebook page a few hours the news broke:

I'm sure you've heard the saying "everything happens for a reason." While today stings (our show is getting moved to afternoons in 2 weeks), I know God has has a plan for Cassiday Proctor, Steve Tingle, JP Allen and myself. True success is achieved through teamwork and as JP says "we're gonna hit 'em hard, hit 'em with the heat and hit 'em often!"]

Entercom, which took over Star 94 last July, is clearly investing in the station by paying for two three-person teams in both mornings and afternoons. (Entercom financially is in much better shape than most radio companies.)

Dauler said Fowler told him Entercom reminds him of the way Susquehanna ran Q100 and 99X before Cumulus bought the company. Susquehanna had a family atmosphere and a focus on talent development that enabled the growth of both the Morning X on 99X and the Bert Show. "I trust the company's vision," Dauler said. "I'm excited."

Entercom's early efforts to focus on music and fewer ads have paid off at Star. Ratings in recent months are up across the board. In December, the four pop stations were in a tight race. Overall, B98.5 (5.4) edged out Power 96.1 (5.2), Star (4.1) and Q100 (3.7). Among 25-54 year olds, B98.5 and Power were tied at 5.3 with Q100 at 4.3 and Star at 4.0.

Fowler said the new morning show will still feature a lot of music. This will be adjusted over time depending on how the show flows. (The Bert Show nowadays plays only a couple of cuts an hour.)

Technically, Dauler will be able to be on air starting this week. Fowler plans to use him for promotions until the morning show is ready to go.

Dauler was the last original member of the Bert Show besides Bert Weiss himself. Dauler, in an interview with Rich Eldredge, said he had gone several months without a contract and felt he wasn't considered a priority there. So he decided to leave for his own show, which carries its own risks and rewards. He loses the large platform the Bert Show provides in 17 markets nationwide while taking on the responsibility of being the No. 1 guy.

"It was a fun experience," Dauler said, and it enabled him to go to seven or eight cities where the show is aired and do stand-up comedy. But he is looking forward to doing a show that is purely Atlanta centric. (The Bert Show over the past six years has to avoid making Atlanta references during the main portion of the show. It throws in occasional local bits just for Atlanta.)

The Bert Show , heard locally on Q100, recently added a new guy to replace Dauler named Brian Moote. B98.5 has a new host starting this week as well named Tad Lemire, replacing Jeff Elliott.

Star hasn't had a highly rated morning show since Steve & Vikki from 1990 to 2007. Its subsequent efforts included the aptly named Morning Mess (2008), Cindy & Ray (2009-2012) and Cindy & Jimmy (2013-2014).

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About the Author

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