By RODNEY HOemail@example.com, originally filed January 27, 2015
The new Star 94 morning show Drex, Cassiday and Tingle launches Wednesday, January 28 at 5:30 a.m.
It will be soft opening. Star, which sent out a press release earlier this month, has yet to introduce the show officially on its website or its social media pages. (I wrote about Cindy Simmons' departure earlier this month.)
UPDATE: January 28: Star now has them on their site with the curious slogan "Real Life OTP," implying anyone living ITP must be living a "fake life." On a more serious note, they are targeting the suburban audience in a rather blatant way, making a presumption that anyone who chooses to live inside the Perimeter wouldn't be interested in them. Calls I heard on air were all from OTP women.
Not surprisingly, Cassiday does the gossip bits ("Gossip to Go"). Why do morning teams always give this job to the woman?
Like it did in 2008 with the ill-fated and appropriately named Indianapolis team the Morning Mess, Star is bringing in three outsiders: two men and one woman. This time, two are from an existing team in Charlotte - Drex and Cassiday Proctor - and one - Steve Tingle - is from Philadelphia.
The circumstances of their arrival are somewhat different than that of the Morning Mess.
Back in 2008, Star had an aging audience and was getting throttled by Q100 and the Bert Show. B98.5 was doing well during the day but wasn't the juggernaut it is today. Steve & Vikki, after 18 years at the station,were still pulling in good numbers but Star was looking to the future and wanted to skew younger. The Morning Mess did the trick of scaring off the Steve & Vikki audience but failed to build their own.
With the Morning Mess gone after a year, Star brought in its solid afternoon team of Cindy & Ray, which did okay but failed to break the Bert Show stranglehold. Ray Mariner left abruptly in 2012 and Star tried to pair Cindy with a new guy Jimmy Alexander but that didn't move the needle either. So Star decided to start over and try again.
Today, Star faces even more competition, regularly finishing fourth behind the other three pop stations in most age groups in the ratings. Power 96.1 joined the top 40 radio fray in 2012. The Bert Show and Q100 remain as strong as ever. B98.5 just finished its best year ever. And Net denizens such as Spotify and Pandora have stolen market share.
The good news for this new team is lowered expectations. They aren't filling the shoes of a powerful show like Steve & Vikki. Rather, they are here to try to build from the much smaller base Cindy left behind.
A strong morning show can drive revenue and reputation, as the Bert Show has proven in spades. Even in this day and age of stagnant radio revenues, some radio companies have been willing to invest in talent when talent itself has become increasingly scarce and a draw for people who enjoy a little personality between their Katy Perry and Ariana Grande. Unfortunately, years of syndication and automation in time slots once used to build talent (evenings and nights) has stripped the farm team markets bare.
And building a morning show takes time and luck. Typically, brand new shows with no name recognition could take 18 months or more for a show to start gaining traction with listeners.
Adding to a potentially complicated situation, Star is the middle of an ownership change. This means the possibility of new management and shifting strategic direction once Entercom takes over for Lincoln Financial in a few months.
What Star is doing by placing three people who have never worked together before is risky but not unusual. B98.5's Melissa Carter and Jeff Elliott were paired together for the first time in 2013. So were Power 96.1's Scotty Kay and Riley Couture last year. And the Bert Show was created in 2001 from four disparate parts and after several changes, there are just two originals left 14 years later: Bert Weiss and Jeff Dauler.
Good news is I've heard nothing but positive things about Drex, Cassiday and Tingle.
Robert Feder, a veteran media writer in Chicago, covered Tingle when he worked there as part of a morning show for five years. "Talented and well liked," he wrote me. "Split due to ownership/format change."
Scotty O'Brien, a former jock at Kicks 101.5, said he's been listening to Drex for years online. "He's going to be huge in ATL," O'Brien wrote me via Facebook. "He will turn up the heat, great personality."
A Michigan native, Drex on air said he is 31 and married to April with a daughter Avery. He said on air Wednesday he is graying and tried to dye his own hair and felt it didn't turn out well. He ended up going to a salon to fix it.
Tingle apparently is a phone prank specialist. Phone pranks are not terribly common anymore on Atlanta radio. I have no idea if he'll resurrect them for the Star crowd. (Jeff Dauler on the Bert Show used to do them and so did Steve McCoy on Star many moons ago. Phone "taps' are still a staple of the syndicated New York Elvis Duran show, which was on Power for a couple of years.)
Here is Cassiday changing a tire while working in Charlotte:
And here is Cassiday and Drex as part of a Charlotte morning team Kiss 95.1 interviewing Jessie J last month:
If you like continuity, there is one voice that will remain familiar to Star listeners going back to the 1980s: the indestructible Rob Stadler will continue to do the news. Checka Cee will do traffic. It appears Casey Tate, the producer for Cindy, is out. His page has already been wiped off the Star 94 site. Casey is going to Raleigh's Mix 101.5 to produce for Gene and Julie Gates, a husband-and-wife team that briefly had a morning show a decade ago in Atlanta on what was then Lite 94.9.
The show will run from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.