Axel Lowe, long time 99x and Rock 100.5 jock, is leaving Atlanta after more than two decades to become program director of a rock station in Cincinnati 96rock.
He joined Power 99 as a phone taker and was an original jock at 99X, the now defunct but once powerful alternative rock station in town. He worked there until 2008, when it was taken off the FM dial. He moved to Rock 100.5, then returned to 99X when it came back for a couple of years on translator signals, including 99.1 and 98.9 until the station's ultimate demise in 2012. Again, he returned to Rock 100.5 in 2012 as afternoon jock and assistant music programmer, where he has been ever since.
Axel in a text said he is still working out an arrangement so he can still do some shifts for Rock 100.5 and he plans to return often. He will continue as the afternoon jock at Rock 100.5 until the end of the year. (Rock 1005. mid-day host Lyndsey Marie now does her from Chicago.)
UPDATE March 8: Axel has remained as Rock 100.5 afternoon host, voicetracking from Cincy, but the station has found a replacment: Jay Philpott moves to Atlanta from Baltimore's WZBA, according to DCRTV.com. He starts March 30.
UPDATE: September 3, 2015: Just noticed he is now voicetracking evenings on Rock 100.5. So like mid-day host Lyndsey Marie, now in Chicago, it's like he never left!
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Everyone I spoke to from his 99X days was universally complimentary of his positive attitude and rock smarts. "He's one of the good people in the biz," wrote Christopher "Crash" Clark, a former 99X traffic guy now a traffic reporter at 11 Alive on TV.
Jimmy Baron, who worked as a morning host at 99X from 1993 until 2006 and is now a realtor, said Axel had a knack for survival for multiple reasons.
"The key to being successful in radio in 2014 is not knowing how to keep breaks short or interviewing rock stars. The key to radio is knowing how to bite your tongue," said Baron, whose last radio gig was at Dave FM from 2009 to 2011. "Axel has always been really good at adapting to dozens of management changes, format changes, personnel changes. They've treated him poorly and they've treated him well. He just keeps things in perspective. He knows at the end of the day he's a father of two and it's important to keep your job."
On top of that, "whatever job they give him, he does it really well. And he doesn't bitch and moan. He does everything with a smile."
The Chicago native's real name, by the way, is Andrew Lowe. He was given the more rock-sounding on-air name of Axel (which may have had something to do with Axl Rose) in the early days of 99X because of his long-flowing rocker hair.
"He was a good fit for 99X," said English Nick, a former 99X jock now at 97.1/The River. "He's just a cool dude with a metal background. He was in the right place at the right time."
Steve Craig, the former mid-day host at 99X who now runs alternative rock station X107.1, said Axel's knowledge of rock is without peer. At various rock stations, "he's been the expert and the musicologist. He's incredibly passionate. He's also one of the best talents on the air in this market. He knew the formula we perfected at 99X. His departure is a major loss for Atlanta radio."
Craig said Axel told him he is now moving him closer to Chicago with slightly more moderate weather.
Leslie Fram, his boss at 99X, calls Axel "hands down one of the most well-rounded talents in the industry. I always knew that he could fill any on-air slot because he became one of the best on-air talents in the country... I'm so excited for this next journey. Being a Program Director is about leading a team, being the architect and understanding that radio is more than 7 second intros. Radio needs to get back to being local and entertaining and Axel understands the magic!"
Fred Toucher, a former 99X jock now working at a sports station in Boston, said he used to go to the Grammy's in L.A. with Axel. "One time he only ate In-and-Out Burger for the whole trip. It made me mad that we couldn't have one nice meal," Toucher wrote via Facebook. "On that trip he also bought a silk shirt with flames on it from a street vendor. He used to go over to Jesse James Dupree's house a lot. I hope Jackyl has plans to play in Ohio soon."
Axel became a jock by accident. He was a field marketer at Arista Records but lost his job after six months. He took what he thought was a temporary gig answering phones at what was then Power 99, a top 40 station, in Atlanta. He never listened to the radio, much less Paula Abdul and Color Me Badd, according to a story in a special edition of Alternative Press from 1999 focused exclusively on 99X. (I saved that magazine more than a decade ago and am glad I was able to use it!)
But he became friends with Rick Stacy, Power 99's program director. "One day Rick came up to me and said, 'Why don't we see what you sound like on the radio.' I had no idea what to do... I had no idea what people sounded like on the air."
But he was a natural. After a short stint at overnights, he moved to the 9 a.m. to noon slot, then nights. The author of the 1999 story about Axel wrote, "His audience identifies with Axel. He interacts with the music and the listeners with a fan's enthusiasm and an outsider's interest. You might even call him the Harry Caray of the radio."
WFTK-FM, the station Axel will be overseeing, is kind of like the old Project 9-6-1, defined as "active rock," featuring grunge from the 1990s through current hits by Seether, Five Finger Death Punch and Three Days Grace. In the last Nielsen Audio ratings, the station drew a 1.8 share, the third-place rock station in town. That's similar to Rock 100.5, which is the third-place rock station in Atlanta behind classic rock leader 97.1/The River and alternative rock station Radio 105.7.
Ironically, he used to compete with Atlanta's 96rock back in the day. (It's now top 40 Power 96.1).