Whatever happened to... Randy & Spiff?

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Thursday, January 14, 2016

Randy Cook and Spiff Carner - as Randy and Spiff - were one of the biggest morning radio shows in Atlanta in the 1990s on Fox 97, entertaining Baby Boomers and their kids with goofy characters, parody songs and witticisms galore in between Four Seasons, Supremes and Beatles songs.

They hosted sold-0ut Ultimate Oldies concerts at the Georgia Dome with acts such as the Beach Boys and Little Richard. The station invested boatloads for goofy Randy & Spiff TV ads. Their mugs graced billboards all over town. For one campaign, they wanted to "meet every listener" and it seemed like they actually pulled it off.

Then the 2000s arrived. Advertisers began focusing on younger listeners and Randy & Spiff's appeal faded - along with their radio stations. First Fox died in 2003 and replacement oldies station Cool 105.7 picked them up. Two years later, Cool was killed off and they moved to soft rock Lite 94.9. When the Lite went out, they tried news/talk WGST-AM. Spiff lasted only a few months while Randy lasted two years solo. Finally, they joined True Oldies 106.7 in 2009 but that gig was over after two years.

Their final radio show together was in the fall of 2011. As is typical in radio, they didn't get to say goodbye to the listeners.

This happened about the time Atlanta-based Cumulus Media had purchased Citadel, which owned True Oldies 106.7. Cumulus did agree to a concession helpful to Citadel employees: no non-compete clauses for folks let go during that time period. So Randy & Spiff could have immediately gone to another station in Atlanta instead of waiting the standard six months.

But there was a problem.

"No one called after that," Randy said.

"Crickets," Spiff added.

Their fans were deemed too old, no longer considered advertiser friendly. After five stations and nearly a quarter century in the market, Randy & Spiff as a radio team was over.

More than four years have passed and not a single viable offer has arrived. Their only public appearances together now are hosts every October at the annual Georgia Radio Hall of Fame ceremony.

Here's the tongue-in-cheek video opening they did this past fall at the Strand Theatre in Marietta.

After the True Oldies job ended, Randy - who is now 55 - went to work at an Alpharetta court reporting company producing videos. Spiff, 64, went into two years of unwanted retirement.

In early 2014, Mark Richards - a former program director at Fox and Kicks - was seeking radio professionals to work with him at Impact Partnership.

Impact is a Kennesaw-based company which provides radio services to financial and insurance advisors who want to promote their knowledge and services on the radio, typically buying air time on weekends on stations such as News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB.

He hired Randy and Spiff - though not as a morning team.

Randy said Impact's goal is to help the financial experts "sound better. We coach them as well. We'll co-host with them if they need the help. And we'll write scripts for personalities."

He co-hosts 10 different shows nationwide each week on stations in cities such as Houston, Chicago and Washington D.C. The company itself hosts more than 100 radio shows a week, reaching an estimated 10 to 15 million listeners.

"Spiff is fantastic on the air but he's also a great writer," Richards said. "Randy is a perfect combination. He's not only been on the entertainment side but understand the demographic we're trying to reach. Working at GST helped him."

While the radio producers are by and large older, most of the staff at Impact is under 35. "When people arrive," Spiff said, "we'd say, 'Daycare over here. Assisted living over there!' "

Many of the younger employees remember Randy & Spiff as that show their parents would force them to listen to in the car on the way to school.

"We would still be doing our show in the break room," Spiff joked. "You close your eyes, and it's the Randy & Spiff show!"

Richards also hired other former Atlanta radio people, such as Michelle Wright (NewsRadio 106.7), Kristen Charles (Kicks 101.5), Mike Macho (Kicks) and Jennifer Perry (NewsRadio). For him, former radio people provide proper expertise and knowledge for newbies not used to be doing radio.

Spiff worked at Impact for 18 months before choosing to retire a few months ago to spend more time with family. He also takes frequent long hikes at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and posts copious photos of his grandchildren on Facebook.

"The thing is I had already had one grand daughter and another on the way," Spiff said. "My folks are getting older. My mom passed away in October. I'm seeing classmates going. I only got two weeks vacation a year. That's not enough." (He said he'd be open to working part time if that was possible.)

Spiff, in his ever-present ballcap, remains his typical self-deprecating self, willing to take a photo pretending to pick through the garbage at Panera for food. "I hold up a sign by the exit saying, 'Will do radio for $175,000 a year.' No one has stopped but it only takes one!"

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Naturally, both morning hosts miss their times together on the radio.

"Every day we came in and laughed for four hours," Randy said.

"People to this day would come up and say that we helped them get through tough times in their lives with laughter," Spiff said.

Did they ever get sick of the music? "We never listened," Randy admitted. "We'd hear the first five seconds and last five seconds."

"We'd be answering phones and Randy would be editing like a banshee," Spiff said.

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

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