INTERVIEW: Will Pendarvis hopes to bring back 99X magic from his early days

He was night jock at 99X from 1992 to 1996 and has returned 27 years later.
Will Pendarvis found some old 99X promo photos from back in the day and hung them up in the Cumulus break room, including a shot of his much younger self from three decade ago. RODNEY HO/

Credit: RODNEY HO/

Credit: RODNEY HO/

Will Pendarvis found some old 99X promo photos from back in the day and hung them up in the Cumulus break room, including a shot of his much younger self from three decade ago. RODNEY HO/

Since Atlanta-based Cumulus Broadcasting brought 99X back from the radio dead five months ago after 15 years in the wilderness, it convinced several alums to join again including Steve Barnes, Leslie Fram and Matt “Organic” Jones.

But Cumulus chief content officer Brian Phillips, who helped build 99X into the alt-rock powerhouse it was in the 1990s, went all the way to the beginning when he recently re-hired Will Pendarvis as new afternoon host.

For anyone who listened to 99X after the 1996 Olympics, Pendarvis is an unknown entity. But he was a key reason why 99X even came to be in 1992.

Hired to do nights at Power 99, the top 40 station 99X would eventually supplant, Pendarvis was allowed to do an alternative rock show called “On the Edge” spinning Black Flag and Sonic Youth instead of Madonna and Color Me Badd. Its success convinced the powers that be to turn the station into Atlanta’s first commercial home for the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains.

>>RELATED: The AJC’s 1994 profile on Will Pendarvis

Pendarvis stayed on at night and management let his freak flag fly, giving him freedom to say what he wanted and spin what he wanted.

The late 99X voice guy Keith Eubanks, whose 99X promos are being used again, would call Pendarvis as Wendell, “my imaginary friend in my throat,” Pendarvis said in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at Food Terminal in Chamblee. “George Lowe, who was Space Ghost on Adult Swim, would call and ask me, ‘Would you like a piece of key lime pie?’”

“By the final year of my show,” Pendarvis told Virtually Alternative magazine in 2000, “I would be playing a Henry Rollins spoken word piece into Tori Amos into an STP (Stone Temple Pilots) album track into ‘Echoes’ by Pink Floyd into Sinatra. Then I might feign vomiting for 15 minutes and give birth to puppies. Sometimes I put the audio from the Home Shopping Network on for awhile.”

Will Pendarvis in the early 1990s from a special 2000 Virtually Alternative magazine 99X history book.


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In 1996, Pendarvis left for what he thought would be a great gig hosting mornings at DC 101 in Washington, D.C. It wasn’t. He then landed an afternoon gig at K-Rock in New York City while Howard Stern was there. By 2004, feeling stifled creatively on commercial radio, he jumped to the new Sirius satellite radio service and found a new calling. He spent more than 18 years on what would become SiriusXM as a jock and programmer of multiple rock stations.

“They are amazing for such a giant company,” he said. “They let people do what they do best.”

By the time he was in his 50s, he figured he could ride the satellite radio wave until his own retirement. Then Phillips came calling after he brought back 99X last December.

Will Pendarvis is now 55. He last worked at 99X when he was 28. RODNEY HO/

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho

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Credit: RODNEY HO/rho

At first, Phillips didn’t have any full-time work for Pendarvis. But then Axel Lowe, afternoon host and 99X OG, decided to leave in March, opening the door for Pendarvis to come back as afternoon host and assistant program director.

“Will has the imagination and sensibilities to take you on the wildest ride of any people we’ve ever had inside the 99X brain trust,” Phillips said. “It was just irresistible to have him back.”

Pendarvis pondered this offer overnight. “It’s something I could never have imagined happening in a million years,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I was going for the future, not trying to re-create the past.”

Divorced, he was not tied down in Los Angeles. And he has plenty of family in the Southeast, including his sister in Atlanta.

“I woke up the next morning and it just felt like the right thing to do, come hell or high water,” he said. “And I haven’t questioned it since.”

Pendarvis, who has only been back for a few weeks, readily admits he is out of date with Atlanta and will need time to re-acquaint himself to the 2023 environs. He has lamented on air that his favorite eatery The Buckhead Diner shut down in 2021. But he’s thrilled that Little Five Points is still very much the same.

And he forgot how lush Atlanta is. “Atlanta was some of the best times of my life,” he said. “And no other city has this kind of green space.”

He is temporarily living in a guest house of Barnes, the Morning X host, which he admits is kind of like a dopey sitcom premise.

His housing wants and needs are modest: “I just want to find a place where I can listen to music without worrying or disturbing anybody. I don’t want to hear people’s conversations.”

As for his goals for the station, “ideally, I want to be a real reflection of Atlanta. I want to make sure the station sounds that way. I know everything is still in its infancy with this revival. I’m not in a rush to make big changes until I’m 100% comfortable with everything.”

Will Pendarvis dug up 99X memorabilia from the Cumulus storage room to decorate the studio, which had formerly been home to Rock 100.5 until December, 2022. This photo was taken May 4, 2023. RODNEY HO/

Credit: RODNEY HO/r

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Credit: RODNEY HO/r

Now 55, Pendarvis isn’t quite a wild as he was in his 20s. But he is entirely comfortable wearing a mohawk and his weirdness seeps through loud and clear on the radio.

“I have to get a brand new fin for my car because the old one fell off,” he mused on air earlier this month. “How am I going to live without fins? I’m not like Barnes driving a Bentley around with professional robot chauffeurs and stuff.” (His 2019 Volkswagen Jetta has no fin on it but “it’s not embarrassing,” he said later.)

On a recent Wednesday, he donned a ridiculous Southern accent and pretended he was on a country station: “At 5 o’clock this afternoon, we will have the 5 o’clock country cool off! We’ll play the coolest country songs you’ve ever heard in your life.” After a momentary silence, he went back to his normal voice.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s 99X.”

Or as former Morning X host Jimmy Baron noted, “he’s a complete stream-of-consciousness lunatic.”


Will Pendarvis is on from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays on 99X