Moby, Atlanta country DJ, dies at age 69

His heyday was from 1991 to 2002 on Kicks 101.5, now New Country
Moby, a popular Atlanta DJ whose real name was James Carney, in 2016 during his final day on the air. He died from cancer at 69. RODNEY HO/

Credit: RODNEY HO/

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Moby, a popular Atlanta DJ whose real name was James Carney, in 2016 during his final day on the air. He died from cancer at 69. RODNEY HO/

Credit: RODNEY HO/

Credit: RODNEY HO/

James “Moby” Carney, a popular Atlanta country music radio morning host in the 1990s and 2000s, died Wednesday at age 69 after a battle with cancer, his family announced.

The long-time Roswell resident and inductee into the Country Radio Hall of Fame and the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame was a dominant force on Kicks 101.5 (WKHX-FM) from 1991 to 2012.

“He was the hardest working DJ you’d ever meet,” said Deborah Richards, his long-time newswoman at Kicks. “He lived, drank, ate and slept that show. He was laser-focused.”

She said Moby never talked down to his audience. “We used to call our listeners the neighbors,” she said. “Moby was your neighbor. He spoke with them from humble beginnings.”

Moby was in radio for more than 40 years, going back to his small hometown of Crossville, Tennessee, with blue-collar parents. He picked up the nickname Moby when he was 12 when he almost drowned in a lake and someone said he looked like Moby Dick splashing around in the water.

At 15, he landed his first radio job at WCSV-AM in Crossville playing Sunday morning gospel music for $1.60 per hour. He attended Belmont College — now Belmont University — in Nashville after high school and planned to major in music education. But partway through, he quit and went into radio full time.

Before coming to Atlanta, he worked at stations in Nashville, Tampa, Dallas and Houston, where he became a popular rock jock in the 1980s.



Steve Mitchell, his producer at the time and a long-time friend, said he was immediately impressed with Moby’s outsized personality when Moby arrived in 1991. “He was country sounding but he was unconventional for a country radio station at that time,” Mitchell said.

Richards said the rise of the rock and pop leanings of Garth Brooks and Shania Twain in the 1990s matched Moby’s style.

His Kicks coworkers marveled over how well prepared Moby was every morning. “He would spend his afternoons going over material,” Mitchell said. “He’d find articles and cut and paste them onto pieces of paper. He’d staple them together and bring them into the studio.”

Richards said she, Moby and traffic reporter Jim Vann made a likable trio. “Listeners would tell me that it sounded like we were just hanging out at a Waffle House having breakfast.”

Moby had a rivalry with another morning show host Rhubarb Jones on Y106 (WYAY-FM) and would tease Jones on the air, calling him “Sweet Potato.” “It was friendly competition,” Vann said. “When Ruby passed away [in 2017], the first call I got was from Moby. They were good for each other. There was no personal animosity.”

Moby’s departure from Kicks was marked with controversy after the program director Dene Hallam let him go in 2012, explaining that Moby’s schtick didn’t connect with the suburban housewife they were chasing.

“Listeners told us, ‘We’re proud to be Southern,’ but if you listened to Moby’s dialect, it didn’t reflect the average Atlantan today,” Hallam told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2002. Hallam’s honesty cost him his job, but years later, Moby hired Hallam to help him with his syndicated show.

“That says a lot about his ability to forgive and forget,” Vann said.

After Moby left Kicks, he worked briefly at Z93 (WZGC-FM), a rock station at the time, as a morning host. It wasn’t working, but Moby had a ironclad contract that required them to keep him. It would have cost the station a lot of money to let him go. So management made him the traffic reporter to try to entice him to quit. He stuck around for nine months before Z93 finally bought him out.

“If I had just left, I wouldn’t have gotten a penny,” Moby told the AJC at the time. “I wanted a release from my contract that was fair to everyone.”

Moby in 2004 built a studio in Roswell and started his own syndicated show which he ran until 2016. It heard on several small country stations in Georgia and some nearby states. His slogan: “The biggest small town in America!”

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@

“He was just as kind and caring in his private life as he was on the air,” said his son Jonah. “Even with his busy schedule, he always made his family a priority and gave me the best childhood a person could ask for. We travelled the world together before I could drive, took countless hunting and fishing trips and flew the Goodyear blimp, literally.”

Lynne Russell, the former CNN Headline News anchor, was close friends with both of them. She said Moby was the same off air as he was on air: “When we were gathered for an elaborate Easter meal or hunkered down at a good ol’ Waffle House where Moby and my husband Chuck de Caro cracked endless jokes, we all loved breaking bread together talking mostly about family and this wonderful country of ours.”

Moby also had a few scrapes with wildlife in his lifetime. In 2003, he was bitten on the right arm by a lion while serving as a volunteer at Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega. The gash required 25 stitches but didn’t cause any serious damage. “I do have a cool looking scar,” he said in 2004.

He is survived by his wife Mary Beth, son Jonah and daughter Grace.



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