Jason Pullman is not Ryan Seacrest. But he did go to the same high school as Ryan – Dunwoody High (though he graduated from Roswell High in 1991.)
He also worked at then top 40 station Power 99 as a part-time fill-in jock – just like Ryan did at rival Star 94 when the future “American Idol” host was first starting out in radio as a teenager.
And now Pullman’s back in Atlanta as a morning co-host at country station 94.9/The Bull. Since he joined the Bull about eight months ago with Kristen Gates, he has built up an audience far greater than that of his predecessor Cledus T. Judd. The station even beat standard-bearer Kicks 101.5 among 18 to 34 year olds in October ratings.
“I want to emulate Ryan’s success,” Pullman said during a lunch at Houston’s last week. “I couldn’t be more proud of him.” While he wants to build his radio show and perhaps go syndication one day, he’d also like to do some TV hosting. (Recently, he hosted a Dunwoody High School football booster fundraiser. They were inducting… Ryan Seacrest. “I can’t escape him!” Pullman said.)
So far, Pullman said he’s happy with the progress he’s made the past few months after having been off radio for three-plus years while he focused on “voice-over” work. Yes, that’s him doing promos for the FX Network and Chili’s.
He actually came back to Atlanta last year when his mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer last year. The Bull job opportunity came along only after he settled back into town.
His show with Gates, which he dubbed Caffeinated Radio, isn’t actually all that hyped up with gimmicks. And while he loves country music, he doesn’t just focus around that. This morning, for instance, he and Kristen spent several minutes gabbing about the Tiger Woods incident.
Pullman does do a weekly bit he really likes called “Narc on your neighbors.” Folks call in to complain about neighbors whose dogs poop in their yard or won’t cut their grass.
He said he likes to ask celebrities off-beat questions. His first query to Darius Rucker: “When was the last time you got baked?” Rucker, he said, just laughed.
Before coming back to Atlanta, Pullman bounced around different radio markets, from San Francisco to St. Louis to Washington D.C. to Los Angeles. Pullman even did a brief temp morning host gig for Q100 when the station launched in early 2001, just before the Bert Show started.
“I thought he was talented, but he was high maintenance,” said Norm Schrutt, his former agent a decade ago when Pullman worked in St. Louis and Washington D.C.. He now represents the likes of Cindy & Ray, Chris Rude and Mara Davis. Schrutt said he and Pullman split over differing ideas how to move his career forward.
Interestingly, Pullman and Gates don’t appear to be stealing much (if any) audience from Kicks, Bull’s obvious rival. Kicks has seen its ratings grow steadily the past few months. Rather, it appears Pullman has taken audience share away from the local top 40 stations, which have lost listeners in recent months. He says he considers Q100, Star 94 and the Beat his competitors as well as Kicks.
And unlike his predecessor Judd or even Kicks’ Cadillac Jack, Pullman has no trace of a Southern accent. “The twang has always been associated with country radio,” he acknowledged. “It’s not that direction anymore.”
The man also has a connection with Star 94’s Cindy Simmons: he dated her for a couple of years in the mid 1990s when he was on the West Coast doing a country music show. He said he has not talked to her in more than a decade, not even after he came back into town.
Simmons emailed me back when I asked her about Pullman: “Indeed, Jason and I dated many years ago, and I’m glad to see he’s doing well for himself. He’s a great talent! I hope to catch up with him soon.”
He also has a connection with Steve McCoy at B98.5. While he was in college, his parents convinced McCoy to take a 19-year-old Pullman to lunch and give him advice. He’s not sure if McCoy would remember the lunch but Pullman appreciates it to this day. (Yes, McCoy remembers: “His enthusiasm reminded me of the burning desire I had when I first wanted to be behind a microphone.”)
“I’m just excited about the next 12 months,” Pullman said. “I love being back in my hometown. I couldn’t be happier. I just wish my mom was feeling better.”