[UPDATE on November 12, 8:24 a.m.: Rob Johnson informed me this morning he officially starts November 15 on Monday from 6 to 9 a.m.. But Rusty Humphries, due to some issues with current afternoon host Dave Ramsey, cannot start until January 1 from 3 to 6 p.m. although he is now based in Atlanta. He had expected to start yesterday.]
[UPDATE on November 12, 6:19 p.m.: Dan Persigehl, operations manager, confirmed to me that Johnson is starting Monday. But Dave Ramsey's contract requires a 90-day notice before he can be booted. He was not given that amount of time. The two sides ended up compromising: six-week notice so Rusty cannot take the 3 to 6 p.m. slot until January 3, 2011. In the meantime, Rusty will do a 6 to 7 p.m. show in the interim starting Monday. Ramsey's future? To be determined, Persigehl said.]
640/WGST-AM, which has been going all syndicated talk on weekdays the past 15 months, is bringing back local talk radio to both mornings and late afternoons Monday through Friday.
Rob Johnson (right), a talk show host from Modesto, has arrived in Atlanta and is scheduled to start his live, local show in the mornings. He was last on KMPH-AM/840 in Modesto. Based on Arbitron measurements, Modesto is the 113th largest market in the United States with 426,000 people ages 12 and up in the area.
Rusty Humphries, a producer for Steve & Vikki on Star 94 back in the 1990s, became a popular syndicated talk show host with nearly 300 affiliates. He will be coming to Atlanta from Oregon to do his show from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.. I hear El Jefe, who had been part of the morning show at Project 9-6-1 until last month, may be involved with Humphries’ show as a producer. He will continue to syndicate his 9 p.m to midnight show.
“Some talkers are the iron men of the business,” said Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers magazine, which tracks the talk radio world. “He’s one of them.”
Harrison is a fan. He said Humphries has “paid a lot of dues. He lost his wife. His father died in Vietnam. He became very overweight, then lost 100 pounds and now runs marathons. He’s done some very exciting overseas broadcasts from war zones. He’s risked his life interviewing terrorists in their terrorist camps in the Middle East. Atlanta is going to be getting a pretty colorful guy.”
He’s conservative, Harrison added, but not angry. “He’s a creative, fun guy,” he said.
Talkers estimates that he has more than 2.75 million listeners and is in the top 20 among most popular talk show hosts in the country.
Humphries, in an interview today, said he is well aware of GST’s woes over the years. “There’s a definite signal problem,” he said. “Some very smart, good radio broadcasters have had tough times there. I’m not coming in expecting to be the savior. But I still believe in talk radio.”
He promises to work with advertisers and “bring new ways of thinking to sell the station.”
Humphries, with his syndicated show, is not doing the local show for the money. “I don’t need the job. The syndicated show is doing fantastic. I’m doing it because I’m having fun. I love Atlanta.”
But Humphries, who left Atlanta just before the 1996 Olympics, said he won’t be namedropping Stone Mountain and the Varsity on the first day. “I used to live here but it’s been a long time. I’ll start off slow. We’ll talk more national stuff and terrorism, then catch up on local issues. I’m again a stranger in a strange land.”
Read more about him on his web page.
Michael Smerconish, a syndicated host out of Philadelphia, will be out as morning host after 15 months. Afternoon syndicated host Dave Ramsey out of Nashville, will be moved to evenings.
WGST’s numbers have slipped off notably over the years as its audience has moved further outside the Perimeter and its revenues declined. The last time WGST had a live and local afternoon show was Kim “The Kimmer” Peterson, who was dismissed in late 2006 and retired. Randy Cook, now on air with Spiff Carner on True Oldies 106.7, was let go last summer. The station is ranked 22nd in the latest monthly Arbitron ratings.
In its target demographic of 25 to 54 men for the four weeks ending October 16, Smerconish ranked 25th, Glenn Beck ranked 23rd, Rush Limbaugh ranked 14th and Ramsey ranked 23rd.
I’ll update this as I get more information from the bosses there at Clear Channel Atlanta. (UPDATE as of 11:04 p.m. 11/10/10: Though new operations guy Dan Persighel promised me a press release earlier today, I never saw it. Will try to get something from him Thursday.)