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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Talk with new WGST morning host Rob Johnson

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For Rob Johnson, this is either an opportunity of a lifetime or a fall into the rabbit hole that is Clear Channel Atlanta.

Johnson, a talk show host for more than eight years in Modesto, Fla. (market No. 113), is now manning a morning show in the No. 7 market in the nation on 640/WGST-AM, the troubled news/talk station.

“It’s a big  jump,” he admitted in an interview after his first show today. He airs from 6 to 9 a.m. “I still have a nosebleed! I was a good match for what they were looking for.”

Johnson has the mellifluous voice of a soft rock DJ because he was indeed once a jock for that type of music station. His opinions are relatively conservative, he says, with a mantra of small, less intrusive government. But he does not come across as angry or confrontational. He uses a gentle, quietly persuasive cadence.

“That’s my natural style and delivery,” he said. “They hired me to make an Atlanta show. It will take some time to understand Atlanta and Georgia, its issues, events and locations. As I become more ingrained and knowledgeable, it will get more local.”

Melissa Forrest, who oversees Clear Channel Atlanta (which includes 94.9/The Bull, Project 9-6-1, Groove 105.7 and 105.3/El Patron, as well as WGST), in an email said, “Rob’s show is designed to be an alternative to typical morning news.  It includes today’s headlines plus commentary and humor from a conservative perspective.”

He replaces Michael Smerconish, the syndicated host who covered mornings from Philadelphia starting in the summer of 2009 after Randy Cook stepped down to re-join Spiff Carner at True Oldies 106.7. Smerconish was clearly a stopgap measure as Clear Channel sought a local host. And now that Clear Channel’s FM properties have stabilized (relatively speaking), “it was time to turn our focus on WGST,” she noted.

Johnson’s producer is El Jefe, formerly part of the morning team over at Project 9-6-1, where Klinger has taken his spot. El Jefe is also doing sports for Johnson under the name Alejandro Silva.

“He turns out to be a very versatile guy and eager to make his move into talk radio,” Johnson said.

This morning, Johnson focused on Nancy Pelosi’s comments about after the mid-term election in which she deflected blame for the Democrat’s poor performance. He also played the audio of a man John Tyner who refused to get physically probed in the privates or x-rayed on a new body scanner. Tyner taped the whole situation. He was firm but polite. In the end, officials did not allow him to step on an airplane. He released the audio, which has gone viral on the Web.

Johnson also threw in a few pre-done comedy bits. He said once he settles in, he hopes to create more originals.

Smerconish was not missed. Not a single person called in to complain. In fact, Johnson received calls of joy, not despair.

An Oklahoma native, Johnson’s other markets over the years include Riverside/San Bernardino, Orlando and West Palm Beach.

As recently as a decade ago, WGST was a viable alternative to 750/WSB-AM. But 750 has the signal advantage and the management muscle Clear Channel lacked. The station shed revenue and local staff like a scruffy dog in the summer time. In 2006, it dumped the local voice of the station Kim “The Kimmer” Peterson and morning host Tom Hughes. For many, that was a sign the station had given up in terms of competing with WSB.

WGST’s ratings have been scraping bottom this year, with the sports station 680/The Fan often beating the station in ratings. Even its big-name syndicated host Rush Limbaugh’s numbers have fallen off.  With baseline signal limitations (especially when its’ dark) and a gradual shift away from AM by local listeners, the station faces serious structural problems.  Right now, it doesn’t appear Clear Channel is planning to give GST an FM simulcast, a move WSB Radio made in August (so the station is now called AM 750 and now 95.5FM News/Talk WSB)

The afternoon show starting January 3 will be Rusty Humphries, another conservative talker. He was supposed to take over Dave Ramsey’s slot last week but Clear Channel bosses overlooked a 90-day advance notice provision in Ramsey’s contract. The two sides compromised and Ramsey leaves the 3 to 6 p.m. slot at the end of the year. For now, Humphries, already on the payroll, starts a temporary 6 to 7 p.m. show tonight.

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28 comments Add your comment

Wild Bill Kelso

November 15th, 2010
4:40 pm

Good radio voice. The show has potential. Not sure if a solo act in the morning drive is the way to go. Add a co-host like Art “Mad Man” Mehring and go in the direction of the old Grandy & Andy show on WMAL in Washington DC.

Then again, we are talking Clear Channel and apparently no one in the Building of Death knows how to read or they would have known about the 90 day provision with Dave Ramsey.

Kimmer

November 15th, 2010
4:53 pm

“If a tree falls in the woods ….”

Heather near Atlanta

November 15th, 2010
6:45 pm

Well, here’s a lone voice of complaint in the woods. I listened briefly this morning, and I’ll try WGST and Mr. Johnson again, but I had to switch over to The Regular Guys because Day One sounded like Amateur Hour. Smerconish had made me a fan, even with his insufferable “Let’s just have a conversation” schtick, but his show is smart and fast-paced and I learned a lot. Almost always interesting stuff, from politics to movies to history to random stuff.

But then, I always wondered why WGST didn’t just put more money behind Randy Cook. I thought he was a very intelligent host and right on top of the local issues, but it was apparent he was flying pretty near solo.

radioMan

November 15th, 2010
8:11 pm

thank you WGST for bringing back local radio. they heard all of our complaints and decided to do something about it. now let’s all of us who complained listen and support WGST!

Ed Tyll & Gene Blaine

November 15th, 2010
8:49 pm

We feel kind of sorry for him.

We all know how this turns out.

Traffic Headache

November 15th, 2010
9:05 pm

A conservative talk show host who doesn’t go into a bile-laden rant and try to pass of conspiracy theory as fact? It’ll never work.

radioMan

November 16th, 2010
12:16 am

geez traffic headache, bitter much?

Don

November 16th, 2010
7:45 am

Rob Johnson, when I hear someone in Atlanta bad mouth Sarah Palin, I turn them off.

Don

marco

November 16th, 2010
11:37 am

I’ve listened during two drives & not sure I’ll listen again — the humor is a bit sophomoric for my taste — and some is not suitable if you have youngsters in the car — but I guess GST stated pretty boldly that they don’t want us >50 year olds to listen when they sent Tom Hughes and Randy Cook packing. Even WSB 750AM (AND NOW 95.5 FM) proves to be marginally more listenable to GST’s offering.

Kaiser Bill

November 16th, 2010
12:26 pm

Get an I-Phone or Droid and listen to WNIR online!
http://www.wnir.com

Bitter

November 16th, 2010
3:00 pm

These last two days in Atlanta traffic have been horrible with the weather! To top it off Smerconish is gone!! I am so livid!!!

Still Bitter

November 16th, 2010
3:03 pm

AND Dave Ramsey’s show is leaving??? Ohhhhhhhhh, guess I can go ahead and remove this station from my favorites…oh me oh my!!

netradiojock

November 16th, 2010
3:17 pm

ClearChannel Atlanta = SS Titanic

Patrick

November 16th, 2010
7:16 pm

Tried to listen but there’s nothing but static on 640 before the sun rises, or after it sets. They could be playing the best radio ever but nobody can hear it. As a consequence, they could also be playing the worst radio and nobody would hear it. Maybe this is a good thing. Like someone else said, we all know how this one will end.

I long for the days when WGST and WSB went for each other’s throats. It made for some great radio. Scrappy little GST holding its own against WSB who had the TV side AND the AJC to backup the radio. And it was still a monumental fight! That’s how tough GST used to be. Nobody listening now can imagine what it used to be like.

Rush’s show was the beginning of the end. Instead of live and local, it became syndicated and taped around the clock. WSB gave up trying to compete and just wrote some big checks. GST’s news started falling off when Bob Coxe left. Planet Radio blew up whatever was left.

Oh well.

mirandalambert2012

November 16th, 2010
9:07 pm

Well that interesting that Ramsay is gone. He’s not bad but his callers can be a bit hickish or they super rich that most people really cant relate to. It will be nice to have3 a local radio morning show on there so that seems like a good move.

Scotto

November 17th, 2010
7:32 am

The new morning host has a voice eerily similar to that of Jim Powell the Atlanta Braves radio announcer.

Scotto

November 17th, 2010
7:54 am

I know a lot of us long time WGST listeners seem to dwell on the great Tom Hughes/Kim Petersen era (count me in), but for the majority of us that was some great radio. Driving home after a long day at work and listening to Petersen address the local issues with his brand of humor would always leave me in stitches. Throw in the hilarious Jim Gossett who had some of the best character voices out there – anyone remember those great Al Gore vs. George Bush debate comedy bits? I nearly drove off the road on more than a couple occassions! That said, I’ll give Rusty Humphries a try in his new 3-6p slot since this town sorely needs a show that addresses LOCAL issues – not the national stuff we are inundated with on the airwaves.

Micro Phone

November 17th, 2010
9:36 am

I don’t know anything about Rob Johnson but after a couple days of listening – he is hilarious. Let’s give him some support. WGST is finally stepping up.

Joe Stevens

November 17th, 2010
10:32 am

WGST is in a sorry state of affairs as is most of the AM talk in Atlanta.

Kimmer

November 17th, 2010
12:30 pm

Miss me yet?

Wayne No Offense

November 17th, 2010
12:31 pm

I know you miss me.

Randall Bloomquist

November 17th, 2010
3:40 pm

The mop at the Walmart on Bankhead Highway misses me when I’m not cleaning the toilets!

marc chase

November 17th, 2010
3:44 pm

Would love to consult for WGST until I can get another charity drinking buddy job from Randy Michaels.

JF

November 17th, 2010
4:54 pm

With Smerconish gone and Ramsey leaving in ~30 days why bother with this station? What’s the new logo “Same old conservative rants as the rest of the AM stations”? It was nice to have something different from the usual political complaints to listen to in the morning. I’m heading back to the FM band.

The Fantasy Goddess

November 17th, 2010
9:23 pm

Bring Back The KIMMER! I believe he’d come back if asked….

Kimmer interview 09-29-2009:
http://bit.ly/cCBHf0

The Newzmaker Line

November 18th, 2010
9:10 am

The Kimmer will be appearing on the Rusty Humphries show in the near future as a way to pass the baton on to the next afternoon host. We want The Kimmer, but he probably doesn’t want to deal with the morons running Clear Channel.

maggie morris

November 18th, 2010
12:16 pm

I hated Smerconish, I loved the Kimmer. I also enjoy Rob Johnson. What I don’t like is my inability to pick up WGST in the evening. I live in Acworth. Seems to me I shouldn’t have to turn WGST off shortly after Levin comes on. I am not interested in purchsing a HD radio. Perhaps soon, I can pick up WGST on my EVO.

Vod Kanockers

November 18th, 2010
4:27 pm

Turns out the Smerconish show was going away as he is going to an afternoon slot in Philly. So, WGST had to find a new morning show.