After Atlanta-based Cumulus Media acquired Citadel Broadcasting last month, Spiff Carner said he read news reports that Cumulus was going to cut staff. He just hoped it wouldn’t involve “Randy & Spiff,” his morning show team on Atlanta’s Greatest Hits 106.7, which had been owned by Las Vegas-based Citadel.
But hope didn’t cut it. On Oct. 3, two weeks after the merger, Carner said Cumulus Media’s Atlanta market manager, Paul O’Malley, gathered him and co-host Randy Cook in his office and told them the bad news: They had lost their jobs, with two months severance. (O’Malley declined to comment.)
And typical in the radio business, they didn’t get to say goodbye to the listeners.
Cook and Carner said their removal was part of an early round of budget cuts, along with six other employees that day at Atlanta’s Greatest Hits, which plays mostly hits from the 1970s, and sister country station Kicks 101.5.
Cook and Carner are fixtures in Atlanta radio since 1989 at five radio stations. Their first run at what was then oldies station Fox 97 was their most successful over 14 years until that station changed format. Since then, they have been at another oldies station Cool 105.7 (2003-2005), soft rock station Lite 94.9 (2005-2006), news/talk WGST-AM (2007) and for the past two years, Atlanta’s Greatest Hits.
“We’re the journeymen in baseball,” Cook said over lunch at Marietta’s Christos Pizza, a hang-out for the pair for many years and where Fox 97 reunions have been held.
“It’s the nature of the business,” said Carner, wearing a cap with his signature catchphrase “Spiff Happens.” “In a way, I feel worse for some of the people who were there for such a long time and lost their jobs.”
Carner said when he arrived at the station a couple years ago, he kept his personal items in a single drawer. He said he told the administrative assistant at the time, “I’m going to bring in enough stuff so I can leave with one sack if they ever fire me.”
“We’ve learned to travel light,” Cook said.
The pair are up for a Georgia Radio Hall of Fame lifetime achievement award Saturday, October 15. “There are people who have been inducted who I really respect,” Cook said. “It’d be a good club to be in.”
“I’d like to know how valuable the medallion is so I can sell it on eBay!” Carner joked. “Gotta eat baby! I hope to get at least 30 bucks!”
Carner also wanted to make sure he didn’t burn any bridges, stating emphatically: “My two weeks at Cumulus were very nice.”
Former owner Citadel did do a nice thing by requiring Cumulus to void non-compete clauses in contracts of people who were to be let go. This way, Randy & Spiff can work immediately on air in Atlanta if they can find a job. Naturally, they’d like to stay in Atlanta, but right now, Cook said there are no obvious places for them to go.
“We’ve taken pay cuts to stay here” in metro Atlanta the past few years, Carner said. “Our first choice now is to take a little less to stay here.”
For now, Cook has some part-time work lined up, and his wife has a full-time job. Carner said his house is long paid off, his kids are out of the house and he has saved carefully, aware that employment in radio is never guaranteed.
At the lunch, we also waxed nostalgic about their early days at Fox, when Randy & Spiff were one of the most popular shows in town. They recalled doing a “Meet Every Listener” campaign. Each weekday over three months, they’d be driven from one office to a restaurant to a food court, literally shaking hands, kissing babies and handing out thousands of T-shirts. They received billboards, TV ads and exposure no local radio personality gets anymore. Another year, they did a similar “Pay Every Listener” where they would pay any listener with a 37-cent check.
In the end, they handed out 9,000 checks, of which (believe it or not) 800 were cashed. Some folks who saved them, they said, more than 15 years later, still come up with their original checks and ask them to sign them.
And for nostalgia’s sake, here’s the photo of the AJC took in February, 2003, after the pair lost their jobs at Fox 97. In fact, this was shot at Christos Pizza as well:
Here’s a classic aircheck from Randy & Spiff’s early days:
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk