Mara Davis gave a tearful farewell to her beloved “Radio Free Lunch” today on 92.9/Dave FM, which will run a fundraiser for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta starting tomorrow through Friday.
Her beloved themed lunch hour has lasted 18 years since Davis arrived at what was then Z93. She was the only jock to survive the transfer to Dave FM in 2004 and the lunch hour returned after a brief break. The format was simple: she’d suggest a theme e.g. songs which reference the seasons, songs which refer to other songs, songs that include a saxophone, et. al and play tunes mostly within format. She’d also throw in clips of cheesy songs that Z93 or Dave would never play for fun. (For a time, this segment was sponsored by McDonald’s.)
But now Dave is going away in favor of sports talk, something CBS announced two months ago. I just heard the likely name for the new sports talk station: 92.9 the Game. (CBS owns the website name www.929thegame.com, which isn’t active yet.)
Among the final songs Davis played: “Goodbye to You” by Scandal, “End of the Line” by the Traveling Wilburys, “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson, Dixie Chicks‘ “Goodbye Earl,” Squeeze “Goodbye Girl,” Ray Charles’ sardonic “Hit the Road Jack.”
[I had a lunch date and missed the very final song. According to Mediabase 24/7, it was Kenny Loggins "This Is It."]
The usually jovial Davis (who I couldn’t reach for comment) teared up on air after playing Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye To Hollywood.”
Though it’s not a song she could normally play on Dave, she prefaced the intro by saying, “What can do? Fire me?”
The lyrics, she said, fit her situation well:
So many faces in and out of my life
Some will last
Some will just be now and then
Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes
I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again
She said it was less about losing her job (I’m sure she’ll find another one, as I noted last month.) It was just saying goodbye to friends, regulars of the show who may or may not find her on a different radio station down the road. At that point, she choked up. She said it was like letting her baby go off to college after 18 years. (I was driving while she was saying these things so I wasn’t able to jot down notes.)
This wasn’t Davis’ last shift on Dave.
Starting tomorrow, the station will run a three-day radio-thon for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta from the cafeteria of Scottish Rite from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Anyone can stop by and say hello (or goodbye) through Friday.
On Saturday, all the regular jocks – including Steve Craig, Davis, Rich Sullivan and Margot Smith – will air a 92-song farewell countdown and then bow out.
After Sunday, the station will run jockless with lots of sports promotions. (Already, they’re airing sports reports throughout the day.) I hear the start date for sports talk is October 15. I have no concrete names yet. Word is they are opting to go all local, if they can, which is requiring a longer lead time to hire people.
This long goodbye is unprecedented in Atlanta radio. I’ve been covering the scene for 11 years and virtually every format change has been quick. Jocks were fired with no warning. The music just changed with no ceremony. What makes this one different, says Mark Kanov – who ran Star 94 for many years until 2008 and is now retired – is that CBS is changing the format to talk.
He said it’s such a drastic change, CBS has no expectation to keep all the music lovers around. So they are respecting the Dave FM fans, in a sense, by giving the jocks a real chance to say goodbye. It’s bittersweet, of course. But the bosses trust the DJs to be respectful themselves on air. “It’s a cool way to do it,” Kanov said.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk