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Will Frank and Wanda’s departure hurt V-103? Doubtful

Frank Ski with his wife Tanya in 2009. CREDIT: ajc.com/Buzz

Frank Ski with his wife Tanya in 2009. CREDIT: ajc.com/Buzz

V-103 has been a radio pillar for African Americans for years, regularly drawing 1.3 million listeners a week. It takes its “Big Station” moniker seriously.

So will losing its top-rated morning show of 14 years led by Frank Ski and Wanda Smith hurt V-103 in any tangible way?

“No,” said Mike Roberts, a long-time V-103 morning host before Ski and Smith. “They’ll be fine. It’s a monster station that has been successful for many years because they are truly connected to the community. And they always seem to know when to make changes.”

Rick Caffey, market manager for V-103 since 1994, said Ski wanted a syndication deal to expand beyond Atlanta but the two sides couldn’t agree to a deal. “We want to stay local,” said Caffey, while thanking Ski and Smith for their services.

Ski, with stand-up comic Smith, created a morning show that blended the serious, the silly and the sublime. One segment, they would be interviewing reality stars from “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta,” the next, they’d be talking budget issues with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Then each day at 9:50 a.m., Ski would read a Bible verse and play a gospel tune, something he’d call the “Inspirational Vitamin.”

Ski would court controversy at times, defending black figures such as former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell and Bishop Eddie Long. “He’s not a fair weather friend,” said Evelyn Mims, community relations specialist at WXIA-TV, the NBC affiliate.”He’ll stand by you, high or low. They could always get their side of the story out. For a time, Campbell and others only talked to Frank.”

Ski’s replacement is Atlanta native Ryan Cameron, host of V-103’s afternoon show since 2004. Cameron started his radio career at V-103 in the early 1990s and used to compete against Ski during morning drive on rival R&B/hip-hop station Hot 107.9 until V-103 wooed him back.

In radio, music morning show slots are considered more prestigious and lucrative than afternoons. But given V-103’s commitment to big personalities and a healthy budget, Cameron has been able to pocket a generous (though unspecified) morning-show level salary while hosting an afternoon show.

“They have such an incredible bench of talent there,” said Bert Weiss, host of Q100’s popular Bert Show. “For a station to invest in talent to that degree is rare given all the cuts in the industry.”

Caffey prides himself in investing in talent. Money he saved by not bringing in Ski was spent on Big Tigger, taking over for afternoons. Tigger has dong mornings and afternoons in New York and D.C. and has many of the qualities Caffey seeks in his talent: the ability to do black-tie events and host club events, an eagerness to do community service and a distinctive, upbeat on-air persona.

V-103 was able to walk away from Ski because its audience knows and loves Cameron. Based on polls over the years on ajc.com’s Radio and TV Talk, Cameron is actually more popular than Ski. On Thursday, more than 70 percent of poll takers were happy that Cameron is moving to mornings while 58 percent were glad to see Ski go.

Although Ski and Cameron are both in their late 40s, Cameron seems much younger, relying more on goofy comedy than Ski. “Frank comes across as your uncle,” said Joe Taylor, a drag queen who goes by the name Miss Sophia in public. Taylor was part of the Frank and Wanda show from 2005 to 2010. “Ryan is more like your silly older brother.”

Ski, who opened a Buckhead restaurant Frank Ski’s Restaurant and Lounge last year, told listeners on air Thursday that he plans to stay in Atlanta, though his Dunwoody mansion is now up for sale for $2.2 million. He didn’t specify what his future plans are but he did say, “You will hear me again on radio.”

Smith also wasn’t specific about her future plans but will continue to host a stand-up comedy show every Friday at Uptown Comedy Corner in Atlanta.

“Radio years are measured like years,” said Gary Abdo, who runs Uptown and knows Smith and Cameron well. “Frank and Wanda have had an amazing run. I don’t think people appreciate how hard the two of them work behind the scenes. And my audience loves Wanda. She’s going to be missed on the radio.”

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12 comments Add your comment

Bill McJane

December 13th, 2012
4:57 pm

Eric

December 13th, 2012
6:10 pm

Truth be told, he should have seen this coming two years ago, when Ryan was first hired! No one thought that Ryan was going to continue to do the 2-6 slot.

On a companion note, the same thing happened to the 2-live Stews earlier this fall! 790 decided that it wasn’t worth riding out their contract – they were cut with months left on the contract. Noone has seen or heard from them since.

I wish Frank & Wanda well.

RadioAlexander

December 13th, 2012
6:17 pm

I rock w/ Ryan Cameron …and I’m proud of Frank and Wanda. I’ve been rockin’ with them for years and they’ll be fine.

Bennett Street Jack

December 13th, 2012
11:07 pm

Have been doing business with Frank for two years. He has always done what he said he would do, when he said he would do it! He’s the real deal and I wish his even greater success in the future!

CaribouRancher

December 14th, 2012
7:30 am

I grew up listening to Atlanta radio personalities such as Dr. John Leiter, Jeff McCartney and Gary McKee and when those people moved on, radio was never the same for me. For those who truly love Frank and Wanda, it may be difficult, as well. When you find a nice pair of cozy slippers, you want to hold-on to them….forever.

TG

December 14th, 2012
11:13 am

The more he talks about “being on the radio again,” the more I think he might land at 104.1 when Joyner retires. I didn’t hear the show yesterday (don’t listen any day, lol), but someone stated that Joyner was the only one of his Black radio competitors who did not call in to the farewell show yesterday. Hmmm Add to that Caffey’s admission that Ski wants to be syndicated. What other opportunity for syndication could there be?

Re the rest of the article, I’m glad Mike Roberts kept it real and [essentially] stated that V-103 was big before Ski and will be big after him, mainly because the station itself is more accessible than the others due to its strong signal.

Haywood Jablome

December 14th, 2012
11:36 am

maybe they can fill in for herman cain. he is the most pathetic talk show host ever!

Catgut

December 14th, 2012
1:32 pm

Wish em well, they’ll be alright. The 2 Jive Stews were funny, but play’d out. I don’t think you will hear them again, people (markets) grow up and move on. My 2 Cents, peace out!

Michael

December 14th, 2012
4:32 pm

@TG Steve Harvey and Ricky Smiley are based out of Atlanta and are friends with Frank so I’m sure that is the reason for them calling. Tom Joyner probably barely knows Frank Ski so why should he call?

Dual employment - Was it an issue?

December 17th, 2012
2:55 pm

I wonder if the radio station had issues with Frank Ski owning a restaurant. I understand Viacom has a strong policy against dual employment with its employees. Could this be the thorn which cause the irritation with contract re-negotiations between Ski and V-103?

Scorpia

December 17th, 2012
4:18 pm

Michael- Frank was syndicated before and has been in the radio industry a LONG time- trust me, Tom Joyner knows him.

Reiko

December 20th, 2012
1:18 am

Ryan should have been in that position long time ago.