Ryan Cameron may come across as jokey and fun on air, but he takes his job ultra seriously.
And he seriously wants to grow V-103’s already huge morning audience.
He opened his first official morning show on V103 on a low-key note. No inordinate bravado, no fan-fare or big celebrity buddies calling in (though his son Cayden did.) His most prominent in-studio guest was Atlanta’s own R&B singer Ciara, who joked with his team during the 9 a.m. hour.
“The show is about the city,” Cameron said after his first show had ended Wednesday as he relaxed in his communal office, still dressed sharply in a blue pin-striped suit and bow tie. “The intro we did with Future, he’s naming pretty much every major area of metro Atlanta. We will not be celebrity focused.”
Even with Ciara in studio, he purposely did not ask her about her latest projects. Rather, they talked about a party she performed at New Year’s for an unnamed, incredibly rich person in Azerbaijan and 600 of his closest friends.
“My goal is for the city to understand that we want to be as local as possible,” Cameron said. “We’re going to cover all the things [my syndicated rivals] can’t.”
When he came to V-103 in 2005 after nine years as the original morning host at Hot 107.9, his boss Rick Caffey gave him free rein to create a morning show in the afternoons. But he understands listeners have different expectations in the mornings. There are more advertisements. He has to include more news since people are waking up wanting to know what they’ve missed.
Despite his lighthearted on-air persona, he said he is well aware of the target demographics of his audience (25 to 54) and the fact he’s 47 himself and a father of three.
Clark, who is 46, said he was bemused that new afternoon host Big Tigger (who is a relative youth at age 40) had spent the night before at Reign partying with T.I., Ne-Yo and Young Jeezy. When he visited Cameron’s show this morning, Clark made fun of Tigger looking hung over.
“We would never had made that party,” said Cameron, who went to sleep at the same time as his kids: 9:30 p.m. the night before. But he was a bit anxious, waking up at 2:30 a.m.. By the time he arrived at the office, he was already prepared for what will be a daily 5:15 a.m. morning meeting to plan the show.
While polls on this blog have shown that Cameron is incredibly popular, he acknowledges the biggest complaint about him: that he’s too “silly.”
“I remember being called silly in eighth grade,” he said. “If it didn’t work in East Cobb Middle School, it ain’t going to work here.”
“My goal on the radio is not to get you sad and depressed when you get to work,” he added. “I want to be the dad my dad was for me. My kids enjoy me. I want to do a radio show that some people say is not the radio show they’re used to.”
“It’s about being young at heart,” Clark added.
And though Clark himself has had a rocky past when he was at 99X, he said he’s matured. “I have never worried about what he’s going to say,” Cameron said. “He can walk the line without having to walk down the hall.”
Cameron noted that he’s done very serious radio when the time calls for it, such as after traumatic news events such as the Rodney King beatings, 9/11 and more recently, the Newtown shootings. “My bosses at CBS corporate gave me the biggest compliment,” he said. “They said, ‘You’re a broadcaster, not just an on-air personality who can’t adapt to different situations.’ I take pride that I can talk about anything.”
His staff is still evolving. The only hold-over from the Frank and Wanda show is V103 news director Jean Ross, who compiles and read the news. Cameron added a writer, comic Ronnie Jordan, and will keep his new man-on-the-street comic character he’s dubbed Funny Boo Boo, who Clark dubs “a sweet, endearing, naive kid.”
Cameron also decided to give V-103’s Sunday morning gospel guru Larry Tinsley an expanded role doing a daily two-minute affirmations of faith at 6:45 a.m., comparable to his predecessor Frank Ski’s Inspirational Vitamin. “People want to start the day with some faith-based information,” Cameron said. “He is not going to do it as a preacher but more like a life coach.”
He said he plans to soon add a female voice and someone to do sports, perhaps coming from sister station, sports talk 92.9/The Game. (I wasn’t clear if that would be the same person though probably not.) Over the years, Cameron has helped develop several on-air personalities such as C.J. Simpson (now on mornings at The Game), Rashan Ali (now hosting mornings at Streetz 94.5, and Elle Duncan (now doing traffic at WXIA-TV). He’d like to find another gem with minimal to no radio experience who possesses a great personality and great potential.
In general, he’d like a diverse “Benetton” show. “Even though we are a traditional urban station” targeting a primarily black audience, he said, “we want a show that can play for everybody.”
He plans to continue to do the Ryan Report, reading the entertainment news, though he says he does not harbor in rumors. If he could, he will try to confirm or deny rumors himself, given his extensive Rolodex.
“In eight years, we’ve only had to make one retraction,” he said: the Suchita Vadlamani departure from “Good Day Atlanta” in December, 2010. (He said she had been fired when in fact, she left on her terms a couple weeks later.)
He was cautious about his future as the Hawks on-court announcer, which he has been able to do up to this point because of his afternoon job. His new schedule will make it more difficult. “My plan is to continue,” he said.
Cameron plans to keep his father-daughter dance in June as well as his annual celebrity bowling tournament on Thanksgiving to raise funds for his 10-year-old charity. But he is thinking of a new youth-oriented event in April instead of his college step show.
He is also well aware of his legacy as part of a pantheon of long-running morning hosts on V-103. His is only the sixth morning show on V-103 since the mid-1970s. He gave props to Frank and Wanda lasting 14 years. “I don’t think there will be another 14-year run for any show on the radio. Times have changed,” Cameron said. “I just hope to uphold the standard they set for this city, to remain in the top spot and be something everyone wants to listen to.”
And while Cameron made morning-show money (he wouldn’t say how much) while hosting an afternoon show, he acknowledges that radio has alwaqys given more cache to mornings even if the afternoon show draws the same number of listeners.
“The morning show is the spot,” Cameron said. “I’m just glad to be in the spot.”