(Above) Melissa Turner & Bill Poindexter
Up Close and Personal with Chattanooga’s Radio Personalities
Radio hosts talk their way into our daily routines. Their voices become the narrative of various windows of time in our lives, guiding us through busy traffic patterns and unpredictable weather, lifting our spirits with heartwarming stories, keeping us current on local and national politics, making us laugh, and delivering the news to us at regular intervals. Here are the stories behind some of our city’s most beloved weekday radio partnerships.
By Julianne Hale
“The Dex and Mo Show” on WUSY US-101
Melissa Turner & Bill Poindexter
From the time he was just a kid growing up in Rossville, Georgia, Bill “Dex” Poindexter knew that he wanted to go into radio. “It’s the only thing I ever really wanted to do,” says Dex. He spent his early career in the record business but eventually burned out. That’s when he contacted US-101 General Manager Sammy George about a job. Dex started working for the station in 1993 handling live remotes and eventually ended up on the air.
Melissa “Mo” Turner studied broadcast journalism at the University of Tennessee and worked in television for a while before being hired by US-101 in 2005 as a traffic reporter. She says that when she and Dex first came together for the afternoon show in 2009, they had instant chemistry. Although they share the same values, they have different perspectives and the combination works. “I try to pick stories that have an angle that our listeners can relate to and we have fun with each other,” says Mo.
Dex chimes in, singing Mo’s praises. “One of the hardest things on earth to do in radio is to know when to shut up. Mo knows. She knows when a bit is over with and the punch line is delivered. From day one, we have done well together. We spend more time with each other than we do with our own families, and I don’t think we’ve ever had a major disagreement.”
Another key to the duo’s success is their willingness to share their own lives with their listeners. “We’re open books,” claims Mo. “I might say something silly on the air about a disagreement my husband and I had, and our listeners laugh about it and relate to it. I meet our listeners out in Chattanooga all the time and they’ll bring up something I’ve talked about and offer advice.”
Working at US-101 affords Dex and Mo the opportunity to speak with some of country’s most popular artists. “You know you’re going to have fun when Brad Paisley or Blake Shelton call in. We always have a good time with them,” Mo says, laughing.
“The Wake Up Crew” on SUNNY 92.3
James Howard & Kim Carson
James Howard and Kim Carson spend the early weekday hours entertaining Chattanoogans during their morning commute. Their show is decidedly family-friendly, focusing on upbeat stories, community events, and personal experiences.
Both James and Kim knew radio was their calling at a young age. “I walked into the cafeteria in 10th grade on career day and it was as if there was a heavenly light shining on one particular table – radio and broadcasting,”James says.
Kim tells a similar tale. “I was in college studying theater and a friend of mine asked me to sit in on his radio show. I loved it so much that they offered me a job that day,” she recounts.
James met Kim when she came into the station in 2011. “I’ve always wanted a female partner on air because you get such different perspectives,” he says. “We were searching for a co-host and every day a candidate would come in, have lunch with me, and talk with me to see how we meshed. Kim and I connected immediately. She was the perfect fit.”
The two are especially talented at connecting with listeners who can relate to their roles as parents and spouses. “Both James and I are parents,” explains Kim. “I’m a single mom raising an 8-year-old boy and James has two kids. We are honest with our listeners and share our personal struggles and triumphs. We like to hear what they have to say, too. I get some of my best advice from listeners.”
James says he has shared the most significant moments of his life with listeners. “The morning my daughter Lucy was born, the first thing I did was call the radio station. My family was waiting outside in the lobby, but I couldn’t wait to share the news with my radio audience.”
James and Kim are also community activists and use their show to highlight events around town and raise money for local charities, including the Children’s Hospital at Erlanger Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders.
“Mac & Cheez in the Morning” on CAT COUNTRY 95.3
Sean McNally & Janice Colby
A prolific voice from an early age, Sean won a contest in his hometown of Richmond, Indiana, to host a radio show and has been lighting up the airways ever since. His quest to move to a larger market brought him to Chattanooga last summer. Janice began her radio career playing elevator music for a station in North Dakota. She jumped at the chance to move to Chattanooga and has never looked back.
Neither Sean nor Janice knew what to expect when they were thrown together to do the morning show last spring. “It’s strange to be thrown into the mix with a person you don’t know,” explains Janice. “I think he’s a great morning show partner though, and we’ve had a cool relationship from the start.”
The Mac and Cheez in the Morning show is a light-hearted program that allows the personalities of Sean and Janice to shine. “The planning starts in the morning when we get here,” says Sean. “Our show isn’t scripted and our bits aren’t planned. We just talk and our personalities work together.”
“We talk about the happenings in the world, in Chattanooga, in country music, and in entertainment,” Janice says. “It’s very organic. We’re just a couple of people on the radio who work well together. We just try to be ourselves.”
The duo says that since they began working together, some of their most rewarding work has been through their partnership with Operation Song, a non-profit program that brings active duty troops and veterans together with professional songwriters to help them tell their stories.
“Ken & Daniel” on WUSY US-101
To Ken Hicks and Daniel Wyatt, radio is a medium for personal connection – and they don’t shy away from the hard things. The duo used to be a trio that included Bearman (Ben Martin), a beloved Chattanooga radio personality who passed away in October of last year. Instead of grieving privately, Ken and Daniel went to work as usual the morning after Bearman’s death to grieve with their listeners. It was truly a moment of authentic radio.
“Daniel and I really couldn’t talk a lot and our listeners knew this so they called into the station and did our talking for us,” explains Ken. “That’s when I knew the power of the station. It was a therapeutic time for us and our listeners.” The pair still talks about Bearman and his antics on the radio station every day.
A Chattanooga native, Ken got his start sweeping the floors and taking the garbage out at a radio station and worked his way up to being on the air. Daniel, who grew up in Cullman, Alabama, got a taste of radio work when he set up tents and speakers on nights and weekends for his uncle. Eight years later, he found himself on the air full-time.
“About seven years ago, US-101 called and asked if I’d like to be part of a morning show with Bearman and Ken,” says Daniel. “I came up one day and sat in with them and knew immediately that this was where I wanted to be.”
In between the country music, Ken and Daniel chat with each other as good friends often do. Their lives are an open book for their listeners. “If people listen, they get to know everything about us,” explains Daniel. “I get texts from my wife and read them on the air.”
“At church on Sunday morning, people will come up to me and mention what I’ve talked about during the previous week,” notes Ken. “The best thing about this station is that it is a great support group. We all communicate as a family even when we’re not here.”
“The Morning Press” on TALK RADIO 102.3
Jeff Styles & James Lee Reynolds III
Like many of his peers, Jeff Styles discovered radio in his youth and knew immediately that it was what he wanted to do. “I walked into the campus radio station and saw a small room covered on all sides with albums,” he says. “It was as if lightning struck me and I knew that I wanted to be in radio.”
After taking a lucrative but unfulfilling sabbatical from radio to work in advertising and sales, Jeff was looking for a way out. “I got calls from three people on the same day, all telling me that a station in Chattanooga was looking for an opinionated liberal to be on the radio. They thought I would be a good choice.”
At that time, talk radio was growing, but most of the voices were predictable. Styles set out to change that and found great success with “The Morning Press,” which airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and features James Lee Reynolds, III (better known as J.R.) and Program and News Director Kevin West. “We talk about general topics and try to have a good time,” says Jeff. “It’s not like the partisan stuff you get on regular talk radio. We try to be honest and we made a conscious decision to be local. Nothing is off limits.”
And he means it. “My favorite topics are the places where religion and science meet. And we like it when our listeners get excited and emotional. Faith and politics bring out that side of people.” Jeff’s favorite on-air experience took place on Veterans Day several years ago, when both of the area’s Congressional Medal of Honor winners, Desmond Doss and Charles Coolidge, were on the air for an hour each. “Their stories were remarkable,” he says. “Both of their families said that they heard them speak of things they had never discussed before. It was just an incredible moment.”
See Related Articles: