The Top 51 Local Radio Talk Show Hosts Part 1 (The Bottom 26)

Every year the Talk Radio/Media trade publication Talkers publishes a list of its Heavy Hundred talk show hosts. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity take Number One and Number Two every year respectfully. This year you have financial talk Dave Ramsey in 3rd place, Mark Levin in 4th, and down the line is Glenn Beck, King of Hot Talk Howard Stern, Michael Savage, top African American talker Joe Madison, top Progressive talker Thom Hartman, and rounding out the top ten is Mike Gallagher. All of them are either syndicatedand heard on radio stations in 3 and more states in the nation or such is the case of Stern and Madison they are carried on XM Sirius. There are plenty of syndicated talkers in the Heavy Hundred, but more than half of the total radio talkers are just carried on a single station andother stations in the same region and/or nearby state within the region. This list is focused only on those talkers. To make it on this list, the show must have his or her own local radio and must not be carried on other radio stations that are heard on 3 or more states at this point in time. Some regions might cross state lines so I made it a 3 or more rule to disqualify someone that is local. There are two talkers that do both a local and national show. This WILL BE COUNTED because they do some kind of local show. I also have an honorable mention for another because of the complication this talker has in being counted local. I am strictly going by the Talkers data of the 2017 Heavy Hundred, and due the fact that Talkers does a separate list for Sports talkers none of those talkers are featured here (and the locals rule that list than the nationals). However, their a few hosts that do a“Hot Talk” program ala Howard Stern and/or not as focused on News/Politics…and not all of them are “right-wing” conservatives. The list is very long and I shall split this piece into two articles. So, let us begin with the bottom 26. Among the Bottom 26 are a former FEMA Director ,a former SNL cast member, two holding the key drive time slots on the same Las Vegas News/Talk powerhouse, one who was born British but settled on being an American and in the middle of American’s heartland, and one who lead the charge against Disco music and might have helped bring its downfall but planted the seeds for FM Rock radio to go harder.

51. Bill Spadea-WKXW (101.5 FM, “New Jersey 101.5”) Trenton, New Jersey;Townsquare Media: Bill Spadea handles the morning drive on WKXW aka “New Jersey 101.5.” The station has been doing a full time FM News/Talk format (with some music programing during the weekends) since 1990 and was originally crafted by radio guru Walter Sabo who made the station’s focus on young people in the issues concerning New Jersey itself rather than the issues in nearby New York City or Philadelphia. Spadea himself has been doing mornings since December 2015 when longtime NJ 101. 5 morning host Jim Gearhart signed off for good. Spadea continues to wave the flag for New Jersey owns talk station well enough to make Heavy Hundred barley. Spadea also co-hosts a podcast titled “Speaking Millennial.”

50. Dave Elswick-KHTE-FM (“96.5 The Answer”) Little Rock, Arkansas;Crain Media Group and operated by Salem Media Group under a LMA: He has done radio in major markets like Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis, Indianapolis before finally settling down in Little Rock around the turn of century. He had made the Talkers Heavy Hundred for over 11 years. Elswick’s father served under General George Patton and that would be drilled into a young Elswick very well. Currently he does his local talk show on KHTE-FM (96.5 The Answer) that is managed by Salem Media Group via a Lease Marketing Agreement with Crain Media Group and allowing Salem to do a News/Talk format to complement its Christian Talk and Adult Contemporary Christian formats in the markets. Having Elswick as their local talker truly is a strong feather in their local portfolio.

49. Tom Becka-KCMO (AM 710)/ K279BI (FM103.7) via KCFX-HD2 Kansas City, Missouri;Cumulus Media: A respected talk personally for over 20 years, who used to do talk radio in Omaha, Nebraska but currently handles mid mornings at KCMO in Kansas City. He interviewed Bill Clinton, Tommy Chong, Maya Angelou and one-time New York mayor Rudy Gulianni. He also did standup comedy working with well-known comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Drew Carey, and the late Sam Kinnison. He also wrote a bestselling book called “There’s No Business Without the Show,” teaching its readers how to use techniques in show biz and applying it to your everyday vocation.

48. Mike Calta-WHPT (FM)(“102.5The Bone”) Tampa, Florida Cox Radio: Mike Calta is the Morning show host on Hot Talk station 102.5 The Bone in Tampa. The 102.5 frequency has been long known for call letter and format changes over the years but it has been doing a Hot Talk format since April 2012. Mike Calta also has on his on-air team Galvin, Spanish, and the token female of the groupCarmin. Calta claims to have the top-rated morning show in the Tampa market and it seems good enough for Talkers Magazine.

47. Jeff Wagner-WTMJ (AM) (Newsradio 620) Milwaukee, Wisconsin; E.W. Scripps Company: Jeff Wagner currently handles midmornings (8:30 AM to 12:00 PM) on Milwaukee’s legendary station. There is no official bio on Wagner (at WTMJ’s website or his other social sites) other than he used to handle early afternoons on the station, but took over the mid-morning shift after Charlie Sykes (best known for his Never Trump stance) stepped down from his shift last year.

46. Brian Joyce-WYAY (FM) (Newsradio 106.7) Atlanta, GA; Cumulus Media: He is “described as the future of talk radio” and is heard during afternoon drive on Cumulus’s WYAY-FM in Atlanta, Georgia. Joyce deals with the current issues of the day and is not afraid to mix them with “sex, drugs, and Rock & roll.” He has interviewed Atlanta’s mayor, guests from rival think tanks Brookings Institute and the Heritage Foundation, and members of the punk bands Dropkick Murphys and Social Distortion. He came from sister station WGOW in Chattanooga, Tennessee (doing a local talk show their up till early this year) in which he replaced an afternoon block of news on WYAY. According to his bio on WYAY’s website he has tripled his ratings since helming the afternoon drive slot.

45. Michael Brown-KHOW (AM) (Talk Radio 630 K-HOW) Denver, Colorado;iHeartMedia: Before he took up talk radio in the Mile High City, Michael Brown served as the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for President George W. Bush from 2003 until 2005, and was Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from 2003 until 2005. Today Brown does afternoon drive on Denver’s legendary KHOW and in spite of working under Bush, he is not afraid to call out his former boss if he feels that he was or still is in the wrong. Brown has been named “Best News/Talk Host” twice by the Colorado Broadcaster’s Association.

44. John DePetro-WADK (AM 1540) Newport, Rhode Island;3G Broadcasting, Inc: Early afternoons from 1 P.M. until 5 P.M. DePetro has been doing talk radio for over 18 years (including his previous station WPRO AM), and was one of the few in his area of the country (according to his bio at the station’s website) to correctly predict Donald Trump’s Presidential win. He has been interviewed by the area’s local TV stations as well as the major cable news channels (CNN. FOX News, MSNBC) and is Michael Savage’s primary fill in host. DePetro used his mixture of information and humor when talking about the current events that effect our nation, and has a “tell it like it is” approach to his show.

43. John Hancock-WBT-AM-FM (News 1110/99-3) Charlotte, North Carolina; Entercom: He is known as ‘Charlotte’s Most Beloved’ with two different stints with the legendary News/Talk station. He was born in Estes Park, Colorado and worked at various music radio stations (mostly Album Rock) across the country before finally landing at WBT radio around the 1990’s. Hancock left WBT in 1999 during a morning shift at crosstown Alternative rocker 106.5 The End, before he was let go, and was later rehired at WBT where he has stayed ever since.

42. Mac (Watson) & (Larry) Gaydos- KTAR (FM 92.3) Phoenix, Arizona; BonnevilleInternational: Mac &Gaydos are the top rated and longest running local talk show in the valley. They describe their early to late afternoon program as “relatable stories that emotionally connect with our audience… basically, stuff that affects our daily lives here in Arizona.”

41. John Williams-WGN (720 AM) Chicago, Illinois; Tribune Broadcasting (sale pending to Sinclair Broadcast Group): Believe it or not this is not the first rodeo for John Williams and the legendary WGN Radio. He did middays on the station back in 1997 coming from Minneapolis’s WCCO. He did return to Minnesota but eventually came back to WGN. He is able to focus on the current news, sports, TV, movies, and books of the day, and asking hard questions for himself and his audience.

40. Simon Conway-WHO (AM) (NewsRadio 1040) Des Moines, Iowa; iHeartMedia: He was born in the UK but became a U.S. citizen and Iowan as well. He uses his afternoon drive shift on the legendary WHO (which Ronald Reagan himself worked as a sportscaster in the 1930’s) to warn about American’s journey into European-style socialism, claiming that he lived under it himself.

39. Jeff Kuhner-WRKO (AM 680) Boston, Massachusetts; Entercom: Jeff Kuhner is called “Liberalism’s Worst Nightmare” as his “Kuhner Report,” (heard early afternoons on WRKO) deals with the issues of the day, while Kuhner advocates for God, Country and Family.

38. Lincoln Ware-WDBZ (AM 1320) and W268CM (FM 101.5) (Soul 101.5/1230 AM) Cincinnati, Ohio; Urban One: Lincoln Ware is a voice for the African American Community in the Cincinnati radio market, and while the station he does his talk show for has switched its tune from Gospel to Motown/Classic R&B, Urban One made him offer he could not refuse even with Donald Trump succeeding Obama. His style of talk radio that causes “the sparks to fly” is yet another reason why this guy has not yet retired, even if he truly wanted to.

37. Joyce Kaufman-WFTL (AM 850) West Palm Beach, Florida; Alpha Media: She was born in NYC, tried her hand at Broadway, protested the war in Vietnam in our nation’s capital, and eventually finding steady work in both music and talk radio formats. Today’s she is “South Florida’s leading independent voice” during early afternoons on WFTL.

36. Alan Stock-KXNT (NewsRadio 840 AM) Las Vegas, Nevada; CBS Radio (sale pending to Entercom): Alan Stock handles afternoon drive on KXNT. He however started his career not in the media but in the field of psychotherapy especially dealing with people that were diagnosed as with poly-abuse drug addicts. He came to KXNT in June of 1999, doing an afternoon shift as well as during mornings with off and on co-worker Heidi Harris. Today he’s back to where he started and the ratings are doing great.

35. Heidi Harris-KXNT (NewsRadio 840 AM) Las Vegas, Nevada; CBS Radio (sale pending to Entercom): She started as a lounge singer and Las Vegas and even sang for our troops in Bosnia. Today she handles morning drive on KXNT in Las Vegas. Her transition from singing to talk radio was not easy, and she started working talk radio for nothing and even doing fills-in after doing music gigs the night before. By 1999, she got her paying gig on talk radio on the weekends before her found rodeo doing morning drive at KXNT. She would do mornings at crosstown rival KDWN from 2007 until 2012 before returning to Vegas’s News/Talk powerhouse.

34. Joe Piscopo-WNYM (AM 970, The Answer) New York City, New York; Salem Media Group: Joe worked in radio before as well as doing Dinner Theater. In the early 1980’s, he was part of the cast of NBC’s long running sketch comedy program “Saturday Night Life” impersonating the likes of David Letterman and Frank Sinatra. He left in 1985 and won roles in the movies Wise Guys (with Danny DeVito), Johnny Dangerously (with Michael Keaton), and Sidekicks (with Chuck Norris). Joe Piccopo continues to perform live doing comedy and even big band music (remember he did a good Sinatra), but he can talk politics as well not only as a guest on FOX News Channel but on local New York City radio via Salem’s WNYM during their local morning drive.

33. McGraw Milhaven-KTRS (AM 550) (The Big 5-50) St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis Cardinals/CH Radio Holdings (KTRS-AM LICENSE, L.L.C.): He grew up with five sisters in a small town in Long Island New York. McGraw would come to the city of St. Louis in the year 1999, to become a popular radio talk show host. His morning drive show is heard on KTRS (which is majority owned by the Cardinals baseball club) and has interviewed many famous people with the exception of our 44th President Barack Obama. McGraw broadcasted on the front lawn of the White House, to reporting with full access credentials with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Olympic Games, Super Bowls and refueling missions with KC135s with Missouri National Guard, and allowing his audience to share in those experiences. McGraw was honored by the state governing body of theMissouri Senate and was among the “Hot List: 130 Things We Love About St. Louis” published in Alive Magazine. The weekly newspaper The Riverfront Times named McGraw Milhaven best AM Radio personality.

32. Ron Conn-WGN (720 AM) Chicago, Illinois; Tribune Broadcasting (sale pending to Sinclair Broadcast Group): Ron had stints with WMAQ and WLS radio before coming to the top-rated WGN in January 2015 to do afternoon drive. Since WLS radio is now owned by Cumulus Media, Ron still makes appearances on their former TV sister ABC7’s “Windy City Live” broadcast, and is a contributor to ABC News Radio’s live coverage of political and other major events.

31. Mark Davis-KSKY (660 AM, The Answer) Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Salem Media Group: Mark Davis became a Dallas-Fort Worth talk radio icon starting in the mid 1990’s. After stints doing news and talk radio in markets ranging from Jacksonville, FL to Memphis, TN; Davis would settle down in the Dallas-Fort Worth market first at the iconic WBAP for a mid-morning shift, and now does mornings at Salem’s KSKY which recently adopted the company’s News/Talk branding “The Answer.” Davis has dabbled in national radio as a fill in host for Rush Limbaugh and had a brief run with ABC Radio with a daily national syndicated show. More recently Davis fills in for Salem’s National Talkers and was the Friday host for “Bill Bennet’s Morning In America” talk show from June 2012 until April 2016.

30. Mike Trivisonno-WTAM (AM 1100) Cleveland, Ohio; iHeartMedia: He started out as a caller to a local Cleveland Sports Talk program on AM 1100 when their call sign was WWWE. Eventually he would have a radio career and take over the program that he used to call into. Along the way, the station call letters would be changed back WTAM (the station used those calls from 1923-1956) and Triv’s radio show would evolve from a Sports Centric program to a general market talk programing expanding on politics local and national to current events. Whatever is on Triv’s mind he talks about and Cleveland continues to listen in.

29. Mark Belling-WISN (AM) (News/Talk 1130) Milwaukee, Wisconsin; iHeartMedia: Handling afternoon drive on iHeart Talk radio outlet in the Milwaukee market, Belling’s talk program is about “principled conservatism and lifestyle issues” and whatever Mark wants to talk about. Belling is also a guest host on Rush Limbaugh’s nationally syndicated talk show.

28. Charlie Brennan-KMOX (AM) (NewsRadio 1120) St. Louis, Missouri; CBS Radio (sale pending to Entercom): Charlie Brennan’s “objective” mid-morning talk radio program has been an institution on KMOX for nearly 29 years. Brennan first came to KMOX in September 1988. Readers of the Weekly Paper “The Riverfront Times” has named him best talk show host in the market. Charlie Brennan is also the host of the local political panelist discussion program “Donnybrook” produced by local PBS TV member station KETC (The Nine Network). Brennan has a passion for St. Louis and his many years on KMOX is the proof.

27. Steve Dahl- WLS (AM 890) Chicago, Illinois; Cumulus Media: In the 1970’s he worked at Underground/Progressive later Album Oriented Rock stations. When his shift at WDAI in Chicago did not work out, they fired him and Disco music took his place. However, he pushed back and was the face of the 1979 Disco Demolition. Gigs on Chicago rock stations WLUP and WCKG soon followed. Today he returns to his old stomping grounds at least on the AM end (WLS-AM is the sister station of WDAI now known as WLS-FM) for his afternoon drive program.

26. (Tom) Bauerle and (David) Bellavia-WBEN (AM 930) Buffalo, New York; Entercom: This duo eats, lives and breathes Buffalo and both grew up in this western New York city. TomBauerle is a talk radio veteran who worked at various News/Talk stations in the Buffalo market (and a stint at KMOX in St. Louis), before his current gig at WBEN. The much younger David Bellavia served in the American Iraq war and was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the Second Battle of Fallujah. His other honors are the Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals and the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross and his induction in the New York Veterans’ Hall of Fame. He is a political animal as well and makes a great paring with Tom as they do a local afternoon drive talk on Buffalo radio.
To Be Continued:

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