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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Jim Kerr explains the life of a morning drive dj after Howard Stern's arrival

6/30/12, "Posted by Jim Kerr on June 30, 2012 at 19:48:58:" NY Radio Message Board

"It seems like I'm going to have to address this again. Gary (who is a nice guy as well as a great talent) remembers only part of our conversation correctly. (it did take place about 25 years ago) I did tell him "You guys have ruined it for everyone" but the reason I felt that way is the opposite of what he implies. Rather than feeling constrained by management and thus unable to compete with Howard, I instead felt relentless pressure to abandon my own style in favor of an "edgier" presentation that incorporated "shock jock" elements that I never could have executed by any stretch of the imagination as well as Howard did. (and does) This pressure was coming from upper management. My PD, Larry Berger, citing our high ratings and revenue was able to protect me for awhile. When he departed all bets were off. The desire for an edgier show on WPLJ led to my departure in 1989. Meanwhile Stern wannabees and other assorted "shock" performers became the rage throughout the industry. Markets large and small had them. In almost every case, these personalities had no real idea what made Howard the HUGE success he was and still is. They thought that insane stunting and taking every bit to the very edge (and often over) was the key. They were wrong. Howard became the biggest morning star in the industry because he related to his audience. He said things they wished they could say, he savaged elites and stood up for the feelings of his listeners. He took on the boss and made fun of himself. Like Jackie Gleason on TV in the early 50's, his was the story of the everyman who made it big against the odds and enjoyed every minute of it. In an aspirational society like ours people can relate to that even if they don't experience it themselves. His audience bonded with him and felt that one of their own made it to the top. Broadcast management did not understand any of that. They thought that the new key to success was shock and shock alone.

I found a home in Country radio where my style of morning radio was still valued. I then joined Bonneville. They said they wanted the Jim Kerr my audience had been listening to in NY since 1974.That remained true under my first PD at WMXV. When the second PD arrived the pressure to be something I wasn't was back in a big way. At a meeting in front of other staffers I objected to a bit I felt was not only wrong but a betrayal of my relationship with the audience. I was told that if I refused to do it he could have someone else in the studio on Monday who would. That was pretty much the end for me at WMXV. I was replaced by an edgier show, Kelly and Kline. Remember them? Meanwhile WAXQ was going classic rock. I couldn't even get an interview. Not controversial enough. Nothing I did "jumped off the table" whatever that meant.After a short visit to the smooth jazz world I returned to country, the format where I was still allowed to do what I do. When the new management at Y107 made plans to change to a Spanish language format I was out. I was out for a long time.(I did work Saturday Mornings on Q1043)

Was the era of the positive, upbeat. cheerful morning DJ really over? It seemed that way. Then Bob Buchmann and Tom Poleman called. I was to be the antidote to another edgy show.

That was almost 9 years ago. I am forever grateful that I was afforded another chance to do what I do. Not what Howard does. What I do.

Howard is the biggest morning radio success in history. He does what he does better than anyone.

He has often called out other personalities around the country who have tried to copy him. He's never been able to say that about me.

I never wanted to be Howard. I'm happy to be Jim."

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