Long-time KMJX, Magic 105.1, DJ Tommy Smith returned to the Arkansas airwaves this week, headlining a new radio show from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on KABZ, 103.7 the Buzz. With co-host David Bazzel — and a Monday/Wednesday/Friday assist from Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports editor Wally Hall — Smith promises to put on the edgiest show in town, the kind of sports and entertainment talk that once had him near the top of the game in Little Rock radio.
Fired in July from Magic 105 — where he spent 24 years behind a microphone — over a disagreement stemming from corporate overlord Clear Channel’s “no tolerance” indecency regulations, it might be easy to label Smith as one more victim of The Breast That Ate the Super Bowl. Smith, however, says his “marriage” to Clear Channel had been strained for years.
“I had the same general manager for 20 years, and then the past two or three we’ve had four or five general managers,” he said. “I call it ‘corporate crap.’ It had everybody spending more time looking over their shoulders than looking straight ahead.”
Though the money and perks aren’t as good at KABZ, Smith said he’s glad to have just one person to answer to. Still, considering how the last big name at the station found the door — morning man Stanley Knox, who was fired along with co-hosts Phillip Beard and Chris Brown on July 1, after Beard allegedly handed out porn at a gay pride parade in Conway — it’s not surprising that Smith and Bazzel said their new show will nix many of the risque topics that defined the latter years of Smith’s Clear Channel tenure.
“Some of the stuff that people would consider off-color would have people turning off the radio,” Bazzel said. “Now, with the environment being different and that not being available, I think you’ll have a much larger audience who’ll want to tune in.”
Though local scuttlebutt had it that the show would be all sports — something easy to assume given Hall’s day job and Bazzel’s past as a Razorback footballer and TV sports anchor — Smith says nothing will be off limits, from entertainment to politics, though the show is bound to have the flavor of pigskin during the football season. “If the Razorbacks next season are nine and 0, we’re going to be talking about a lot of Razorback football,” Smith said. “But the situation will dictate what we talk about.”
Co-host Bazzel also understands the importance of keeping the topics coming off the cuff. “I know a lot of people, me included, who will not listen to an all-sports morning show,” he said. “I like business. I like politics. I like entertainment. When the Razorbacks are in the headlines, certainly that’s going to be on the show, but I think you can grow a larger audience when you do everything.”
Smith said a big part of making it work will, of course, be the dynamic between himself, Bazzel and Hall, three people who Smith says almost never see eye to eye. Though he and Bazzel have been billed as the “odd couple” in Buzz advertisements, Smith said people probably will be surprised at how much of the head-butting on topics comes from Hall and Bazzel. While they all get along personally, Smith said, their differences of opinion will assure an entertaining morning for listeners.
“We all come from the same background, but we’re all different, if that makes any sense,” Smith said. “We can relate to each other, but we hardly agree on anything.”
Smith said one of his main goals is to make radio fun and stress-free for himself again, something he had lost in his later years with Clear Channel. While Smith said he’s planning on “keeping it close to the line,” he says the fondly remembered days of beer-and-boobs radio are behind him.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Smith said. “I had a great time signing all those breasts. But you know, you realize that that’s over with, let somebody else do that.”
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