At a news conference at the state capitol Monday, my old pal and former longtime radio partner John “Sly” Sylvester told the crowd he had some bad news…….bad news, that is, for Scott Walker. Sly will soon be back on the airwaves – and the internet – from WEKZ-FM 93.7 in Monroe. The station, which is known right now for its oldies format, has a powerful signal (which you can see on the graphic above) and Sly will be taking over the afternoon shift from 3 to 6:30 weekdays, starting Monday February 4th.
Sly won’t be talking between the records on WEKZ-FM, like he did 16 years ago when he dominated morning radio ratings on WIBA-FM, before he was kicked to the curb by MidWest Family Broadcasting in November, after 15 years in their stable. He’ll be doing the same sort of thing he did on WTDY-AM: a talk show. Not a music show with talk, like he did years ago on WIBA-FM, but a full-bore talk show, only now, Sly will be able to antagonize people – and politicians – in Wisconsin and Illinois!
Typical of Sly’s pointed humor, at his Monday news conference, he sarcastically said “I’ll be doing an afternoon talk show. There’s not an afternoon talk show in Madison right now, is there?” – another dig at ultra-right-wing radio’s reigning local queen, Vicki McKenna and her afternoon show on WIBA-AM. Unlike Miss Vicki, who spouts the latest partly line from the likes of Karl Rove, Fox News, and the NRA, and, in the Rush Limbaugh mode, never allows a caller on the air who disagrees with her for more than a few seconds before screeching the caller down, Sly promises to continue his pattern of not only allowing, but encouraging people who disagree with him to call and be on the air with him.
A lot of people, I think, are going to “re-discover” Sly when he hits the airwaves on WEKZ-FM. For one thing, it’s a much, much more powerful signal than the puny AM 1670 signal of WTDY, which has now changed call sign to WOZN-AM and has become “The Zone”, with programming from CBS SportsRadio. Years ago, when MidWest put 93.1 FM, “The Lake” on the air (another failed MidWest venture - which, several years ago, morphed into 93.1 jAMZ, playing hip-hop music), I was voice-tracking morning news on that station and voice-tracking another MidWest station (AM 1550, The Tux) and doing live news on two other MidWest stations, Q-106 and WTDY, and Sly was “voice-tracking” the afternoon show on The Lake. Voice-tracking means he recorded his spoken breaks for The Lake when he got done with our live morning show on WTDY – but, it sounded like he was live and in The Lake’s studio in the afternoon. MidWest gave The Lake a pretty good launch, and, in the early days, callers to the station would say “So, Sly is back on the air in Madison again – good to hear him!” They had no idea that Sly had been doing the morning show on WTDY for several years, before The Lake was launched. They thought that when Sly left WIBA-FM, he disappeared. They had no idea he’d just crossed town and had gone to work on WTDY. Suffice it to say the ratings on 1670AM were never a factor in the market.
News about the other 7 employees fired the same day as Sly is mixed. Shawn Prebil is now doing some stuff for the Clear Channel cluster in Madison, including a weekend talk show on 92.1 The Mic - which, I’m told, never gave serious consideration to hiring Sly, despite a noisy grassroots campaign called “Give Sly the Mic” which was launched shortly after MidWest fired him. Deana Wright, the talented Madison-born-and-raised broadcaster who returned “home” a couple years ago after stints in some of the largest markets in the nation, is entertaining offers from the major markets again, and tells me there are some tempting local non-radio offers on her plate, as well. Deana is continuing her gig voice-tracking an Urban AC radio show in the Atlanta market and is still doing some voice-over work. Amy Barrilleaux, the former WTDY News Director, is maintaining her “news brand” and tells me she’s doing some freelancing for Isthmus (she has a cover story on domestic violence coming out in tomorrow’s edition) and in a few weeks will be in training for a hundred-mile bike ride to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I was never acquainted with Crystal MacKenzie or Lindsay Adjavor or any of the others who were part of the mass firing, so I can’t tell you what they’re up to.
I wish them all well, and will be eager to hear what Sly has to say on his new afternoon show in a couple weeks. The good folks in Monroe are soon to have a lot more than cheese to talk about!