Morning Drive

If you thought syndicated morning radio couldn't get any worse in Lexington, you haven't been listening. It's plumbing all new depths with the addition of fossil Rick Dees' syndicated morning show at WLKT, 104.5 "The Cat."

Dees, best remembered for his 1977 disco hit "Disco Duck," or perhaps his failed late-night talk show from the early 1990s, has a home in Danville, and has already made a local appearance at a celebrity golf tournament.

Dees has just what Lexington radio needs: more jokes about Michael Jackson's plastic surgery and crotch-grabbing-hiLARious!! And ooh, let's have some funny stuff about Firestone manufacturing the tires for the Concorde. Stop it!! We're wetting ourselves!!

It's a steaming pile of slickly produced trash, probably pretty cheap for The Cat to buy, and without a scrap of local flavor or personality.

Dees' program joins the equally insipid "Bob & Sheri" show on WCDA (106.3), and "Bob & Tom" on WKQQ (100.1), Tom Joyner on The Beat 107.9, and Don Imus on WXLG (1300AM)- continuing to fill Lexington with out-of-market morning entertainment.

Lexingtonians do have some local talk radio; media veteran Sue Wylie has been hosting a local morning show for years on WVLK (590AM) - her "Front Page" is a call-in forum dealing with local and national issues. But most music stations seem to have given up on local talent during morning drive time.

There are a few exceptions to this trend, and there's news to report about changes at two stations who actually do have local talent on the air in the mornings.

One is WXZZ (Z-103), the station where the locally produced "Freak Show" has become the trademark for the station.

With the addition of new freak, Holly (first-names only), the show attempts to fill the large shoes of the well-liked Shea, who left the program earlier this summer for a show of her own in Cincinnati.

Holly, who has an extensive theatrical resumé, has no background in radio, but characterized this as an asset rather than a liability. "Listeners aren't stupid. If you're someone who's really polished and smooth, but who isn't real, you're going to be as boring as whale poop. With the 'Freak Show,' it's always going to be real; we're not fabricated to be put on the radio. People always respond to that."

Freak Daddy agrees. "We are so much more concerned about personality than polish. You want to be able to relate to somebody, you want to feel that kinship - the more honest we can be, the more people can find to relate to in the program."

So how does Freak Daddy think the new "Freak Show" will do against Rick Dees? The head freak has checked out Dees' program: "What I really hoped would happen is that I'd listen to the show and be really scared because his show was so great, but I listened to a tape of his show, and said to myself, 'gee, we don't have to work any harder to beat this guy.' But of course, we are going to work harder."

And now comes welcome news that WRFL (88.1 FM), the University of Kentucky's student-run radio station ("all the way to the left"), has joined the fray with a morning program of its own.

Mr. Friendly, known to regular WRFL listeners as the host of "Mr. Friendly's Elevator Lounge" on Sunday nights for the past two years, is now on from Monday to Thursday, 6am-9am.

Mr. Friendly explains: "In 12 years, WRFL has never done a morning show, so this is new territory for the station."

The program is an eclectic mix of music, guests, characters and comedy bits, with a different feel to each hour of the program.

"The first hour from 6-7 am focuses mostly on jazz, with some R&B and blues, happy-snappy stuff to wake you up. In the second hour, I have guests in the studio, people from the local community who have issues they want to talk about. The third hour has a regular feature, Radio Free Jukebox, which highlights new music that WRFL is featuring."

The music ranges widely across the spectrum. Mr. Friendly is confident that "nobody is going to play more of a variety of stuff than me." On shows this week, listeners could hear artists as diverse as John Lee Hooker, Kathleen Battle, and "Weird" Al Yankovic, alongside news cut-ins and spoken word recordings from comedians.

Regular listeners of Mr. Friendly will be happy to know that Borisella, Mr. Friendly's somewhat evil alter-ego, will be making appearances as well, along with other characters from Mr. Friendly's repertoire.

Mr. Friendly reports that the Friday morning time slot will be filled by a program called "Life Sentence," which also should be familiar to regular WRFL listeners, who used to hear the show on Thursdays at midnight. The Thursday night version of the program was what Mr. Friendly calls "a punk variety show," complete with Cockney-accented punk Nipple Pearson, skits, comedy bits, and running gags.

The morning version of "Life Sentence" hadn't aired at press time - Lexingtonians await with bated breath. One would hope that regular bits on Michael Jackson won't be part of their schtick.