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Published: Wednesday, 2/27/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Johny D brings talk show to WSPD

Radio show host wants to stir things up without alienating audience

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Johny D has been named to the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. time slot on WSPD-AM 1370. He replaces Brian Wilson. Johny D has been named to the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. time slot on WSPD-AM 1370. He replaces Brian Wilson.
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For a dozen years Johny D. broadcast on WVKS-FM 92.5 (KISS-FM) in the afternoons and mornings, until he was fired from the station in 2007 and replaced by Andrew Zepeda and his Andrew Z in the Morning show.

Johny D. also logged time at WTWR-FM, 98.3 in Monroe, and then worked in Detroit, where he hosted an AM and FM talk show and sports talk show.

Most recently he served as program director and weekday host at WCKY-FM 103.7 in Findlay.

Such is the nomadic career of a radio talk-show host, but the moves from town to town and up and down the dial might be behind the radio host.

With the November departure of its controversial and politically divisive afternoon talk-show host Brian Wilson, Clear Channel's WSPD-AM 1370 recently announced the 44-year-old Johny D. as Wilson's replacement in the 3-to-6 p.m. weekday slot. With the hiring, the station takes a three-hour break from its mostly conservative talk-show-driven format in favor of a less political programing.

"We're trying to reflect the lifestyle of Toledo and if politics is part of that, great, and if not there's lots of other stuff to talk about," said Scott Sands, WSPD program director.

Added Kellie Holeman, Clear Channel regional market manager: "It's all about being relevant to the lifestyle. There's a lot of great people that live in this community doing a lot of great things and we're really just trying to talk about the things that matter to Toledoans, whether that's community events, charity, politics, family, sports, news, weather, traffic."

In the same conference-call interview with WSPD management, Johny D. referred to his program as "an overall show ... not just based on politics.

"There's kids and parents, and how people live their lives ... [and] talking about the [state of the State speech by Governor] Kasich. Whatever's hot in the news."

So, yes, topics will vary, but listeners can expect to consistently hear about off-the-air life, dilemmas, and adventures of Johny D. (short for his last name), a married father of four, as well as his family, friends, and neighbors. Already in the month or so since he has been on WSPD full time, the 1988 graduate of Specs Howard broadcasting school in Detroit has shared his thoughts on gun control and owning "pit bulls" as it relates to his own life. He also brought his wife of nearly a decade, Dana, on the air to discuss his desire to get a second vasectomy. Coming soon, expect a conversation between husband and wife regarding his thriftless spending habits.

"She wants to take my credit card away ... because I spend too much money," he said, followed by this observation: "Isn't that what guys do?"

By sharing such personal information, he said, "that's how listeners get to know you." The challenge, of course, for any talk-show host in such an open and honest format, especially in this Too Much Information age of social media, is recognizing how far to go with his on-air revelations and heart-to-hearts with the audience.

Much of his nearly 30-year broadcasting career has been talk show-oriented, so it's a format he feels comfortable with and understands. "I know the boundaries already from doing radio for so long and I know what works and what doesn't work," Johny D. said. "And most of what I'm saying on the air about my personal life is true."

Just don't expect him to use his radio program as a bully pulpit.

"I'm not doing that," he said. "I'm not going to be a bully. That's not the right angle. That's not who I am."

That's a stark difference between he and his predecessor as well as many talk-show hosts on the AM dial. Perhaps to demonstrate his more compassionate and less-political approach to talk radio, Johny D. passed up the opportunity to criticize Toledo when asked what is right and wrong about the city.

"[Toledo] has a really bad rap," he said. "Every city needs to work on negatives, but I don't want to rip on [local] politicians [because] I don't know them well enough. I like it here. I think we need to focus on more positive about the city than negative, and I think there's more positive than negative. There's a lot of potential."

That's not to suggest he won't maintain his reputation as controversial in his own right. That’s just good radio.

"If you're going to do a talk show, you're either black or white. You're going to be loved or hated," he said. "That happens."

Or, as Sands said, "if you're not polarizing then you're not going to be interesting."

The trick, Johny D. said, is to be polarizing/interesting to audiences without alienating them.

"It comes through a balance. You might talk about something that's really hard core at one time and then at the next break you'll talk about what we're doing in Toledo to help families that don't have any food," he said. "That's how talk radio works."



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