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Radio Wars

December 7, 2011

First things first: the investment I made in purchasing my new Gateway DX4860-UB33P looks very worthwhile thus far. It's remarkable how much time I've already saved being able to use multiple programs without the system locking up, crashing, and occasionally rebooting without warning like my old Dell computer did. This isn't a knock on Dell -- it's just the reality of using an outdated computer and trying to run multiple applications at the same time that pressed it to its limits -- and beyond.

The only thing I really need to do at this point is to move the rest of my files/programs off the old computer, reformat it, and then have the old Dell as a backup/ancillary option. I'm tentatively planning to put it upstairs in conjunction with my JVC stereo, which presently is taking up space in my very cluttered office.

Earlier today someone on Twitter asked my opinion about the fallout from comments made about my former boss Bubba the Love Sponge by comedian Ralphie May on Tuesday's Orlando morning radio show on WLLD (Wild 94.1) in the Tampa Bay market. There is no way I could fit all of my thoughts into 140 characters, so I decided to use my forum here on to explain the situation and give my thoughts on it. Ironically, this bumped the post I had planned to put online today about Twitter back a few days.

Also, to be clear, I support Bubba and the rest of the guys from the show 100%. I've known the BTLS crew since I went to work with Bubba in early 2003. Know this going into the write-up: it's impossible for me to be impartial in this situation, though I will be as direct with my thoughts as possible.

Earlier this year, Bubba exposed what he believed to be questionable financial distribution by the charity that Cledus T. Judd (a personality on Tampa's WQYK-FM) was raising money for with a rather strange tribute song about Caylee Anthony. If you aren't up to speed on the sordid story about her death and her mother (Casey Anthony) being acquitted on murder charges, consider yourself lucky. As for Bubba and Cledus, this article explains how the heat that Bubba brought ultimately lead to the charity in question declining to accept any revenue raised by Cledus' song.

I don't know Cledus at all, but I've heard the song and it's terrible, at least in my opinion. Listen to it if you wish, but be warned, it's awful.

It seems hard to believe that such a dud of a song could gain any traction or generate much revenue at all. But it turns out that May and Cledus are friends, and the Bubba/Cledus situation agitated May to the point of motivating him to speak out about Bubba, at least according to what May said yesterday.

But this goes well beyond Cledus, and to fully understand the elements in play, you have to go back more than ten years. This didn't just start overnight.

October 2001: Comedian Jay Mohr came on Bubba's show to promote a series of comedy shows he was booked for at the Tampa Improv. Things took a bad turn when Mohr objected to some of the material that Bubba played for him and ended with Mohr abruptly walking out of the studio.

As fate would have it, I had already bought tickets for one of the shows (the Tampa Improv was in walking distance from my apartment in Ybor City), and I ended up enjoying Mohr's stand-up performance. Howie Mandel showed up as a surprise as well before Mohr's set, and he put on a great act. It was a great night of comedy. I didn't care for Mohr's behavior on Bubba's show, nor have I been pleased with the shots he has taken at Bubba over the past several years. But I have to give Mohr credit: he put on a strong set on stage.

The fallout from the on-air blowup between Bubba and Mohr continued on for years, with both sides taking on-air shots back and forth with each other, including Mohr slamming Bubba during a fill-in stint on the Jim Rome Show (circa 2003). The two sides have remained on unfriendly terms to this day.

March 2002: The short-lived program Mohr Sports debuted on ESPN. May worked as a writer on the show.

June-August 2003: Mohr served as the co-creator and season one host for the NBC reality program Last Comic Standing. It was on that show that May first gained major national recognition, finishing as the runner-up for the season.

Mohr and May are also friendly with the Opie and Anthony radio show, a program that has traded verbal barbs (and Twitter insults) with Bubba over the past several years. Most of that ramped up after my time with the BTLS show ended in 2006, though I'm well aware of much of what has been said back and forth by both sides.

So, with all of that in mind, you could perhaps understand why May would be inclined to speak out against Bubba after the Cledus incident happened.

Perhaps the most interesting thing that May said on Orlando's show is that he (May) is a fan of the radio biz, and he noted hearing Bubba on the air in Richmond (on the now-defunct modern rocker Y101). Based on May's assessment of Bubba's show, he clearly has listened to it enough to become very familiar with its components.

As for May and BTLS executive producer Brent Hatley trading shots on Twitter, it makes sense for Brent to defend the show he works for against an attack. I can't speak to the specifics of the arguments because some of it involves information that I'm not privy to: Arbitron ratings, claims of the audio played on WLLD being doctored, etc. I do know that Bubba remains dominant in Tampa radio and that Brent wrote today that BTLS came in #1 in every demographic in Tampa in the latest Arbitron ratings report.

If I could be more strongly-worded about the situation, I would, but this doesn't really warrant a strongly-worded response by me. I do find the timing for May to go on Orlando's show to knock Bubba to be a bit curious considering that Bubba's contract with his Tampa flagship station, 102.5 the Bone, is almost up, and one could speculate that there was some intentional attempted well-poisoning going on there. I don't know that to be the case though, but if that ended up being true I wouldn't be surprised. Radio can be a very, very dirty game.

There's not much more for me to add to the story: I've been gone from the Tampa area now longer than I lived there, a fantastic five-year run in my mid-20s that's now in the distant past. But I'm pulling for Bubba and company to land a huge new contract with whichever company in Tampa signs them for 2012 and beyond -- they deserve as much cash as they can command. Good luck to them with that.

12/8/2011 1:20 p.m. CST update: Ralphie May read this article and gave his response online. He wrote that he didn't know about Bubba and Mohr's history and that he wasn't put up to it by Cowhead or Orlando or anyone else.

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