6/27: Farewell to Kelly & Alpha, Matt Chernoff subs at 680/The Fan
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
It’s hard not to feel a little bad for Kelly Stevens and Alpha Trevette, two dutiful foot soldiers for B98.5 who left the airwaves Friday morning after nine-plus years at the soft-rock station and 20 years together as a team.
“We had some wonderful life changing experiences,” Alpha said during the final farewell at 8:50 a.m. this morning.
“We’re leaving you in good company. You have a new show coming,” Kelly said. And as he passed the baton to Jordan Graye, the mid-morning host, his voice broke.
It was a touching, low-key farewell for two classy guys who were given a shot to actually say goodbye. [If you want to leave them some kind words, go to their Web site.]
The pair’s mandate from day one was to provide brief, amusing buffer banter between songs. They were seldom given a chance to breathe, to develop a real show a la the Bert Show or Frank & Wanda or the Regular Guys.
For B98.5, it worked. The station brought in a consistent audience of folks who preferred music while going to work or ferrying the kids to school.
But when Steve McCoy & Vikki Locke became available, Cox Radio — owners for B98.5 — had to make a strategic choice. Steve & Vikki’s audience had gotten too old for Star but seems a perfect fit for the B98.5 crowd. If B98.5 chose to do nothing, another radio company might have been tempted to start a second soft-rock station. (Atlanta as a metro area has been with just one soft-rock station since Lite became the country station the Bull in December 2006.)
So Cox hired Steve & Vikki themselves to create a bulwark and disincentive for any rival to take on B98.5 directly.
Kelly & Alpha were simply in the way. They had to go. It’s ironic that B98.5 so assiduously constrained the pair from doing a full-personality show; yet, the station gets rid of them for a personality morning show.
The pair chose to make Friday a “celebration” as opposed to a wake, taking well-wishing calls from their regulars such as Mark from the Yamaha bike factory at 5:10 a.m.. “You giving us a free bike?” joked Kelly, a regular motorycle user. “What?” Mike said. “Suddenly, he’s hard of hearing!” Alpha joked.
Even the gallows humor was relatively lighthearted and things didn’t get histrionic, at least early on. After playing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ,” Kelly at 5:15 a.m. couldn’t help but reference it as the final song on “The Sopranos.”
Kelly at 6 a.m. noted they were being videotaped by a staffer for posterity. “Maybe we can sell it on eBay and get some money that way,” he cracked.
The final daily “impossible” question: five percent of men would rather do this than lose their hair. You can find the answer here.. And yes, the team even did their final endorsement to Purina One at 6:25 a.m. And at 6:58 a.m., they brought back the Friday song one more time after a long absence and sang it together (quite well, in fact).
Interestingly, the “noncompete” clause in the Steve & Vikki contract at Star 94 precludes B98.5 from even mentioning their names on air until July 1, which is probably just as well for Kelly & Alpha. (But the station found a loophole and have been airing Steve & Vikki TV ads for weeks.)
I spoke with both Kelly & Alpha Thursday. Alpha seemed like he was holding a bit back and you can’t blame him since they’re both getting paychecks from the station through the end of the year. He chose not to comment about Steve & Vikki while Kelly said he only wished them the best: “They’re a great team…I have no animosity. I made sure my desk was nice and clean so Steve could set himself up.” (Marjorie Coley won’t be doing the news for B98.5; under Steve & Vikki, it will be Jeff Hullinger, who will continue to anchor news over at WSB-AM in the afternoons.)
Kelly (right), fresh from alcohol rehab at Ridgeview, harbored zero bitterness about his impending departure from B98.5:
“It’s a transition. I wasn’t surprised. I was shocked they were giving us as much notice. Four months! That was a blessing.”
It gave Kelly time to go to rehab and get his life straightened out, he said. “I owe [Ridgeview] my life,” he said. He’d been spiraling down the past two years.
“I wanted to go find the old Kelly and bring him back,” he said. “If this is the last time I’m on the radio, I didn’t want to go out that way. I wanted to end strong.”
He even chose to talk about it on air. “I wanted to be honest,” he said. “I was amazed by the support.” He even kept his drinking problem from Alpha and producer Will Gara, who stays on to work with Steve & Vikki next week. (Ironic song on the final day: “Red Red Wine” by UB40 at 6:08 a.m. “A little euphoric recall,” Kelly joked.)
“He hid things from me and everybody else,” said Alpha. “We didn’t communicate as well as we could.” He said since Kelly came back from rehab earlier this month, they have been doing great shows. “It’s more relaxed and easier to do the show,” he noted, despite the impending end.
Alpha (right) said he’s just grateful he got to say goodbye on the air, an opportunity many radio personalities do not get. (See Rhubarb Jones, Leslie Fram and Kristen Gates as recent examples.)
“The focus has been on the music while trying to have fun in what little space given us,” he said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job. We’ve learned to condense quite a bit. We cut out a lot of fat and needless talk. It would have been nice to flesh some things out but we worked within the framework.”
Kelly said he did what he was told: “You’re talking to someone who spent five years in the service. [The Coast Guard.] I salute smartly and do my job. I’m not the boss!”
He also said Thursday before the farewell show that he just hoped to keep his composure when he hands off the morning to Jordan Graye at around 8:45 a.m. “It’s going to hurt a little bit,” he admitted. “I might cry like a baby!” (From the sounds of it on air, he did.)
The morning team ended its run airing from 5 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., a relatively early finish compared to its competitors, but the radio station wanted to start the workday with lots of music.
Naturally, the pair would like to stay in Atlanta if possible but if a good job comes along in a different market, they’re all ears. But he said the job market is a bit quiet right now. (Their agent is Glenn Goldstein if anybody is interested and their Web site is here if you want to look at their resume and offer them a new job..
This is by far the longest the pair has stayed in the same city (they’ve been in Kansas City, Seattle, Tampa and Denver.) “We fooled these guys longer than anybody else apparently!” Alpha joked.
Next week, neither will be anywhere near Atlanta while Steve & Vikki start on July 1. Kelly, who is single, will be on his Harley going up the coast to Maine, which he has never seen. Alpha plans to visit his son in Denver (a former radio market for the pair) and see some old buds “away from the hype machine,” he said.
—If you’re hearing Matt Chernoff’s voice on 680/The Fan, you aren’t imagining it. The long-time Zone sports talk host until late last year has been working the TV circuit alone the past few months. But when 680/The Fan asked him to sub in for Christopher Rude Thursday and Friday, he said yes.
He said he hasn’t counted out a future radio gig again. “I’m open to anything,” he said. “This was just to sit in and have some fun… I’ve been enjoying TV and having one job like everyone else. But I do miss doing radio.”