Kent Voss is the morning news anchor on the Jonathon Brandmeier show on the Loop, WLUP-FM 97.9
Rick: I get a kick out of the joke that "Kent has worked in radio in all 50 states." Obviously you haven't, but can we get a list of the actual states?
Kent: Here are the states in order and for an added bonus, cities; Phoenix Arizona, Seattle Washington, Tampa Florida, Houston Texas, Dayton Ohio, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, California and finally, Chicago Illinois. I was born in Iowa but never worked there.
Rick: You were in Phoenix when a young Johnny B was doing the morning show there before he came to Chicago the first time. Is that where you met him, or were just a listener in those days?
Kent: I was in High School then and never met him. But if I had never heard him on the radio I don’t think I would have gone into broadcasting. I don’t know that it would have occurred to me that it would be a fun way to make a living.
Rick: When you did your own show there, you had a sports guy that people here might know. He went on to become your sidekick. Tell us the story of how you met Jimmy Kimmel.
Kent: Here’s the whole Kimmel story. I was doing afternoons in Phoenix with another guy, Mike Elliott, and Jimmy used to call the show and do bits. He was going to Arizona State at the time. (I had just graduated from ASU a couple of years prior) I met him at an appearance at Houlihans, I think. He had to use a fake I.D. to get in. He was a funny guy, we started to hang out. His mom’s a great cook and she fed me on a regular basis which was nice.
After moving on to another station in Phoenix I got a chance to do mornings in Seattle. The brain trust asked me if there was somebody that I wanted to work with and I said, “Yeah, I know a guy who would be great.” Jimmy and I moved there, did well in the ratings actually but somehow managed to infuriate management and got fired. A footnote: the name of the show we replaced? “The Oatmeal Buddies”. We were out of work for 9 months and I ended up going to Tampa to do mornings with my former partner, Mike Elliott. We were both big fans of Jimmy’s and we convinced the station to hire Jimmy to produce. But he did a ton of on-air stuff as well. A lot of fun until Jimmy and I got fired again. After that Jimmy went to Palm Springs to do mornings and I went to Houston to start doing talk radio.
Rick: I know for awhile your career took a detour into the television world. You were a writer on "The Man Show" on Comedy Central, and a producer for the show "Crank Yankers." What was that television experience like, and which do you prefer--radio or television?
Kent: A little background. I was doing a talk show in Philly when the station changed formats. Jimmy called and said I should move to L.A. and work on “The Man Show”. So I loaded up the family truckster with my wife, 2 kids (at that time, 3 now), two dogs and several cats and drove across the country. TV was interesting. Different world. I’m glad I did it but I love doing radio. In fact I met Johnny at a taping of “The Man Show”. Jimmy knew there was a station interested in us working together and invited Johnny to the show.
Rick: You were part of Brandmeier's show when he worked in Los Angeles at Arrow 93. When he came back to Chicago, he brought you with him. Were you prepared for the kind of reaction Brandmeier receives here in Chicago compared to the way he was received in LA?
Kent: I knew how successful he was in Chicago so I was aware that it would be different. But I will say the show in L.A. would have done well given time.
Rick: One of things I like about your approach to the show is that you seem to be fearless on the air. If Johnny ribs you a little bit, you're not afraid to rib him back. How would you describe your relationship with him, and how do you see your role on the show?
Kent: I get along great with Johnny. Sometimes his hugs last a little too long and that makes me uncomfortable but other that, no complaints. As for my role, do the news. Pick out some good stories, interesting stories. When I have something to say, say it. And when I don’t, shut my yap. It really is a great way to make a living. I had never done news before until I worked with Johnny.
Rick: You've been compared to Buzz Kilman by the listeners since you arrived. I'm guessing that gets a little old. Have those comparisons finally settled down, and have you ever met Buzz?
Kent: Buzz (photo) worked with Johnny forever so I guess it’s natural for people to compare us. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve never met Buzz, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about him.
Rick: Now that you've been in Chicago for more than three years, what are the pros and cons of this town from the perspective of a guy who has seen everything?
Kent: There are good things about all the places but I like the Midwest. Just a good place to raise kids. And Chicago is clearly the best big city. It’s big, but you can still get around and enjoy it. Plus lots of sports.
Rick: There have been rumors swirling around the show for awhile now because it's been reported that Brandmeier's contract is up soon. I'm assuming that means your deal is up soon too. Unfortunately, it's been a pretty rough climate for radio personalities lately--with the advertising revenues down and the PPM changing the landscape. Do you have any idea what is going to happen next for you or the show?
Kent: Nope. Look at my resume. Does it look like I ever know what’s going to happen next?
Listener Songs about Kent...
VIDEO: Loving You Kent Voss
VIDEO: The Many Faces of Kent Voss
AUDIO: Kent Voss, King of the News