Baumhower: How grounding a grown man saved his radio careerWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
On Feb. 4, 2011, Wood County Common Pleas Judge Alan Mayberry forbid Andrew Zepeda, aka Andrew Z, from drinking and/or going to any place that sells liquor for the next two years … basically grounding him, but as it turns out, maybe saving his radio career. On March 12, Cumulus Broadcasting announced that Tim and Jeff were leaving Toledo for a syndication deal in Fayetteville, Ark., and that Andrew Z and his “People’s Show” would replace them. I was not shocked by the move as it seems that Andrew Z, like Stella, finally got his groove back.
I will publicly admit I was not a fan of Andrew Z’s show on KISS FM, because there was not much of a show. I am a radio guy, who makes his living writing and producing radio morning shows across our great country, so I consider myself a sort of morning show purist, almost an obnoxious elitist.
Toledo has an outstanding history of great morning radio shows that have worked here and dominated, like Steve Mason/Diane, Jeff/Mark, Carlson/MacKenzie and Denny Shaffer. Those shows gave Toledoans great content to listen to every morning and it felt at times as if the entire city was listening. The previously mentioned shows also dominated in the ratings.
As I have mentioned before, the FCC changed the game in 1997 with ownership rules and Toledo morning radio really took the hit. What used to be numerous mom and pop stations were sold off to two radio conglomerates (Clear Channel, Cumulus) who were more concerned with cash than content. Although the Toledo radio landscape had changed, Toledoans’ need/desire for a great morning shows had not.
The downfall of Andrew Z’s KISS FM show began when he first announced he was opening his pizzeria. The show slowly transitioned from giving people a reason to listen, to giving constant promotional plugs for his restaurant. Andrew Z then became more focused on his outside business entities than his own radio show, but never once did he seem to realize it.
As his business grew, so did his opportunities; he put together a locally based traveling stand-up comedy show, he opened a restaurant location in Defiance, then another in Downtown Toledo. There are more businesses he opened that I am simply not listing here. With every new business, another portion of his show was dedicated to promoting it.
The last year of his KISS FM show was like a four-hour infomercial for Andrew Zepeda enterprises, yet people still listened. Clear Channel had known for some time that his content was being held hostage, because replacing Andrew Z meant they would have to pick up a corporately owned syndicated morning show, which Clear Channel calls “Premium Choice.”
If Clear Channel Toledo had fired Andrew Z any earlier than they did, Toledo would have lost another local radio morning show for good.
Everyone in Toledo knows that Andrew Z lost it all; they know he was arrested for making poor choices, his businesses were all closed by the banks, and finally he was not renewed with Clear Channel Toledo. Andrew is Toledo’s own VH1 “Behind The Music” story and this was the wake-up call he needed.
Cumulus Broadcasting made a very wise investment when it signed Andrew Z last July. By signing him at a significantly lower salary and putting him on a nonexistent signal, they put his career in his own hands — put up or shut up.
In July, when Andrew Z launched his “People’s Show” on 100.7 The Vibe, his show sounded refreshingly different. Long gone were all his distractions as there were no businesses to plug. His show’s lineup had changed, as Sarah Hegarty, Demetrius Nicodemus and Carlos Diaz stayed on with KISS FM, allowing for some dynamic changes.
His new lineup on the show features local musician Calen Savidge, comedians Donny Palicki and Brandon Doriot and Michelle Zepeda, former FOX Toledo reporter and Andrew’s wife. This change and the fact that Andrew Z has nothing else to do with his time due to the two-year “grounding” by Judge Mayberry has drastically improved the quality of the show; it may be his finest yet.
The show’s musical/comedic talents have been able to shine on a daily basis because the clutter of plugs are gone. You combine them and a focused/determined Andrew Z and you get a 60-watt FM station showing up in the ratings. Cumulus had no choice but to make a change.
Andrew Z’s fall from grace was not graceful. It was ugly and many would say deserved.
Although I was not a fan of his show at the end of his KISS run, I am a fan of him as a person. Andrew Z is one of the most genuine people in Toledo radio. He has been incredibly humbled and turned his humiliation into a reborn desire to perform and prove himself. He is a great Dickens character who almost ruined his life with his mistakes, but was given a second chance, like many Toledoans.
If he can continue to improve and grow the show, there will be a ratings shake-up.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @jeremytheproduc.