The state of terrestrial talk radio has morphed into a medium vastly dominated by sports talk and right-wing political pandering, says former Live 105.3 FM midday host Pugs Moran.
"There's no lane for lifestyle talk," Moran says. "If you want to work in talk radio in America today, you have to be willing to talk about nothing but sports or support a right-wing political ideology. What Live 105.3 represented was an attempt by CBS Radio back then to do FM talk that wasn't political or sports-heavy. It was just regular talk radio."
Live 105.3 FM KLLI ran a freeform, alternative talk radio format until 2008. It started as an experiment by CBS Radio in 20 major media markets when longtime radio host Howard Stern left for Sirius XM Satellite radio in 2004. Dallas was the only one of those experimental stations that carried enough viewers to keep going with an all-talk format that didn't just cater to Cowboys fans or people who had voted for President George W. Bush.
"When Howard Stern jumped to satellite, CBS pulled the plug on the format and thought there's no way to continue this format," Moran says. "Live is the last ... the only one that improved its ratings."
Then the station abruptly changed formats to an all-sports format, now known as The Fan, and became the sister station of the news station KRLD 1080 AM at the peak of its popularity.
Moran, who streams at noon and evenings with Pugs & Company live on YouTube and through the Radiomisfits Podcast Network, says he still hears from fans who wonder what happened to the station. He's finally ready to spill the beans about everything that went on at Live 105.3 on and off the air up to its final days, through interviews with "the people who really saw everything."
Moran will be releasing the entire series in the next two months as a narrative podcast called Who Killed Live 105.3?, and he promises he'll burn "every motherfucking bridge that there is out there, and I'm blowing up every person with a name that people might know," according to a teaser he released last Thursday. "We're gonna tell some stories that might make people wince," Moran says.
He's not willing to name every name he plans to interview, since there's still "a lot of paperwork" and "a lot of non-disclosures and that kind of thing" but he's confirmed that people like Mohr, Hunter and his broadcast partner and producer James Parker will be interviewed to tell their stories about their time at the station.
"There's a lot of stuff that people saw that they want to talk about," Moran says. "This is just 10 or 15 years ago. It's not that long ago, but the way that station was run would definitely not work in this era."
Moran says the podcast will include first-hand accounts of Martin's off-air behavior with other staff and friends of the station. He'll also expand on those that came to light in 2009 when Dallas Observer reporter Richie Whitt wrote a cover story on the former shock jock. That came after the station change and Martin's assault charges involving his then-fiancée, which got reduced to a misdemeanor charge.
One infamous story about Martin came in 2004 at one of the host's live events in the wake of the death of Pantera's Dimebag Darrell, who was gunned down by a crazed fan onstage in Columbus, Ohio.
"In the middle of the stage, [Martin] had some actors run out on stage and shoot him, and he did it full well knowing that [Pantera drummer and Dimebag's brother] Vinnie Paul was in the audience," Moran says. "The blowback from that was immense. If you were a 105.3 personality on the street, Pantera basically told their fans that it's ass-whooping time."
Moran says he learned about the prank the following Monday in staff meetings and after seeing the heightened security at the station. He also says Vinnie Paul approached him during a show at the Addison Improv and says he didn't hold him and the rest of the station responsible for the joke, just Martin.
Moran insists, however, his podcast won't just be "a hatchet story on Russ Martin," and that he's just one "disruptive thread" in the station's downfall.
"The Cowboys became available and the station knew they could never get [Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones and Cowboys money with a station that's still a tits and ass station," Moran says. "They had to make a choice: They could toe the line and make money or destroy the station and go with the Cowboys."
Moran says he's been cobbling together stories about the station's office antics and behaviors for the last five years, and this seemed like the right time to start publishing them. After all, fans still ask him about Live 105.3 FM more than a decade after its demise.
"I imagine it's gonna get real personal," Moran says about his upcoming podcast. "It's real personal to me. Anybody who's familiar with how we used to do our show, we get real personal. We wear our emotions on our sleeve. I've gotten an amazing response, so I thought maybe it still has legs and it's a good story. I've gotten DMs from people who I didn't think would want to talk who volunteered their services."