After weeks of rumors and days of teases, Russ Martin has confirmed that he will return to KEGL/97.1 FM "The Eagle," the station he left more than 10 years ago, with a morning show that will begin July 12.
Martin, who became one of the most popular personalities in Dallas-Fort Worth during his tenure at KLLI/105.3 FM, says the show will air from 6 to 10 a.m. weekdays on Clear Channel-owned KEGL and will have the same sort of rowdy "boys in the clubhouse" feel as his show on 105.3 FM. Although The Eagle is a hard-rock station, Martin says his show will be all talk.
Martin, who did afternoons during most of his time at 105.3 FM, hasn't done a morning show since late 2000, and he previously told the Star-Telegram and others that he would never do mornings again. But he has reasons for changing his mind.
"I wanted to go back on the air," Martin said in a phone interview Thursday. "That's really the long and short of it. ... I think mornings this go-round will be easier than when I did mornings back in the late '90s, because that was my first entry into talk radio. It's like the first season of any sitcom: People are finding the development of the characters, and then you go back and look at the sitcom three years into it, and everything's a lot more natural."
Martin had also indicated that he wouldn't return to Clear Channel, the company that owns KEGL, but he has reasons for changing his mind there, too.
"It's funny, the general manager of The Eagle is the same general manager that was there in the late '90s," Martin said, referring to J.D. Freeman, president and market manager of Clear Channel Radio Dallas-Fort Worth. "I always liked J.D. a lot. ... It was upper management I had issues with." (At press time, Freeman had yet to return a phone call seeking comment.)
The move brings full circle a saga involving both Martin and KEGL. When KEGL dropped The Howard Stern Show in 1997, Martin was moved into the morning slot, where he maintained and even increased ratings despite the station's dropping Stern at the peak of his popularity. In March 2000, Martin left KEGL and almost immediately joined 105.3 FM as it launched a "hot talk" format. Martin began by doing mornings, but when the CBS-owned station began airing Stern in 2001, he moved to afternoons, and that's when his ratings really began to take off.
While Martin was working at 105.3, which eventually became known as KLLI, KEGL underwent two format changes -- first to a soft-oldies format, then to Spanish -- before Clear Channel revived the hard-rock format and the "Eagle" nickname in late 2007. Former Eagle personalities Chris Ryan and Cindy Scull rejoined the station and are still with KEGL.
In July 2008, Martin was arrested at his Southlake home (he has since moved) and charged with assaulting his fiancee. The case stretched out for nearly a year before Martin pleaded no contest and was sentenced to two years' probation. Martin has maintained his innocence all along and has said he has been frustrated by his inability to talk about it on the air because of legal issues. He's not certain whether he'll address it now.
"It really depends on if there's any interest," he says. "If there is, I'll address it; if there isn't, there's no reason to bring it up, because if there's no interest, the only person that's going to be fascinated with it is me."
Months after Martin's arrest, CBS flipped 105.3 FM from the talk format to a sports format, redubbing the station KRLD/105.3 FM "The Fan." Martin was taken off the air -- at the time, CBS executives said his benching had nothing to do with his arrest -- but remained under contract to CBS. If the KEGL deal hadn't been negotiated, Martin would have remained under contract to CBS till next year.
ROBERT PHILPOT, 817-390-7872