“I really came in to be the on-air producer,” Weiss, whose Atlanta-based show debuted Jan. 21 in DFW, said Friday during a Dallas visit. “I was more behind the scenes and was, what, the fourth player on the air at the time? I was here when we hired Al.”
Kidd Kraddick in the Morninglisteners know that Weiss is referring to Big Al Mack, the former limousine-service owner who is now the second-longest-running cast member on KKITM behind Kellie Rasberry, who was already on the show when Weiss arrived. Weiss made several return appearances on the show in late 2013 after Kraddick’s July 27 death, and found that even though he was with Kraddick for only two years more than 15 years ago, he still has name recognition in DFW.
“When I’ve been on with Kellie and those guys the last couple of months, I’ve been shocked by the response here,” Weiss says. “That’s a show that’s been together for 20 years. So I’ve been really surprised by how many people remember me from back then. I was thinking ... ‘This is a totally different audience,’ but it hasn’t been that way.”
Weiss’ appearances on KKITM, and his past with and similarities to Kraddick, led some (including me) to believe that he was being groomed to fill the void left by Kraddick. Weiss says it wasn’t even considered.
“It was never in the cards,” Weiss says. “I’m really proud of what we built, and we’ve worked super-hard for it. But that’s a legacy over there. I wouldn’t want to be that guy. It was never a thought for me. [And] I don’t think that they need a new guy.”
Weiss adds that the KKITM cast -- Rasberry, Mack, Jose “J-Si” Chavez and Jenna Owens -- has been doing great in a tough situation.
“The analogy that I’ve been using is that they have been passengers in a car for 20 years, and all of a sudden the driver says, ‘You know what? I’m out’,” Weiss says. “And then you have to take the steering wheel, and no one has ever taught you how to drive a car. And I think the way they’ve evolved from the first day [post-Kraddick] to now is light years. And I imagine in the next couple of months, it’s going to be better than it is now.”
I saw Weiss and Kraddick on a panel when the National Association of Broadcasters held its annual convention in Dallas a couple of years ago. Although they hadn’t worked together directly in more than a decade, they bounced off each other with rapid-fire jokes as if they were buddies who met for coffee every morning (Weiss’ show is distributed by Kraddick’s YEA Networks).
“We became really tight friends,” Weiss says. “I think it’s because we came from kind of very dysfunctional backgrounds, and we had that in common. So we kinda bonded over that, and just became really, really tight. When it comes to radio and it comes to chemistry, you can’t predict what’s going to happen, and he heard something in me and brought me on for a reason. He had such an amazing ear when it came to that kind of thing.”
Weiss, who is originally from San Diego, began his career doing sports updates for an AM country station, covering the Padres and the Chargers, even getting field passes for Super Bowls. After about a year of doing locker-room reporting, he discovered that he didn’t really like the people he was covering that much, and decided that sports wasn’t for him.
He began seeking morning-show gigs, even going as far as saying he’d be the coffee gofer if it meant he could be involved. That landed him a job in Washington, D.C., at the long-running Jack Diamond Morning Show, where he eventually became the on-air producer. .
“[Diamond] was very calculated about doing morning radio,” Weiss says. “He knew when he was going to get in, knew when he was going to get out, always on time. He was very structured. I knew in my heart that I eventually wanted to have my own hosting job, so I needed to go and find a mentor that didn’t believe in structure at all. And that was one guy.”
That one guy was Kraddick, known for his freewheeling, self-admittedly ADHD style.
“He would come into the studio, and he would have the front page of the newspaper, he’d have a pencil in his hand,” Weiss says of what Kraddick could be like as close as 10 minutes to showtime. “He’d go into this meditative state, write down wo ideas, and that was the show. And that was what I really, really wanted.”
Weiss says that when he developed his own show, he meshed Diamond’s meticulousness with Kraddick’s looseness -- and adds that The Bert Show leans more toward Kraddick’s style. While working with Kraddick, Weiss decided that morning talk was what he wanted to do, and he began working to host his own show after leaving DFW in 1998. He encountered a bit of a catch-22.
“I felt like I was ready to be the host of a show, but I had no legitimate hosting experience,” Weiss says. “My name wasn’t on a show, and program directors and general managers kept coming back to me, saying, ‘Yeah, you’ve got a pretty good pedigree, man, but you don’t have your name on a show’.”
Weiss returned to Washington to work with Diamond again, but insisted that the show be called The Jack and Bert Show. After three more years with Diamond, he started putting feelers out, and caught the attention of a small Atlanta Top 40 station that was just launching a new signal. Weiss says that the show took off, thanks to his hiring the right people -- and to good timing.
“[Atlanta was] ready for the product that we have,” Weiss says. “Everybody else in the market was doing really old school radio -- gags and sound effects and crap like that that I hate. ... It evolved from there. We were at a 3,000-watt radio station, and we started beating the competition that had 50,000 watts. And they gave me a bigger signal, and now we’re syndicated.”
The Bert Show has had very little turnover, Weiss says. Co-host/executive producer Jeff Dauler has been with the show 13 years; Tracey Kinney, the show’s operations manager and syndication executive producer, has been on board for 12. Kristin Klingshirn, co-host and entertainment news director, is the new kid, having joined the show in 2011 (to see the full cast, go here).
One of Kidd Kraddick in the Morning’s trademarks is how much the cast talks about its personal lives on the air, a trait that Kraddick practiced and encouraged. But Weiss says he thinks his show is even more open.
“If you’re on our show, you’d better really be ready to give up your personal life,” Weiss says. “I think when I was on Kidd’s show those couple of years, it really was more open than it has been the past couple of years. [But] we’re not as spontaneous. I mean, that guy was just the entertainer’s entertainer. When he passed, that was the last of radio’s great entertainers, I think.”
The Bert Show airs from 5 to 9 a.m. KDMX.