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Guest hosts fill in on air while 101X deejay runs for City Council

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com

It's not a stunt. Really, it's not.

Deejay Toby Ryan, a 15-year veteran of alternative station 101X, has indeed filed for Austin City Council and will face Place 4 incumbent Laura Morrison in the May 14 election. Another political newcomer, Eric Rangel, is also set to be on the ballot.

Ryan says preserving the city's live music scene is his top priority.

"Over nearly two decades in Austin, artists and supporting communities have become my family," he said when announcing his candidacy earlier this month. "And it's time someone at the City Council looked out for us."

His foray into politics means Ryan's off the air at 101X — at least until after the election — so the Emmis-owned station doesn't risk running afoul of equal-time requirements.

"This is my 25th year in radio, and this is a first," said 101X program director Lynn Barstow, who is keeping Ryan busy with behind-the-scenes work. "I've had to bail people out of jail before, but never this."

It's not unheard of, though. Dan Neil, a host at Border Media's sports station 104.9 the Horn, was benched part of last year after deciding to challenge state Rep. Donna Howard. Neil narrowly lost, and has returned to Austin's airwaves, although he continues to contest the election's outcome.

At 101X, night host Trevin Smith is now filling Ryan's 2 to 6 p.m. shift, and the station has lined up several guest hosts for the 6 to 10 p.m. time slot. ... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead's Jason Reece was the voice listeners heard Tuesday through Friday.

Reece, who has been busy promoting the group's newly released "Tao of the Dead" CD, told me hours before his debut that he's a tad light on radio experience — just a bit of it back in college — but he wasn't too worried.

"It's not that hard, really," he said. "Basically you just yap about stuff and play music."

A number of other musicians have signed on to appear on 101X in the coming weeks, including Jim Ward from Sleepercar, Sparta and At the Drive-In; Rise Against's Zach Blair; and Joe Sib, host of "Complete Control," the station's punk-rock program.

Ryan will be on hand to help the artists during their shows. Walking away — at least temporarily — from his dream job, a job he loves, isn't easy, but it's a sacrifice he's willing to make.

"We can't sit on the sidelines anymore," he told supporters. "Whether it's ever-stricter sound ordinances, restrictive zoning that makes it nearly impossible to open new live music venues, or parking proposals that will make it more expensive to enjoy Austin entertainment, this council is choking live music out. And we have to stop it."

Coming soon?

Manor might soon be home to the area's newest radio station.

JNE Investments has filed paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission seeking to establish KTXW 1120 AM, which Bustos Media of Sacramento, Calif., would be responsible for getting on the air if everything gets the OK.

"This is all very preliminary," says JNE's Jeffrey Eustis.

Details — a format, launch date — are far from being finalized, he adds.

"We'll know a lot more in six months or a year."

Making 1120 AM a reality will be tricky. Engineers working on the project have to make sure the signal won't interfere with two adjacent stations: KVTT 1110 AM in Mineral Wells, an hour west of Fort Worth, and KTMR 1130 AM in Converse, on the northeastern outskirts of San Antonio.

"There's a lot of work involved with shoehorning it in there," says Timothy Cutforth with Vir James Engineering.

Stay tuned.

And the winner is ...

KUT's reign as Austin's No. 1 radio station didn't last long.

After a month in the top spot, it was dethroned by Majic 95.5 during Arbitron's 2010 holiday ratings period, which ran Dec. 9 through Jan. 5.

KUT didn't fall far in the rankings, though, landing in the No. 2 spot. (If you want to get technical, the station's ratings actually went up, but Majic's went up more.) New to the Top 10 list is Univision's 104.3 La Que Buena, while KVET-FM slid into 11th place.

Average quarter-hour ratings as of Jan. 5, courtesy of radio-info.com (numbers in parentheses indicate December rank as of Dec. 8):

  • 1. KKMJ (4)
  • 2. KUT (1)
  • 3. KASE (2)
  • 4. KBPA (5)
  • 5. KPEZ (7)
  • 6. KHFI (3)
  • 7. KLBJ-AM (6)
  • 8. KLZT (8)
  • 9. KLQB (12)
  • 10. KLBJ-FM (10)

Around the dial ...

Tom Pittman, one of the hosts for KUT's "Folkways," is walking away from his radio gig and, after 31 years, leaving the Austin Lounge Lizards. The reduced workload will give Pittman and his wife more time to enjoy a second home they recently purchased in Asheville, N.C. He won't be completely gone from Austin's airwaves, though. You'll still hear Pittman on KOOP's "Strictly Bluegrass" once a month. ... Los Angeles radio station KCRW is hosting a pair of showcases during South by Southwest next month. Catch Brett Dennen, Jessica Lea Mayfield and James Vincent McMorrow from 3 to 6 p.m. March 16 on the Radio Day Stage at the Austin Convention Center. Later, stop by the Phoenix from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. to see Alexander, the Belle Brigade, Chapel Club, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., the Naked and Famous, and Tristen. The station's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" show will also originate from Austin on March 17 and 18, featuring performances by the Kills and Raphael Saadiq. Get more details at kcrw.com. ... Congrats to KGSR, whose annual Blues on the Green concert series won the Your A-List poll for best radio-sponsored event or series. See the full results at austin360.com/youralist.

gdinges@statesman.com; 912-5987