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Formula of chat plus comedy keeps Dudley and Bob high in radio ratings

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com
The days of Guns N' Roses: Fonseca and Dudley circa 1993.

In a city where radio personalities come and go, Dale Dudley and Bob Fonseca are here to stay.

Together, they've helmed the morning show on KLBJ-FM for nearly two decades. Dudley's been on Austin's airwaves even longer, approaching a quarter of a century.

"It's a huge soap opera with 20 years of backstory," Fonseca jokes. "You never have a day where you feel like you're not in trouble."

All that drama fuels sometimes fiery debates on their show which has, over the years, gone from mostly music to mostly talk.

"We felt like if we only played one type of music, we'd only appeal to fans of that kind of music," Fonseca says.

It's a decision that appears to be working. "The Dudley & Bob Morning Show" consistently ranks among the city's top-rated drive-time shows, most of which feature significantly less chatter.

"I talk a lot about my personal life on the air," Dudley says. "It's kind of like therapy for me."

Comedy also has a major role on the show, with local and touring comics routinely stopping in.

"We've always tried to surround ourselves with funny people," Dudley says. "Some of the biggest comedians in the United States have been on our show."

That includes visits from Carlos Mencia and Larry the Cable Guy early in their careers. Sidekick Matt Bearden is a regular on the local comedy scene, as well.

"If you get a laugh on our show," Fonseca says, "you've earned it. There are no freebies. No one's going to give you a fake laugh."

Other guests have included local musicians serving up in-studio performances, and everyone from Gary Busey — Dudley says they nearly threw the actor out — to former President George H.W. Bush.

The variety, the unpredictability and the camaraderie keep things fresh for listeners — and for the hosts.

"It's such a good ensemble we've got right now," Dudley says. "We're comfortable with this format."

"Every day is a fun, new adventure," says technical producer Daniel Gallo, who works alongside veteran producer Angela Davis. "You don't know what's going to happen."

So though stations in other cities have, on occasion, sniffed around, Dudley and Fonseca say they're quite happy where they are right now — much to the chagrin of competitors down the radio dial.

"Experts have killed us off many times before," Fonseca says with a laugh, "but we're still here."

Ratings: Same ol', same ol'

If the latest radio rankings from Arbitron look familiar, there's a very good reason for that.

The current Top 10 list features the same stations as last time, although a few of the market's main players have moved up or down a spot or two.

UT-operated NPR affiliate KUT remained No. 1 during the February ratings period, which ran Feb. 3 through March 2, followed by country station KASE 101 and pop-friendly 96.7 KISS-FM, both owned by San Antonio-based Clear Channel.

Average quarter-hour ratings as of March 2, courtesy of radio-info.com (numbers in parentheses indicate rank as of Feb. 2):

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

Around the dial ...

Nominations are being accepted for the Texas Radio Hall of Fame through May 31. The list of nominees comes from voting members and past inductees. To be inducted, broadcasters must have worked in Texas at some point during their career. Austinites already in the Hall of Fame include KVET-FM's Bob Cole and his former sidekick Sammy Allred, as well as the above-mentioned Dale Dudley and Bob Fonseca from KLBJ-FM. Get more details at texasradiohalloffame.com. ... San Antonio's NewsRadio 1200 WOAI, which has a number of listeners in the Austin area thanks to its super-strong signal, has dumped Dennis Miller's show. Michael Berry, a former city councilman in Houston, where he has shows on a pair of stations, now fills the 8 to 10 p.m. timeslot. Miller fans can still get their fix weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Austin's Talk Radio 1370 AM.

gdinges@statesman.com; 912-5987

'The Dudley & Bob Morning Show'