Morning Radio

Custodian With a dry mop in a hallway

Radio Shows Start the Day with Laughs, Heart and Caffeine

By Lisa Gregory, Photography by Turner Photography Studio

Even before she became his wife and morning radio co-host, Lisa Anne Diamond would listen to Jack Diamond and his morning show on her morning drive to work. “It felt like he was in the seat beside me,” she says. “There was this ability to transcend the medium.”

The couple met when her sister won a contest and a free visit to a local theme park, where Lisa Anne tagged along and met Jack. They immediately clicked. Just shy of three decades later, they are still together and today Lisa Anne is a co-host on the Jack Diamond Show on 106.9 The Eagle along with fellow co-host Jimmy Alexander, who has been part of the Jack Diamond morning for 26 years.

Not everyone will meet their favorite morning show host and become their significant other and co-host. But you have to admit that there is something special about the relationship radio listeners have with those who keep them company in the mornings.

In the local market, listeners can choose from a variety of morning shows and stations with varying formats, including classic rock, pop, country and talk. There is Jack Diamond on 106.9, The Key 103 Morning Show with Dina Carole, The Wake Up Crew with Tom Whalen and Dianah Gibson at 99.9 WFRE Free Country, and The Morning News Express with “Morning Mayor” Bob Miller and sidekick Ryan Hedrick at 930 WFMD Free Talk.

“People hear us while in their cars or when they’re getting ready in the morning and brushing their teeth,” Whalen says. “People tell me all the time, ‘I wake up to you every morning.’ There’s an intimacy there.”

Breaking Down Barriers

“I love 103!” a woman declares on air after having won a free car wash that morning. “I love the songs you play and when you give advice. My kids and I listen every morning on our way to school.”

It is a fitting comment on the day Dina Carole and co-host Dani Gurrie are celebrating the third anniversary of their morning show, which began in the depths of the pandemic shutdown. In fact, it is even more of a milestone given that the two are unique as female-led co-hosts of a morning show.

“It’s extremely rare,” says Carole, who began her radio career at her college station in 1990 and has lived in Frederick since 2001. “We’re in an industry where men typically dominate. This is the first time I’ve ever had top billing. A seat at the table, you know? So, it’s huge. And the fact that we as women and good friends can bring that to the industry is a huge win.”

The friendship part of their on-air relationship is real. In fact, the two were friends and co-hosts of a podcast called “Welcome to Crazy” before Gurrie joined Carole on the radio. When she isn’t co-hosting, Gurrie is promotions director and event coordinator for Manning Media, Key 103’s parent company. Their easy camaraderie—even when they are disagreeing—comes through the airwaves.

The studio’s atmosphere is lively and energetic, despite the early hour thanks to Carole who seems way too enthusiastic for the crack of dawn. “I have always been a morning person, even as a kid,” says Carole, who in fact rolled out of bed at 2:30 a.m. this day.

But the environment is also warm and cozy and inviting. Fresh-baked banana bread, anyone?

The mood is a kinder-and-gentler listening experience. A key component of the show is Ask Dina, where listeners can send in questions. “It’s basically an advice thing,” says Carole. “You ask a question and then we share some wisdom that you can either take or leave.”

One Ask Dina segment included “a woman who brought her pet to a pet-friendly restaurant but had the pet on the table and it offended another diner, and it was this big kerfuffle,” says Carole.

“It’s really more about someone being heard—not necessarily what I am saying in response, but being heard,” Carole explains. “I wanted someone to feel like they matter. They have worth. They have value. They’re heard, and we’re here for them.”

Carole and Gurrie are not shy about sharing their own stories from their personal lives with listeners. “I’m no different than anyone else listening. I’m just behind a microphone,” says Carole, who often shares stories about her son who is autistic. “I’m very open about that and how there’s been a lot of trials but a lot of good. And I think people get that.”

The show also has a Cup of Joy segment with feel-good stories, all to inspire and bring comfort, says Carole. She and Gurrie are aware of the privilege they have been given in touching lives.

“It’s such an honor and a blessing,” says Carole. “And we don’t take it lightly. It’s such an achievement to be quite honest. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I’d be in this place where I’d have my own show. And that my dear friend would be on the show with me and who is a female. Never.”

On-Air Marriage

“We’ve helped raise each other’s kids,” says Tom Whalen, co-host of the Free Country Wake Up Crew with Dianah Gibson since 2008. Whalen has a grown son and Gibson has a child in college and one who has graduated college. However, “when we started one was in preschool and the other was in elementary school,” says Gibson. “My kids call Tom uncle.”

And no doubt maybe they have helped raise some listeners kids as well. Although not directly. “We’re family,” Whalen says of the show’s listeners. And as for Whalen and Gibson, “We have an on-air, working marriage,” Whalen says with a grin. Gibson nods in agreement before adding with a smile, “But he always says marriage is like a ball and chain.”

Speaking of families, this morning’s question to listeners is all about family: What does your kid do that makes you the angriest?

Responses include a child faking a school snow announcement and having the entire day off, to siblings bickering and fighting. Whalen and Gibson are also known to chime in with personal stories. “There are times,” says Gibson, “that my kids or my husband will say, ‘You told that on the radio, really?’ We put our whole life out on the air.”

Except when they can’t.

There are times when real life barges into the studio. Besides being co-host, Gibson is also the news director and starts her day even earlier than a usual morning host. “I am in here by 3:30 a.m.,” she says. “I don’t drink anything that doesn’t have caffeine it.”

Last spring, when there was an active shooter at nearby Fort Detrick, “Tom and I were live on the air, and I’m listening to the scanner,” says Gibson. “We were very careful to give out important information as to what was going on.”

The event struck close to home. “My husband is a local law enforcement officer, and I heard on the scanner that he was on the call, too. So, I was like, God, please keep my husband safe, but [also], OK listeners, this is what you need to do to be safe.”

For the most part, however, the show strives to be lively and light-hearted. “Tom is the funniest person I know,” says Gibson.

“We love joking,” says Whalen. “We try to keep it fun because of all the bad news and everybody’s mad and upset. You’re not going to get that with us.”

Adding with a mischievous grin, “I got to make Dianah laugh. That’s when I know I’ve done my job. Even if it’s just, ‘Here, pull my finger.’”

Radio Legend

As a morning show host, Jack Diamond has had guests that ran the gamut from presidents to Paul McCartney. But he will be the first to tell you that for him it’s all about the listeners, and he has proven it’s more than words.

When a young man was diagnosed with cancer and sent home with a few months to live, his father reached out to Jack. While a Make-A-Wish trip to Hawaii had been offered, the young man was not interested; instead, he wanted to rebuild a ‘68 Camaro with his father.

Jack put the story on the air. “I told listeners, ‘We’re not asking you to give us a ‘68 Camaro, but do you know somebody who has a body, a frame, wheels, a transmission?’”

They did. “The phones exploded,” says Diamond. Adding, “He was told he would live three months. The whole project took about six months, and he remained alive. They started winning car shows in the Mid-Atlantic. They took a tour around the country and continued to win.”

The young man even met his future wife and had a son before he passed away. “Yes, he died, but look how he lived before he died,” says Diamond.

Then there was the time a listener who asked Diamond to help her find the baby she had given up for adoption. They were able to be reunited. “We believe so strongly in giving back and being involved,” Diamond says.

That includes simpler day-to-day interactions as well. Diamond keeps an ongoing rapport with listeners that is not just confined to his morning slot. He takes the time to interact with them through such avenues as social media. Sometimes even to his own detriment. To do his show, he must get up at 3:30 a.m. “Well, I got three hours and 42 minutes sleep last night,” he says.

After 30 years in Washington, D.C., the Jack Diamond Show arrived in Frederick three years ago and has settled in quite nicely. More recently, Jack and Lisa Anne bought a home in Frederick and say they love the area. The couple has even performed as part of a musical trio at Market Street restaurant Isabella’s Taverna & Tapas Bar. A longtime lover of the music he plays, such as Bob Seger, Diamond has had his own band throughout his radio career.

“We were the house band for the Gores,” he says of former Vice President Al Gore and wife Tipper.

Being grounded in their new home matters to the couple, whose son is also a DJ at The Eagle. It also reflects the philosophy of the Jack Diamond Show and what makes a successful morning show.

“I think it has to sound like your city or your area,” he says “People are doing their jobs and living their lives. We’re simply a part of that. And they are a part of ours. This is home now.”

“When We Say Local, We Mean Local”

Bob Miller has seen some things during his decades in radio and on the air: tornadoes, epic snowstorms, even an earthquake. “I used to joke that I got up and went into work to tell everyone else to stay at home,” he says.

He’s even witnessed a medical emergency. “I walked in one morning and the program director of our sister station, we believe, had a heart attack,” recalls Miller. “And he’s just on the ground. Myself and a colleague were doing chest compressions on him until the police got there. And then five minutes later, you got to be on the radio and do a radio show.”

The show must always go on, and Miller and Morning News Express co-host Ryan Hedrick are making sure to get the job done. “Our listeners are news junkies,” says Miller of the talk format at WFMD. “They want the information. They want to know. And they listen longer and more intently.”

And there is a lot to share. “Frederick is a hotbed of local news information,” says Hedrick, who has been on the morning show two and a half years and is an award-winning broadcaster.

The flood of local news can make for a very busy morning show. During a broadcast, Hedrick can have 25 to 30 tabs open on his computer and another 30 to 40 open on his laptop. “I like to know what I am talking about,” he says.

This is on top of phone interviews with local newsmakers and on a recent morning even an in-studio visit from Barbara Hiller, manager of marketing at the Weinberg Center, talking about upcoming events, including a concert by Nancy Wilson of the band Heart.

Even when it’s not local it’s still local.

“A lot of what’s happening in this community is happening in communities across the country,” says Hedrick. “We try to localize national stories. When we say local, we mean local.”

Miller knows local well. He has been with WFMD for nearly three decades and his roots run deep in Frederick. He attended Walkersville High School and his father was a well-known veterinarian in the community.

More recently Miller and his wife moved to Florida to be “nearer to the grandbabies,” he says. He now does the show remotely, with Hedrick being the boots on the ground covering local news and events back in Frederick. However the change, the mission stays the same.

“We want people to listen, enjoy and engage,” Miller says.

Frederick Magazine