Sheriff Joe Arpaio must hate Channel 5's news team of reporter Morgan Loew and producer Gilbert Zermeno almost as much as the geriatric gendarme hates New Times. Loew and Zermeno have been all over Joe's ass like scorpions on a bag of bark. In October 2009, they broke ground by getting former U.S. Attorney from New Mexico (and Republican) David Iglesias to say in an interview (after looking at all of the evidence against Joe) that he would seek a federal indictment of the sheriff for abuse of power if Iglesias were in the position to do so. And as if it was meant to be, just a couple of months later, they were the first to report that the sheriff was, indeed, the subject of a federal grand jury investigation. Since then, there's been no stopping them. Who knows whether Arpaio will eventually end up in a pair of his own pink handcuffs before the bar of justice? But one thing's sure — Loew and Zermino will be there to report his downfall if he does.
If you can stomach three hours of Glenn Beck's sobbing in the afternoon, the rest of your day on KTAR is as good as it gets, as far as news radio goes here in Sand Land. Now that Darrell Ankarlo has been replaced, KTAR is news radio with a sense of humor, with great personalities like Mac and Gaydos, Joe Crummey, and, the new guy, Bruce St. James, who took over Ankarlo's morning spot earlier this year. If you've never had your weekend kicked off Mac-and-Gaydos-style, your weekend just hasn't begun.
Cowherd came on the national scene (ESPN) a few years ago with a bang and has become popular enough to challenge the venerable Dan Patrick as one of the more prominent radio voices in the land. We enjoy his slightly irreverent attitude toward games with balls, like the time he made fun of God — by whom we mean Michael Jordan — in a riff that questioned the Great One's Hall of Fame speech, his choice of underwear (see his series of Hanes advertisements), and his narcissistic approach to life. His daily "Spanning the Globe" segment, in which sportswriters, bloggers, and the like chime in for a minute or two each with insider info on sports personalities, is indispensible for poor saps like us who just can't get enough of the stuff.
The Arizona Republic's Dan Bickley is the best sports columnist in the Valley, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the local scene long has impressed self-described aficionados such as ourselves. But writing is one thing; communicating on the radio during drive-time is another, and Bickley's learned how to pull it off, which is by being himself — a sincere wiseguy who is a better listener than most of the jokers on the airwaves. His partner, Mike Jurecki, brings a font of knowledge about the Arizona Cardinals to the table and sounds to us like the plugged-in dude at the end of the bar who's a little rough on the grammar but comes by it honestly. The rapport between the two middle-aged guys is real and refreshing, even when the subject matter — say, pressing contractual issues involving a little-known interior lineman — is too far inside even for us.
Robin Nash is not universally beloved by Valley radio listeners — in fact, we've cursed her name a few times ourselves — but with last year's big format change at The Station Formerly Known as The Edge, it's been nice to hear her familiar voice. Yes, she can be a little fan-girlish, but she's also evolved into a true pro over the years. As time has passed, her personality seems more muted, and that's cool with us. We salute the flirty daytime jock for surviving the collapse of the industry around her and for evolving along with it. We like her fairly short between-song banter and the fact that she now keeps a blog. Sure, it's mostly just national music news, but it's still the sort of commitment to expanding her medium that we like to see.
Less than a decade into his career, Power 98.3's evening jock, Chris Chavez, is already a journeyman in the radio game. He's a laid-back guy who doesn't try to show up the songs, which is one thing we really like about him. He's got Latin flavor without being cartoonish about it, and he's not annoyingly homer-ish about Phoenix, either, hailing from Texas and openly aspiring to make it up to the L.A. market. As the music director at the station, he mostly spins the same stuff everyone else there does — the station seems to have about a dozen songs in rotation on any given day — but his intros are crisp and amusing. In a Phoenix urban radio scene sorely missing Karlie Hustle (who quit her job in radio, stopped doing Groove Candy, switched up her sexuality by dating a man, and deleted her Twitter account in the past year) Chavez is the best voice we've got.
Urban oldies? It seemed like sort of a weird idea when The Beat — a quadrocast station made up of KNRJ 101.1 FM, K224CJ 92.7 FM, K257CD 99.3 FM, and K228XO 93.5 FM — started bumping old-school R&B and hip-hop in late 2008. Then an L.A. station picked up the format, making the Phoenix-bred format less of a novelty. There are a few solid stations for hip-hop in town, but we really like the unique playlist on The Beat, built around hits from the golden age of rap and featuring such artists as Pac, Biggie, Dre, and Snoop. And, sure, we like a little Warren Hill, some Fresh Prince, and a little R. Kelly in there, too. The jocks are nothing special and the low wattage of the signal is annoying, but The Beat is good-time music and always manages to make us smile as we flip by for a few seconds on a long commute.
Sure, Barrel Boy is an almost offensively pathetic Hee-Haw-style caricature of country music fans. Sure, the chubby, barrel-clad protagonist's Howard Stern-style antics are annoying and maybe irresponsible (like the time he got tasered by KNIX jock Mark Wills then gave a speech about how awesome and useful Tasers are, despite the serious concerns some people have about the devices, which have reportedly killed people). What do we like about Barrel Boy? He goes for it. In this terrible economy and his dying industry, he's willing to humiliate himself for a small measure of fame and, we're guessing, an even smaller financial gain. Hell, he's barely on the actual station. But ya know what? He's going for it. He's living the dream. As the station's well-paid, pretty-boy morning men get all the fading glory of the radio biz, this lowly mercenary is doing what he can to keep everyone at the station employed with less degrading work. So, let's all give a 10-gallon hat's off to Barrel Boy. We just wish we had our own version.
Phoenix's twin powers of KMLE and KNIX both do a great job spinning the latest out of Nashville, but we prefer this underdog licensed out of Wickenburg but available across the Valley. We get plenty of Montgomery Gentry and Trace Adkins from them, but we also get a little more old-school Garth and Willie than on the more commercial country stations. KSWG claims to be "real country," and though it's not as pure about the classics as, say, Yuma's totally badass Outlaw KCYK 1400 AM (which you can get on the outskirts of the Valley), it's a little more expansive than the big boys. Until Phoenix gets a true classic country station, this is a great place to tune in for the occasional hit from Hank or the Hag.
Martini Ranch
The "sound guy" is unquestionably the placekicker of the local music scene. No one — and we mean no one — notices when sound is good for a show, but they'll bitch forever and eternity if it's a little tinny. Ask around about who is super-good at the job, however, and local musicians (who notice these things even if their fans do not) will often point to Mike Toth. Actually, one local musician called Toth "The Messiah of Sound." Toth is the main guy at Martini Ranch, which always has impeccable sound, not only because of the nice, soft acoustics but because of what he does behind the board. He also handled the 2009 McDowell Mountain Music Festival, which stands out as one of the best music-oriented events in the Valley's recent past. So, if sound guys are kickers — ice-cold pros who get the job done in the clutch — it's fair to call Toth the Adam Vinatieri of local music. We're lucky to have him. Here's hoping he doesn't move to Indianapolis.

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