By Greg Thompson
Expanded Version of Feature Published by Chattanooga CityScope in the magazine’s Fall 2013 edition.
The countdown to 3:00 p.m. is once again entering the final stages as Dex and Mo begin what is for them a joyous daily walk into the main studio at US101 — Chattanooga’s top-rated radio station and one of the leading country music format stations in the nation. In just a matter of minutes, Dex and Mo know they will have another opportunity to connect with thousands of loyal radio listeners from across Chattanooga and the surrounding region.
To Dex and Mo, the people who have welcomed them into their cars, offices, stores and homes are more than listeners. They are more than the audience who have kept this award-winning dynamic duo and US101 consistently atop the Arbitron Ratings in the important afternoon drive slot. For Dex and Mo, each listener in their audience is a valued member of the community that is served every weekday afternoon on US101 through their show
As they open the microphone on each day’s first segment, Dex and Mo are quite comfortable in the knowledge that they will be sharing a piece of their lives with an audience that has become a large group of friends and even an extended family. They also know their listeners thoroughly enjoy the fact that — in a world of impersonal automation in all levels of radio — Dex and Mo present themselves as next-door neighbors.
“We love our listeners,” explains Dex. “We really enjoy spending the time to get to know them. They are an important part of our lives.”
“Our listeners are phenomenal. I can’t say enough about them,” says Mo. “We would not be where we are without our listeners. They are the ones who make the shows happen. We are just the messengers and they are the ones who make it as fantastic as it is.”
The Power Of Chemistry
The formula for a great radio team cannot be broken down into a simple equation. However, when you listen to two people sharing the microphone on the same show, you can usually tell within a few minutes whether or not a radio team has right chemistry for success.
Dex and Mo are a great example of a pitch-perfect chemistry that is rooted in both radio partners understanding their roles. Dex is the sage baby boomer with 41 years of experience in radio and the music business combined, while Mo is an energetic millennial with a strong sense for organization and detail.
“Everything that I am weak at doing, those are her strengths. She is the most organized person that I have ever seen in my life,” says Dex.
“Dex brings the funny and the ease to the show,” explains Mo. “He can make fun of me for being younger, and I can make fun of him for being older and maybe not as current. The hours that we spend in here together are a blast. We want to have fun and we want to make sure that we are entertaining to our listeners.”
Dex and Mo have the type of chemistry that can turn personal stories into highly entertaining radio segments. Part of that chemistry is a mutual trust between the two partners that they will lead each other in the right direction. Dex demonstrated how this trust works to a studio visitor a couple of weeks before Christmas.
Just before a segment was beginning to open, Dex tells Mo, “I’ve got something on this for you.” Mo replies, “You’re not going to talk about my driving, are you?” Dex then looked over to the studio visitor with a “watch this” kind of smile.
Mo opens the segment and Dex reminds her of the trip they made the night before to see a friend in the hospital with a group from the radio station. Dex knows from past experience that, even as detail-oriented as Mo is, she might not remember having to suddenly slam on her brakes in heavy traffic – a move that inadvertently rolled down Dex’s window in the front passenger seat in the process.
As he tells the story, Dex quickly sees that Mo didn’t remember his window going down. By the time Dex finishes with his short story, Mo has nearly fallen out of her studio chair in laughter. The real winners in the exchange are the listeners – particularly those driving down the road amid the heavy holiday traffic.
““Mo says things because she knows where I will go with it and I do the same with her. To me, that’s chemistry,” says Dex.
Dex & Mo: In The Making
If you listen to Dex and Mo for just two minutes on the radio, you can immediately hear the mutual respect they hold for each other as professionals and as good friends. That sense of respect begins with the respective career paths that eventually brought them together as a team in 2009.
After a brief stint in the News Department at Channel 9 following her graduation from the University of Tennessee, Melissa Turner, who goes by the nickname Mo on the air, saw an opening as a Traffic Reporter for US101 in 2005. Mo’s work ethic and her ability to build trust with the listeners captured the attention of many long-time radio veterans at US101. Dex, whose radio career began in the early 1970s, was one of those to make note of Mo’s dedication and her passion for radio.
“When I got hired at US101, I knew this is where I need to be and I have loved it from day one,” says Mo, even though her initial assignment as the station’s Traffic Reporter was a demanding one. “I did traffic for five years with an awful split shift. I would come in at five in the morning and then work until 8:30 or 9:00. Then I would go home and take a really long nap before I would come back and work from 2:30 to about 6:30.”
“For five years, she did those shifts and I never, ever saw her leave the traffic booth,” recalls Dex. “I used to tell people that girl has to have the strongest bladder on earth. She was in that booth, keeping up with all the scanners and she watched all of us. She was soaking it up like a sponge. Man, when she got her chance, she did not let anyone down.”
Mo’s opportunity to fully open up the station management’s eyes to her potential came courtesy of Dex. US101 was hosting a live event and the station needed someone to introduce the personalities. Remembers Dex: “I said, ‘Why don’t we let Mo do it?’ She went up there and blew people away. Our General Manager at the time looked at me and said, ‘Is that our traffic girl?’ I looked back at him and said, ‘Yes it is. What do you think?’”
It did not take long before Mo was realizing a life-long dream when she was offered the job to partner with Dex on the US101 afternoon drive show. “I was speechless,” recalls Mo of the day she was named to join Dex as his partner. “I was getting an opportunity to do something that I always wanted to do, and I was going to be working with Dex, who is a legend.”
“When we had the opportunity to make the move, there was never any question in my mind that she was the one who would be on in the afternoons with me,” observes Dex. “When you are looking for a partner, you need to find the very smartest person you can find. Basically, that’s what we did.”
Dex & The Road To The Hall of Fame
Even from an early age, Bill Poindexter, who shortened his on-air name to Dex, has always held a strong connection to both country music and the radio. As the youngest of five kids who lost his father to a fatal car accident when Dex was just five years old, Dex recalls his family gathering around the radio in their Rossville home on Saturday nights in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s to listen to the Grand Ole Opry.
“We didn’t have much growing up and the radio was one of our main sources of entertainment,” remembers Dex. “My mother was a big country music fan and that always stayed with me.”
Dex was so taken by the performers on the Grand Ole Opry that, at age 10, he actually rode his bike several miles to Lake Winnepesaukah in the hopes meeting Loretta Lynn. “I can still show you the spot where her bus was parked. I was standing there with my bike and she came out of her bus. She looked at me and said, ‘Hey buddy, how are you?’ I will never forget that moment.”
The beginning of Dex’s radio career was also filled with good fortune. Through an introduction by a friend who worked as a deejay at WFLI, Dex got the opportunity to watch and then sit in for the overnight deejay at the leading Top 40 station in the market. When asked about the craziest experience in his radio career, Dex did not hesitate for an answer, and he shared his first moments on the air.
“The first time I got on the air was about the craziest thing that happened in my career. I was in high school, and my friend, Jimmy Byrd, was doing afternoons on WFLI,” recalls Dex. “He was in high school and it was the biggest radio station in town. I mean, he was on the legendary Jet-Fli!
“Jimmy wasn’t that smart a guy,” continues Dex with a smile. “I figured if Jimmy could do it, then I could probably do it. We were friends and I one day I asked Jimmy how do you get in radio? He said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you a secret. We’ve got a guy who does the overnight show on the weekends and he’s bad to drink. You should show up at midnight or two in the morning when he’s on, and he might let you go on the air.’”
Dex met the late-night deejay and Dex carefully watched him do his show – cueing up records on the turntables, organizing the commercials and, of course, opening up the microphone to chat with the listeners. On the third overnight visit to the WFLI, Dex got his first moment to shine on the radio.
Dex recalls: “The guy turned to me and said, ‘Do you want to take over?’ And I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ He said, ‘There ain’t nobody listening.’ Now that was crazy because people were listening to Jet-Fli around the clock. But I went on the air and I had never been on the air in my life.
“And I’ll never forget, Dale Anthony was the morning guy. He came into the studio that next morning and he looks at me and says, ‘Who are you?’ Dale was also the GM. I told him that I was Dex. And then he said, ‘Well, where is our overnight guy?’ I told him that he was back in the newsroom – asleep. He asked me if I would take over for him and I did. Dale thanked me for taking over and that was the beginning to my radio career.”
Just 16 at the time, Dex used the experience at WFLI to secure a job with a small acid rock station in Rossville before eventually returning to WFLI as one its full-time personalities.
“We had some real radio wars in those days,” says Dex, recalling the great Jet-FLI along with the competition from fellow AM radio powerhouses WDXB and WGOW. “Those were crazy times and great days. But, honestly, I’m enjoying radio more today.”
Working for 10 years with some of entertainment’s top acts as a promotions executive with RCA Records, Dex gained invaluable connections and experience. The musical acts that Dex worked with included Jefferson Starship, Hall & Oates, Jimmy Buffet, Waylon Jennings and Dolly Parton.
During this period of his career, Dex found that he still had a strong connection to country music and its artists. Dex also discovered that his appreciation for radio had grown even deeper. Burned out on the record business, Dex called a friend at US101 and he was able to get his foot back in the radio door in 1993 with a position in the engineering department, handling US101’s live remotes.
David Earl Hughes, one of US101’s most popular personalities, built a strong rapport Dex, and Hughes asked Dex to serve as his partner during his afternoon drive show. When Hughes left Chattanooga to work at the legendary WSM in Nashville shortly before his untimely death in 2004, Dex began working with a series of partners before teaming with Mo in 2009.
Throughout all the changes in his career, Dex has consistently shown the ability to connect with people on a personal level. To both his audience and music industry professionals, Dex is a friend on the other end of the microphone. A multiple winner of awards from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association as well as a Marconi Award recipient, it was not surprising that Dex was a 2013 inductee into the County Music On-Air Personality Hall of Fame.
“He’s a legend here in the community and he is a legend in the industry – both in radio and in the record industry,” says Mo, who initially nominated Dex for the Hall of Fame. Mo has teamed with Dex to win CMA and ACM awards for small market personalities of the year since 2010. “There is not a person in this business who does not know Dex, and they all respect him. There was no doubt in my mind that he belonged in the hall of fame.”
“When I started in this business, I never expected to receive award like that. It never entered my mind until Mo nominated me for it,” explains Dex. “That is the highest honor any country radio person can ever receive, and I still can’t believe it.”
Community Support In A Time Of Need
While Dex’s Hall of Fame induction marked a high point in his life, his spotlight moment at the ceremony came just weeks after suffering the greatest loss of life. Just days after learning he would be a part of the Hall of Fame, Dex was at home with his wife, Shelia. It was three days before Christmas 2012 when Shelia suffered a brain aneurism. Dex watched as his childhood sweetheart and wife of 41 years passed away in a matter of minutes.
In need of support, Dex found strength from Mo, the US101 staff and management and his loyal listeners.
“When we made the announcement that Shelia had passed, the listeners were amazing with all the e-mails and the cards they sent,” recalls Mo. “People were crying with us. They felt like they knew her because of the way Dex had shared stories about her. There were some people who felt like she was their best friend.”
“Having a supportive family and a supportive work family, plus the outpouring of love I felt from our listeners, it was amazing,” Dex shares. “I can’t say enough about my children and my grandchildren and my work family. There have been days that I just couldn’t come to work, and Mo would cover for me. She would take care of everything. She made sure that she called every single day I was out to see if there was anything that I needed.”
Mo actually had a tremendous sense of what Dex was experiencing. Having lost her mother at very young age, Mo knew the extent of the support Dex would need and she called on her father to share his experience with Dex.
“It was tough to watch because that’s my partner,” explains Mo “But he has done so well to go through what he’s gone through. I know that my Dad was a great resource for me to be able to help Dex.”
“Her Dad would call me up and talk to me,” says Dex. “He had lost his wife with a four-year-old and a seven-year-old. Gosh, I don’t know how he got through that, but he did. He’s been a great help to me.”
In his Hall of Fame induction speech, Dex made special note of Mo and how she their partnership on the air had helped to re-energize his career. He then took a moment to honor Shelia, recalling that one of the last text messages he had received from her. It was a reply about how proud she was of Dex upon learning the news that he would be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“Tears were running down my face the entire time,” recalls Mo. “It was just an emotional night for all of us. We were excited to see Dex to get that honor, but there was definitely this big hole in all of hearts that night. It was a bitter-sweet kind of night for us.
“Dex really shined that night,” she adds. “I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and told me what a great speech Dex had. It was one of the best that they had heard. It was a special night.”
Listeners & Community Remain At The Heart Of Each Day
No matter how numerous awards nor how great the ratings success, Dex and Mo have stayed focused on meeting the needs of their audience and the community. Ask them to name the greatest source of pride from their work and they will likely first mention the audience response to the station’s annual fund-raising for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital as well as other charities. US101 listeners contributed nearly $500,000 to St. Jude’s in 2013.
“It’s nice to know that we have a show that everyone wants to listen to, but, in the end, it’s about giving back to community,” says Mo. Dex agrees, “It’s all about the community and the listeners. We’ve been very fortunate. Our listeners have been very loyal for a long time. At the end of the day, we are doing radio for Chattanooga and our show is about connecting with people.”
The fact that Dex and Mo share their lives on a daily basis and work to reflect the happenings in their community may be the ultimate key to their continuing success.
“I talk about things like cleaning toilets or taking care of the baby – whatever it might be. I can relate to people and they can relate to me and to Dex through what we share on the air,” observes Mo. “I think people like knowing that they can go to Wal-Mart and see me at Wal-Mart. They might see Dex out getting his hair cut or getting lunch somewhere. I believe people like knowing that we are accessible.”
“I learned this a long time ago and it’s still true today,” says Dex. “People would rather spend time listening to a friend on the radio than with someone they have never met. It’s all about your listeners, and that’s the way it should be.”
Video: Watch Dex’s Acceptance Speech For His Hall of Fame Award