Former Mix 94.7 host Sandy McIlree lands new gig … in Ohio

Sandy McIlree, left, and JB Hager (Laura Skelding photo / American-Statesman)
Sandy McIlree, left, and JB Hager (Laura Skelding photo / American-Statesman)

Former Mix 94.7 and 105.3 The Fringe morning co-host Sandy McIlree has landed a new gig – and it’s a long, long way from Austin.

More than 1,000 miles away in Ohio, to be exact.

Cincinnati radio station Mix 94.9 announced Wednesday that McIlree, who spent nearly two decades on the air in Austin, is set to join its morning team.

McIlree shared the news on Twitter, saying, “So it begins. So grateful.”

“I’m excited to have talent of Sandy’s caliber join the team,” Mike Fredrick, an executive with station owner Hubbard Interactive, told industry website All Access. “We’re committed to having strong multi-faceted morning shows on all of our properties.”

After leaving Mix 94.7 in late 2013, McIlree and Hager eventually resurfaced on 105.3 The Fringe in 2014. McIlree departed their new on-air home in early 2015, leaving Hager behind.

Hager later left the station, too, and is now out of the radio business.

 

 

Morning host JB Hager leaves Classic 105.3

JB Hager
JB Hager

For the first time in nearly two decades, JB Hager can finally sleep in.

Hager, who spent the past two years hosting the morning show on Austin Radio Network’s Classic 105.3, has left the station.

Before joining Classic 105.3, Hager had a long run hosting mornings on Mix 94.7 with Sandy McIlree.

Hager says he’s already lined up a new gig creating online content for Empowering a Billion Women 2020, an Austin-based organization.

“It’s an amicable split,” Hager said. “They’re focusing on other things right now and I’m using this time to see what the next 20 years of my media career will look like.”

Hager said he’s thankful for the time he spent at Bob Cole’s Austin Radio Network – time that helped strengthen his love of radio.

“I do believe in Bob Cole and he was very generous to me,” Hager said. “It was cool to work with him. I was given a lot of freedom and was able to do a lot of things that would make most programmers cringe. It wasn’t your typical morning jibber-jabber.”

Hager’s not ruling out a return to radio one day, but he says he’s in no hurry. He’s excited about working with Empowering a Billion Women 2020 and continuing to write a column for Austin Woman magazine. He’s also involved with several local businesses, including Driveway Austin Motorsport Academy, Uncle Billy’s Brew and Cue, 24 Diner, La Mancha Tex-Mex Tavern, Hangar Lounge, Onairstreaming.com and Wheel mobile video.

“It’s a time for reinvention,” Hager said. “It’s very, very bizarre not being on the radio. I really enjoy it. It’ll be odd to get up and not do that every morning. My wife and daughter aren’t used to seeing me in the morning. I think I’m already getting on their nerves and throwing off their routine.”

Austin Radio Network will, at least for now, run straight music in the mornings on Classic 105.3. The group’s other Austin stations include 104.9 The Horn and 98.5/99.3 KOKE-FM.

 

Radio host’s mobile app gets $2 million in funding

JB Hager
JB Hager

Hosting the morning show on Classic 105.3 isn’t JB Hager’s only gig these days.

Hager, who has been helping Central Texans wake up for the past 19 years, was part of the team that developed Ferris, a video-sharing app.

He also helped get On-Airstreaming, a mobile recording studio, off the ground. The studio, which is housed in an Airstream trailer, searches out up-and-coming musicians, giving them exposure through a content partnership with Yahoo.

Ferris, created about two years ago right here in Austin and initially backed by a team of angel investors, recently lined up $2 million in funding from Los Angeles-based Upfront Ventures.

“All my friends became the initial angels and advisers who pushed us into really going for it,” Hager said. “I don’t know if we would have gotten our legs without them.”

Hager and pals came up with the idea for Ferris, which the radio host proudly points out currently has a perfect five-star rating in Apple’s iTunes store, after noticing just how many people are shooting video at concerts and other events these days.

“We found ourselves saying, ‘I wish there was a way to pull video content from all these people’s phones,’ ” Hager said. “We knew there had to be a way to make this seamless.”

As work continues to make Ferris bigger and better, much of the development has shifted to California. Hager said he had a chance to tag along, but he wasn’t about to uproot his family and leave his radio gig behind.

“I took a backseat,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave Austin and walk away from this.”

Hager just marked his one-year anniversary at the Austin Radio Network, the locally based owner of Classic 105.3. Before that, he was with Mix 94.7.

When Hager joined the Austin Radio Network team, he helped launch alternative-leaning the Fringe, a station that was replaced by Classic 105.3 in March. While the decision to change to a music playlist featuring hits from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s was unpopular with some, Hager said it’s proving to be a wise move.

“It’s filling a hole for a lot of people,” he said. “There’s a nostalgic feeling that really takes you back.”

Longtime co-host Sandy McIlree opted to depart when the station’s format flipped, and Hager admits it’s been an adjustment.

“I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I had Sandy to play off for two decades.”

Still, Hager said, listeners have been supportive, which has helped make the transition easier – and also reinforced his decision to stay right here in Austin.

“People say they really like the show,” he said. “They’re definitely sticking around. That means a lot.”

JB and Sandy now heard mornings and afternoons on The Fringe

Radio hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree have helped give away almost 20,000 bicycles to needy Central Texas children over the years. (Laura Skelding photo)
Radio hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree can now be heard mornings and afternoons. (Laura Skelding photo)

If you’re not up early enough to catch morning radio hosts Sandy McIlree and JB Hager, don’t fret.

Now, they’re on in the afternoon, too.

The new two-hour afternoon show airs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on 105.3 The Fringe, featuring a mix of new material and snippets from the morning show.

McIlree and Hager, who celebrated 19 years working together this week, promise we’ll be hearing – and seeing – even more of them in the weeks to come. A TV gig is in the works, McIlree says.

Stay tuned …

JB and Sandy’s Bikes for Kids campaign returns

Radio hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree have helped give away almost 20,000 bicycles to needy Central Texas children over the years. (Laura Skelding photo)
Radio hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree have helped give away almost 20,000 bicycles to needy Central Texas children over the years. (Laura Skelding photo)

Hundreds of Central Texas children will get brand-new bicycles this Christmas thanks to longtime Austin radio hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree.

The morning duo, who joined 105.3 Fringe FM this spring after spending almost two decades at another local station, said reviving their annual Bikes for Kids campaign was a top priority after settling into their new gig.

The hosts kicked off this year’s Bikes for Kids campaign right before Thanksgiving with a flurry of on-air mentions and posts on social media. Learn more about how to nominate a family in need or make a contribution at fringefmaustin.com.

“We’re trying to do a lot in a very short amount of time,” Hager said. “This is a reset of sorts for us. We’re hoping to grow it back to where it was before.”

New this year, Hager and McIlree said they hope to deliver many of the bikes themselves. In past years, volunteers handed out bikes and helmets at the Mellow Johnny’s bike shop in downtown Austin while they were on the air.

“We never really got a chance to see where the bikes went before,” Hager said. “By the time we were off the air, everyone was gone.”

McIlree said the station plans to post video of some of the heartwarming deliveries on its website.

The tweaks to Bikes for Kids are one of many changes for Hager and McIlree this year. They helped launch Fringe FM in April, after several months off the air, and are trying to build the locally owned station’s audience. It’s been hard work, they said, but exciting at the same time.

“We have a whole lot of freedom,” McIlree said. “That’s the big thing that keeps us coming in every morning.”

“The owners basically told us, ‘Guys, just do your thing,’” Hager said. “It’s been great.”

In addition to hosting their show from 6 to 10 a.m. weekdays, they’ve taken on a number of other duties to help get the station up and running — everything from production work to making sales calls to music selection.

“It’s really grassroots,” McIlree said. “We’re a local radio station with local owners. We’re just trying to give Austin the station it deserves. This isn’t corporate radio, where there’s no difference between a station in Austin and one somewhere like Milwaukee.”

Even though “The JB and Sandy Morning Show” has been back on the air for about seven months now, many listeners are just now rediscovering the duo, Hager said. That’s happened, in part, because of listeners and business owners around town who’ve helped spread the word the old-fashioned way, such as using yard signs.

“It seems like every single day someone is saying they just found out we were back on the air,” Hager said. “A lot of people were upset and had left radio altogether after we went off the air. They went to Pandora or Spotify because they weren’t getting what they liked on the radio. The feedback we’ve been getting has just been phenomenal.”