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Eddie Owens is back on the air at 105.3 FM

Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

Eddie Owens is the rarest of Charlotte radio personalities – he grew up here.

Broadcasting is a journeyman’s business and most people getting airtime here are from somewhere else. Among the prominent exceptions are Paul Schadt of WKKT-FM (“Kat” 96.9), Beatrice Thompson (“V” 101.9) and “ No Limit” Larry Mims on WPEG-FM (“Power 98” 97.9).

Owens, who took over the afternoon drive-time shift on WOSF-FM (“Old School” 105.3) last month, grew up on Charlotte’s South Side. He got his break in radio in the strangest way – doing school announcements at Olympic High School before he graduated in 1992.

Carla Brice was president of their class and Owens was vice president. They turned the announcements into a 10-minute radio show, with patter and music.

Nate Quick, then a personality at “Power 98,” came to the school one day because he was going to be the DJ for the homecoming dance and heard the announcements show.

Even then, Owens had a deep, energetic voice with a touch of gravel in it. Quick recognized that Owens had natural talent and told him he should do an internship at Charlotte’s CBS Radio cluster. Owens had other ideas – he was heading to S.C. State University in Orangeburg.

But Quick didn’t let up. When Owens transferred to UNC Charlotte, he let Quick talk him into that internship. Before long, he was filling in on weekend and overnight shifts at “Power 98.”

“Nate said, ‘You have a different sound. Man, I think you just got it,’” Owens says.

Quick mentored Owens in radio and insisted he not major in mass communications at UNCC. He was already getting work experience in his off-time, Quick reasoned, and he needed to get an education in something else. Owens got a degree in African-American studies.

“I wouldn’t be here without God and Nate Quick,” Owens said.

When Owens lined up a new job at a station in Charleston, Quick and Andre Carson, the program director, wouldn’t let him go.

“They said, ‘We have other plans for you,’” Owens recalls. He was 23 years old and they gave him the night show on “Power 98.” When Quick left for a job in Dallas four years later, operations manager Terri Avery moved Owens to afternoon drive time.

Owens was amazed to be put in the high-profile shift. Radio was shrinking fast, with lots of seasoned people looking for work. His show was a ratings leader in the station’s target demographic of people 18-34 years old.

He and CBS Radio parted ways amicably after his contract was up two years later. Owens started his own media company, OCG, doing commercials, voice-overs and other work.

He was at Radio One’s studios off Westinghouse Boulevard buying ad time for a client this year when he ran into WOSF’s program director, Darrick “Brown” Williams, who was looking for an afternoon host. Williams asked for a sample of Owens’ work and soon he was offered the afternoon shift.

That makes Owens even rarer as a radio personality. He’s never gone looking for work. Jobs have always found him.

Owens, 38, is a music nut, all formats. He’s a fan of R&B, hip-hop, rap, classical, country, heavy metal, pop, ’80s, big band and jazz. His vast music collection, some of it on vinyl, is spread throughout his home, his sister’s garage and and rented storage units.

He says he gets his love of music from his mother, Birdie Owens, director of music at Silver Mount Baptist Church. With a doctorate in music, she taught at Castle Heights High School in Rock Hill and is now retired. During the summers, Owens and his sisters were expected to take up instruments. His mother can play 15; Owens knows the keyboard and can play bass. His father, Eddie Owens Sr., is a retired engineer from General Tire.

Owens is planning to release an independently distributed single on Jan. 2 for an album he’s doing that’s a fusion of R&B, hip-hop and live instrumentals. It will be named “Queens Park” after the old South Side multiplex theater where he and his friends would hang out in their youth.

Quick, his mentor, died of liver cancer in 2009 in Dallas at age 40. Owens said he intends to pass along the help Quick gave him and mentor others. “Someone helped me,” he says.

Media Movers

Joining WCCB’s (Channel 18) “Rising” show on alternate Tuesday mornings is Charlotte model and coach Jennifer Michelle with “Everyday Runway” segments on shopping, fashion trends and beauty advice. ... Morning show host B.J. Murphy departs WGIV-FM (103.3) after six years for an afternoon hosting job starting Monday at WQMG-FM (97.1) in Greensboro. ...

WTVI (Channel 42) launches a new public affairs magazine series at 8 p.m. Thursday called “Carolina Impact,” hosted by Amy Burkett. Contributors will include Beatrice Thompson, David Rhew and Sarah Batista. ... WBT-AM (1110) midday host Keith Larson has published “That Season of Hope,” a book from Tate Publishing about cancer victim Hope Stout and the Panthers run to the Super Bowl in 2003.

WBT will air a related special, “That Season of Hope,” at 2 p.m. Sunday featuring Panthers Jake Delhomme, Jordan Gross, Lisa Guerrero of ABC and WBT's Jim Szoke. ...

Public Radio International’s “The Takeaway,” hosted by John Hockenberry and carried afternoons on WFAE-FM (NPR, 90.7), will originate Oct. 4 from Charlotte and will air live at 9 a.m. that day in place of “Charlotte Talks.”

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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