Rob Tanner is laughing on the outside, but hurting everywhere else

Pranking Brad Paisley on the air is this radio host's specialty

Rob Tanner remembers pranking Brad Paisley on his radio show, Tanner in the Morning on 103.7.
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Rob Tanner remembers pranking Brad Paisley on his radio show, Tanner in the Morning on 103.7.

It’s pretty safe to say that Rob Tanner is the only morning-show host in Charlotte who broadcasts live from the comfort of a big, plush, faux-leather easy chair.

“And no one’s allowed to sit there but him,” says Catherine Lane, his co-host at WSOC since 2010.

“Actually,” Tanner says, “Debbie (Nance) – who’s on the ‘Charlie & Debbie’ show in the afternoon – sits in the same spot, but she always moves the chair out and brings hers in. She doesn’t sit in my chair. I think she’s afraid, you know, that she can catch it.”

To explain: His co-workers got the big ol’ armchair for Tanner back in 2014, to make sitting down a little less of a pain, following surgery to remove a cantaloupe-sized tumor between his rectum and his prostate.

That was the first tumor. During a now-routine follow-up scan in 2016, doctors found a low-grade tumor on his right kidney that required the removal of part of that organ as well as part of a rib.

He says he still suffers from near-constant pain, so he takes pain medication daily and wears a pain patch. “You name the meds, I take ’em.” He takes a blood thinner to stave off clots, and might never be allowed to part with his ostomy bag, worn on the outside of his stomach, which collects intestinal waste and must be emptied multiple times a day.

Rob Tanner (3)
“He makes us better and stronger,” co-host Catherine Lane says of Rob Tanner. “Or ... if I have this or that wrong with me, I think, ‘Tanner gets his a-- in here, and works through pain every single day.’ He has to deal with his ostomy bag, which to most people that would be a paralyzing thing. ... And he is able to make people laugh even though he’s hurting.” Jenna Eason jeason@charlotteobserver.com

In other words, Tanner is a guy who you wouldn’t blame if he never left his living room. Yet here he is – nearly 13 years after moving from WPCV in Lakeland, Fla. – making the drive from Indian Trail every morning at oh-dark-thirty to laugh with his team. Or, oftentimes, to get laughed at.

Lately, it’s been during a game called “Clock the Jock,” where a song is played for Tanner, Lane, producer Chris Allen or sideman “Captain” Jim Slade and they have to identify the title and artist as quickly as possible. Then they play the same song for a listener, who gets double the time and only has to name either the title or the artist (not both).

“When you play Catherine, you’re in trouble,” Tanner says. “Captain Jim is pretty good, too. Me? I’m horrible at it. I mean, I’m impaired when it comes to music. For some reason, everything sounds the same to me. And as soon as a song starts, I don’t care whose song it is, it’s Dierks Bentley to me.”

“Well, so here’s the thing,” Lane chimes in. “Chris and I have chosen Dierks Bentley the past two times, and he still can’t get it. It’s like: Really??”

He says that sometimes they laugh so much his belly hurts – in a good way, for a change – and that dragging his butt into the studio every morning is, in a way, his therapy.

“It’s much better than sitting at home,” he says. A husband and father of two kids, he isn’t planning to go anywhere soon, he says; he just signed a five-year contract that, in less than two, will make him the longest-running morning-show host in WSOC history.

“Look, there are plenty of people in the world that deal with cancer. I’m certainly not the only one. There are guys and girls out there that have the same form of cancer and go through the same pain I have and they have to work in construction or something like that. Me, I sit on my butt in a chair and talk to people.”


“It’s about time for a new one, don’t you think? If anybody asks, I’d like a vibrating one.”

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Tanner in the Mornings

Host: Rob Tanner, 54.

Station: 103.7 WSOC-FM, aka “Country’s Hottest Hits.” (Country; owned by Beasley Broadcast Group.)

On the air in Charlotte since: January 2005.

Supporting cast: Catherine Lane (co-host), Chris Allen (producer), and “Captain” Jim Slade (news reporter).