Chuck Boozer returns to Charlotte-area radio

Two radio veterans return to the local airwaves this month - Chuck Boozer and Bo Thompson.

Boozer - yes, that's his real name - starts Monday on Rock Hill's WRHI-AM (1340; 94.3 FM) "Palmetto Mornings" show with co-host Sheila Caldwell. A talk-intensive morning show will be a switch for Boozer, who has spent most of his career doing short bursts between music tracks.

"I've heard the words 'Hush, Chuck' all my life. Even from my wife."

WRHI's niche is intensely local coverage. Rock Hill is the center of the universe and the key to success for the locally owned station.

Boozer, 56, says he has mellowed since his early days in Charlotte radio. Decades ago, at the old WEZC, he used to broadcast "Bogus Rumor of the Day." He once told listeners that Piedmont Airlines was giving away free flights to London. Another time he reported that one of Charlotte's banks had run out of cash. He reveled in the trouble he got himself into.

In his new gig, Boozer says there's no need to act zany. "I'm going to bring some levity to it without being too goofy. I'm the reassurance the world isn't coming to an end."

Boozer started in radio as a teenager in Phoenix. He has worked for more than a half-dozen Charlotte stations over the years, including the old "Magic" and WKKT-FM ("Kat" 96.9). In the 1980s, he was the top-paid radio host in town, with a deal at "Magic" that paid $150,000, gave him two cars and a free trip every year.

Radio is a different business now. For the last two years, he has been on the air in Myrtle Beach. In a round of budget-cutting, his show was replaced by the syndicated version of Charlotte-based "Ace & T.J."

Thompson, who grew up in Charlotte radio, takes over March 19 as co-host of "Charlotte's Morning News" with Stacey Simms on WBT-AM (1110).

Thompson succeeds Al Gardner, the station's longtime morning host. He left in December for Merlin Media, expected to launch a news format at a station in Philadelphia, Gardner's home town.

"I always figured Al would retire at WBT. I didn't see that one coming," says Thompson. Gardner called him this week to congratulate him on getting the job.

Thompson was a student at Myers Park High School in 1990 when he started working at WBT, first as an intern for Mike Collins. He continued working at the station while attending Davidson College, where he studied political science.

He went on to work in a variety of roles at WBT, then decided he needed to go somewhere that offered growth opportunities. He left to work for former WBT-er Danny Fontana at WDYT-AM. He hosted a program and produced the station's morning show.

"Those three years were the most fun I've had in radio," says Thompson, 37. After the station wilted during the recession, he went to work at WCCB (Fox Charlotte, Channel 18) producing the nightly entertainment show, "Fox News Edge."

Thompson had always thought he'd return to WBT and was invited to be one of the guest hosts of the morning show when the station was looking for Gardner's replacement.

About 50 people from around the country were considered for the job, says program director Carl East, and Thompson seemed like the best fit with the cast of Simms, news anchor John Stokes, sports anchor Jim Szoke and traffic reporter Chuck Roads, known as Chuck Neely in real life.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people who have held this job before me. Names like Grady Cole, Ty Boyd, Bob Lacey, Mike Collins, Russell & Flynn, and of course, Al. To carry on the torch is a great honor and responsibility," says Thompson.

Rush staying put

Following the dustup involving Rush Limbaugh after he called a law student a "slut," WBT-AM got about 200 emails and a few local sponsors asked that their ads be moved to other shows for the time being. But Limbaugh, whose show is the highest-rated on the station, isn't going away. Limbaugh's contract with WBT runs through 2013.

Media Movers

Joining Fox Charlotte (WCCB, Channel 18) later this month as weekend anchor will be Kirk Hawkins, replacing Reneé LaSalle, who is leaving at the end of her contract. Hawkins most recently has been a reporter at the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles. ... Former News 14 Carolina anchor Heather Childers started a new assignment this week at Fox News Channel. She will be a rotating host for the 5 a.m. expansion of "Fox Friends First" on weekdays. She continues to anchor weekends at 4 p.m. on the network. ...

Jeremy Schultz, better known to afternoon listeners of WHQC-FM ("Channel" 96.1) as Special Ed, takes over morning drive at a Tampa station. ... Media personalities on the Mecklenburg Times' "50 Influential Women" list include Ramona Holloway of WLNK-FM ("Link" 107.9), Diane Chase of WBT-AM (1110) and Molly Grantham of WBTV (Channel 3). They'll be honored at a banquet in May. ...

After building a new tower, Concord's WTIX-AM (1410) returns to the air with a country classics format. Mack McCoy will start hosting mornings on April 2. Its old adult standards music format can still be heard on sister station WAVO-AM (1150) out of Rock Hill. ... Mike Reiss, longtime writer for "The Simpsons," will host closing programs Sunday and Monday for the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival.