Media Scene

Unlikely trio waking up ‘Kiss’ FM

Charlotte’s “Kiss” 95.1 has a new team: morning host Steve Maney, center, Roy Brown and LauRen Merola.
Charlotte’s “Kiss” 95.1 has a new team: morning host Steve Maney, center, Roy Brown and LauRen Merola. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Joining morning host Steve Maney at WNKS-FM (“Kiss” 95.1) is perhaps the oddest couple in Charlotte radio.

LauRen Merola is a former Miss Pennsylvania USA, a co-captain for the Dolphins cheerleaders and a dancer for the Hornets. Roy Brown is a former 911 dispatcher from Roanoke, Va., who has never been on an airplane and once dreamed of being a school bus driver.

Representing the twin poles of what can be considered media glamour, Merola and Brown replace Cassiday Proctor and P.J. “Drex” Rener, who left “Kiss” last month for a job in Atlanta. Merola has done TV in her native Pittsburgh and sports radio in Miami and on Charlotte’s WZGV-AM (ESPN 730); Brown worked in radio in Roanoke where he came to the attention of executives at Charlotte’s Beasley Broadcast Group.

Merola, 30, grew up in Pittsburgh, daughter of a carpenter, and moved to Fort Lauderdale in high school. Being an NFL cheerleader taught her discipline, she says, because she had to learn two or three dance routines a week.

“Rain games are the best ones,” she says. “You’ve only got the die-hard fans.”

She moved back to Pittsburgh in 2006 and competed as Miss Pennsylvania USA (she was a top five finisher in the Miss USA competition), a job that opened doors to media work and a Pittsburgh Steelers show. She returned to Florida and did sports radio there, then moved to Charlotte when her husband, who is in medical sales, got a job here in 2012. Five days after arriving, she tried out and got a job dancing with the Hornets.

A friend nominated her for a tryout when Maney was looking for new co-hosts. She aced it.

“It was a tempo,” says Maney. “She didn’t need a lot of coaching. It clicked with us without any discussion.”

Brown, 22, was a natural too. Program director John Reynolds had heard Brown’s show and was looking to bring him to the big city.

Brown says he came from shy, simple beginnings in Roanoke, son of a tractor-trailer driver. Brown’s mother cut his hair, even as an adult.

He wanted to be a school bus driver at one point. He worked his way up to bus monitor.

“There’s no way we would have gotten along as kids,” says Maney, a back-of-the-bus cut-up type. “Which is probably what makes the show good.” Maney, 38, grew up in Bergen County, N.J.

They like playing up Brown’s simple roots – he does a segment in which he gives “unqualified dating advice” – but Maney says he’s not designated to be a whipping boy.

Brown spent a year as a 911 operator in Roanoke, an un-fun job, though he coached a baby into the world and had a piece of many other dramas. “Radio’s more fun that being in a room 12 hours a day hearing peoples’ voices on the worst day of their lives.”

Brown can check riding a train off his list of experiences – they took him for a ride on the Lynx. He’s still getting used to Charlotte, a big city in his mind.

“They have really tall buildings in Charlotte and they change colors at night. In Roanoke, we have that star on the hill.”

Media Movers

Ann Sheridan, who has been reporting for WCNC (Channel 36) for 20 years, has left the station and this week joined Compass Group North America in communications. She is a two-time Edward R. Murrow Award winner and remembered for her 2009 series about coping with breast cancer. … Terri Avery, who consistently led WBAV-FM (“V” 101.9) and WPEG-FM (“Power 98, 97.9) to the top of the ratings for 14 years, is the latest casualty in a round of payroll cutting by new owner Beasley Broadcasting. “That’s the way it goes. All is good,” says Avery, who is looking for a new job in programming.

WFAE-FM (NPR, 90.7) reporter Julie Rose, who left the station last year to return to her native Utah, is now doing an interview show radio 5-7 p.m. daily on Sirius/XM channel 143. … Sharon Foote, former WBT-AM (1110) anchor, joins Wingate University as assistant director of marketing and communications. Foote, then known as Sharon Schoffelman, and John Stokes co-anchored WBT’s coverage of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. …

Kelly Meyers, who left WNKS-FM (“Kiss” 95.1) in October, takes over middays on WLNK-FM (“Link” 107.9). Jennifer Steel, who had been filling in, takes over nights at “Link.” … Anniversary of note: Chuck Thompson, better know as DZL (“Diesel”) at WEND-FM (“End” 106.5), marks 10 years in Charlotte radio. He came from Rochester, N.Y., and started at the old “Beat,” WIBT-FM (96.1).

Washburn: 704-358-5007;

Twitter: @WashburnChObs.

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