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Rener riding afternoon radio waves at 'Kiss' 95.1

When he was a kid growing up in Detroit, P.J. "Drex" Rener was already in the radio business. At least in his mind.

He had one of those boom boxes with two tape decks. He'd record songs off the radio on one deck and the station jingles and commercials on the other.

Then he'd sit down and do his own shows, blending ingredients and acting like a professional deejay.

Rener, who started this week handling afternoon drive at WNKS-FM ("Kiss" 95.1), was a party deejay at age 16 at a bowling alley event for Special Olympics - he has a special-needs sister who is an expert bowler - when professional deejay Jay Towers came in for an appearance. Rener chatted him up at the event, then hounded him to get into the studio.

Nine months later, Tower gave in and created an internship for Rener. He got to help out on the morning show beginning at 4 a.m., then leave in time to get to high school.

It was unpaid work, but it got Rener's foot in the door. When he turned 18 in 2001, right after high school graduation, he got an overnight shift Sunday nights.

Rener was finally a professional radio personality and began working his way up. He went to a station in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on the night shift, then did mornings in Saginaw, Mich.

"Cold," says Rener. "It was really cold."

So when an offer came from a station in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Rener took it. He did the morning show and acted as station manager. He also met his future wife, who was working in radio there.

He had moved up to a morning show in Memphis, Tenn., when he came to the attention of CBS Radio executives this summer in Charlotte. They were looking at shows to replace " Ace & T.J." on "Kiss" and heard the show Rener was on.

CBS decided to move Jeremy "Otis" Maher from afternoons on "Kiss" and pair him with Brittney Cason and Brendan Croghan in the mornings. But "Kiss" operations manager John Reynolds says he remembered being impressed with Rener's energy and called to see whether he'd be interested in Otis's old shift.

Two weeks later, Rener was in Charlotte and in front of the microphone. In afternoon drive, "Kiss" ranks No. 8 in listeners overall and is No. 2 in its target demographic, people 18 to 34 years old, behind Brian Robinson, better known as Mr. Incognito, on WPEG-FM ("Power 98" 97.9).

Rener, 28, says he likes to make the show music-intensive but interact with listeners as much as possible. Humor, he says, is a key part of his act.

"I like to do it on the fly. Sometimes you over-think it. When people are listening to the radio, I don't think they're over-thinking it."

Rener got his radio name "Drex" while kicking around nicknames with a former boss who spotted Rener's Detroit Tigers tattoo - the Old English "D" the team uses as a logo.

"Drex," suggested the boss. Sounded good.

Rener still visits his family in Detroit as often as he can and misses his hometown.

"Detroit gets a bad rap, but if you're not from there, you don't know," he says. Media movers

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