It was three decades ago that Paul Bryant began his radio career in hometown Virginia Beach, VA, at Susquehanna CHR “97 Star” WGH. Because he was still a rookie teen, the jock was bestowed the nickname “Cubby”—said to be a takeoff on Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.
It didn’t take long for Mr. Cubby to propel to the major market microphone. In 1990, he landed a gig at iconic CHR KRBE (104.1) in Houston, as night host and music director. Then, six years later, he began his tenure in radio’s No. 1 market, New York City, where he remains today. For a decade, Cubby was afternoon drive host and music director at legendary CHR “Z100” WHTZ.
In mid-2006, he took part in one of the great experiments in radio lore: sliding to rhythmic sister WKTU to co-host “Wake Up With Whoopi” with Whoopi Goldberg. The ill-fated syndicated morning drive show lasted just over a year.
Since January 2008, he has manned the morning mic at iHeartMedia’s WKTU, with Carolina at his side. The station sits comfortably at No. 10 12+ in the market, with a stable 3.6 share and cume of 3.9 million. Cubby talks with Inside Radio about 30 years in broadcasting, 10 years at WKTU, radio’s enduring popularity—and yes, Whoopi. An edited transcript follows.
Happy 10th anniversary helming mornings at WKTU, and three decades working in radio. What keeps it fun and fresh?
It’s simple – we play music for a living. We work in a kickass industry where music surrounds us and music keeps us young. I truly believe that. It doesn’t get any better than this and I feel the same excitement each day on the air that I felt when I first turned on the microphone in 1988.
Would you consider yourself a morning person? Is that schedule something one ever truly gets used to?
If a morning person ever tells you that “you get used to it” they are lying. I mean, does it get easier? Yes, but the human body isn’t meant to get up at 3:45am. You know what makes up for it though? Being a part of people’s lives each morning and knowing you’re there to entertain and put a smile on the audience – at least that’s our goal.
WKTU has evolved over time and continues to hold steady with a robust 3.6 share alongside its iHeart sisters. Who do believe the station most appeals to?
That person that likes today’s hits, but also loves some awesome throwbacks in their life, with amazing personality in between, presented with a feel-good vibe. You’ll never fall asleep listening to “The Beat Of New York.”
KTU has served New York City since its days on another frequency playing freestyle and 100% dance. What makes the station uniquely New York?
Obviously our "feel good" vibe alongside all the dynamic personalities is what makes us unique, and we have some really cool market-only throwbacks that our program director Rob Miller and music director Bartel have a great handle on. All of our on-air talent is plugged in to the tri-state area and can relate to our listeners, and you can hear it on the air.
July 31, 2006—It was this week 12 years ago when you began co-hosting “Wake Up With Whoopi” at WKTU. It was a bold experiment, albeit one that perhaps didn’t go as hoped. Please tell us about that experience.
Not many people can say they worked with an Oscar, Grammy and Tony Award winner, but I did and it was hands down the coolest experience. You are correct, it didn't go as planned, but I'm a huge believer that everything happens for a reason. Some of the best memories I have are hanging with her in a social setting outside of work to talk about the show, either at her house or at a restaurant… I felt like a co-star in a movie. After two years I was lucky enough to remain as host here at KTU and Whoopi took her talents to "The View" and everybody was happy in the end.
What artist are you most proud in having a hand breaking into the mainstream?
It was really cool in 1994 to play Lisa Loeb "Stay" at KRBE when she had no record label or any other airplay, and see her go from signed to No. 1. When I was at Z100 I felt like we were a part of a ton of "having a hand in breaking into the mainstream" because Z100 was – and still is – that stamp of approval that you're a hit.
Your 2000 global jaunt with Backstreet Boys while at Z100 must be one of your greatest career memories…
That trip was sick! Stockholm to Tokyo, Tokyo to Sydney, Sydney to Cape Town, Cape Town to Rio De Janeiro and finally New York in 100 hours! I will never be able to beat that experience being on a private 767 and forming a bond with superstars. I'm happy to call BSB my pals and we talk about the trip every time we see each other. It seems like last week, but this November will mark 18 years since.
With all the talk about streaming, live FM radio maintains its mojo as the No. 1 form of audio. What keeps radio tops for informing and entertaining the masses?
Because radio has always been doing what we now all crave more and more these days: that human connection. Our listeners rely on us for instant information and what’s happening in the world from music to news to weather. Radio has always been able to provide real time information, provide live entertaining content and be there at all times if you just turn us on. Live and local is important to communities.
It’s probably a little late to reconsider your choice of career, but if you weren’t working in radio, what do you suppose you’d be doing for a living?
I've always loved weather and aviation so I truly believe I would have been a weatherman or commercial airline pilot.
What’s your favorite song ever and why?
This is so random. It wasn’t a huge pop hit, but it reminds me of a great time in my life. “Turned Away” by Chuckii Booker. It came out when I was just becoming full time on the air in 1989, it was summer and I was going into my senior year in high school. Whenever I hear it, it sparks so many memories and for that it remains one of my all-time favorites. Yes, I have a million more faves, but thought I’d surprise you with that one.