The “Uncorked” part of the Leigh Ann and Courtney Kerr Uncorked radio show is not just theater of the mind.
A couple of open wine bottles grace the control-board desk in the KVIL/103.7 FM studios when we visit on a recent afternoon, and co-host Leigh Ann Adam occasionally gives herself a pour into a large ice-filled cup.
But Adam, a radio veteran, has her wits about her. Although the show has a producer, she runs the board and does a lot of her own producing, including editing down the many phone conversations she and Kerr have with listeners. This isn’t just cut-and-splice stuff — it’s impressive to watch Adam condense a 5-minute call to 30 seconds on the fly.
Every now and then, though, she misses something.
Like a curse word or two from Kerr.
“Hit the dump button!” she signals to producer John Andersen, after realizing she failed to slice out a couple of R-rated phrases from a recent call. Thank goodness for the seven-second delay.
But aside from the occasional naughty word, Uncorked is pretty uncorked, as the co-hosts — one of the few if not only female duos in commercial radio in the country — let fly with talk of sex, pop culture, female problems (both with men and with their own bodies), trivia and celebrity interviews.
They’ve played drinking games with Bono and the Edge from U2, talked bathroom habits with Iggy Azalea (and with each other), and lusted after Lady Gaga’s boyfriend (while on the phone with Gaga).
“It really is like hanging out in a girls’ locker room,” Adam says. “Except that we have clothes on.” She pauses. “Most of the time we have clothes on.”
Adam, who politely declines to give her age, is the veteran of the team — she considers the late Kidd Kraddick a mentor. The Fort Worth-bred Kerr, 34, is relatively new to radio, although she has plenty of media experience — she’s a fashion blogger who appeared on the Bravo reality-TV shows Most Eligible Dallas and Courtney Loves Dallas, as well as the local TV show The Broadcast.
The women say they have enough in common to get along, but they’re also different enough to make things interesting: Adam is married with children, while Kerr is single. Adam is Type A; Kerr … isn’t.
Uncorked has earned some national attention. Entertainment Tonight featured an interview they did with singer Gwen Stefani when she first went public with her romance with fellow Voice judge Blake Shelton. ET also picked up an interview Kelly Clarkson did with the duo about her second pregnancy. And recently the Courtney and Leigh Ann brand expanded to television. They started “co-hosting” the prime-time lineup on KTXA/Channel 21.
During a couple of interviews, one in the studio and one over lunch, Adam and Kerr did as much bouncing off each other off-air as they do on the show. And it’s easy to see why more and more listeners are spending afternoons with them.
DFW.com: When did the wine come into this?
Kerr: The first day. We brought a bottle of champagne in to toast the first day. … It was just like a glass of wine at first, but when [the show expanded to four hours], it was like, “Do you want to split a bottle?”
Adam: It’s what we’re known for. We’re known for a lot of things, but I think it’s a unique —
Kerr: No one at CBS Radio has ever questioned it, ever. Our vice president walks by every day and it’s like, “What are we drinking today?”
Adam: I’m sure if we got sloppy or a little too crazy it would be a bad situation.
Kerr: We just don’t know why we don’t have a wine endorsement yet.
Adam: We wanted the show to be just like a couple of girlfriends hanging out and having a glass of wine. And that’s what it is. That’s exactly what it turned out to be.
DFW.com: And it’s not like you’re getting sloshed on the air.
Both (a little indignantly): No!
Just a small-town girl
Adam has been in radio since she was a teenager in Alliance, Neb., a town of about 10,000 (it’s even smaller now). Obsessed with shows such as Entertainment Tonight, she wanted to be an entertainment reporter, but during a high-school tour of one of the two radio stations, she signed up for a guest-DJ night for extra credit.
She almost backed out, but her mother made her live up to her obligation.
The program director liked what she did and said she should consider applying for a job.
Eventually, she was hired to run the syndicated Rick Dees Top 40 countdown. She didn’t talk on air at first — her chief responsibility was making sure the countdown aired on time and in the right order.
“I’m surprised it even worked out,” she says. “The very first day I was supposed to be there, I was late, because I overslept. And they still kept me. A few weeks after that, I was doing an overnight shift, just running the automation, and I fell asleep. So it’s a miracle that they kept me.”
Eventually, she did talk on the air, and was offered a job in Salina, Kan., about 350 miles away. She was there less than a year when the program director of DFW’s KEGL/97.1 FM “The Eagle” — at the time a Top 40 station — heard her on a drive through town.
He contacted her and said the Eagle was looking for a DJ. Quickly, she was in a Top 10 market, doing overnights.
The DJ that followed her was Kidd Kraddick, still relatively early in his DFW radio days but already popular. She would linger after her show and sometimes join him on his.
When the Eagle switched to a hard-rock format in 1992 and Top 40 KHKS/106.1 FM “KISS-FM” launched later that year, Adam wound up working with Kraddick again.
She left Dallas in 1995 for a 10-year stint in Los Angeles before making her return at KVIL in 2005.
DFW.com: Kidd Kraddick [who died in 2013] was known for insisting that his cast talk about their lives on-air. It sounds like he’s an influence on your show.
Adam: He was the most inspirational person. Just talking about him makes me tear up. He taught me so much. He would probably be the most pivotal person that I’ve ever worked with. He was definitely my mentor.
Kerr: Leigh Ann has rubbed off on me in the same way he rubbed off on her. I think the things that he taught her are the things that she’s teaching me as far as bringing real stories to the table, real-life experiences — “Oh, my god, this happened to me.”
Adam: Being real is what it’s all about.
Kerr: I think people are over “bits.” They’re kitschy and they’re not authentic. With social media and reality television, people want to see authentic, real lives, and they want to hear about authentic, real lives. The second we stray away from that, we notice that people don’t engage as much. But when we say, “What’s the weirdest thing your mother-in-law has ever said to you?” — people love that stuff.
DFW.com: It also feels like Kathie Lee and Hoda [of NBC’s Today show] and Bravo’s Andy Cohen are influences.
Kerr: I think it has a dash of Sex and the City in it. Four girls sitting around, laughing about “Oh, my god, I got my diaphragm stuck inside me” — that is something we would probably talk about. The things that I feel comfortable telling Leigh Ann, I don’t even feel comfortable talking to my own mom about.
DFW.com: Are the people in your lives ever shocked by anything you saw on the show?
Kerr: My mom sometimes is like [whiny voice], “Did we have to go there?”
Adam: My husband tells his friends, “Don’t believe everything she says.” I think he gets embarrassed. But he’s a pretty good sport. There are times when I have thought, “Why did I say that?”
Kerr: There are times when you’re telling a story about your boyfriend and you’re like, “Eeee, backpedal, he probably doesn’t want me sharing that.” Then you want to go home and brag about yourself [whiny voice]: “Well, I was going to tell that story, but I didn’t. So you’re welcome.”
Courtney loves Dallas media
Before there was a Real Housewives of Dallas, there was a sort of “Real Single People of Dallas” on Bravo known as Most Eligible Dallas, which aired in 2011. Courtney Kerr, who grew up in Fort Worth, was one of the cast members and even got her own spinoff, Courtney Loves Dallas, which premiered in December 2013.
Neither show lasted very long, and Bravo pretty much dumped Courtney Loves Dallas, which debuted more than a year after it was first announced and landed a time slot in a low-viewership month.
Kerr does not appear to have any illusions about this. (“I know that you watched all of Courtney Loves Dallas,” Kerr says with the same heavy ironic tone she uses to call Most Eligible Dallas “gripping television”).
“Reality TV happened by accident,” says Kerr, who also blogs about fashion, travel and other topics at Kerrently by Courtney Kerr (kerrently.com). “Casting producers from Bravo came through Dallas looking for girls with big personalities to be on Most Eligible. I was fresh out of a breakup, so of course, let’s throw on a microphone pack and get followed around by cameras for three months — that sounds like a great way to get over a breakup.”
While she was filming Courtney Loves Dallas, an opportunity came up for her to co-host The Broadcast, a View-esque local show that aired on KTXD/Channel 47 from 2013 to 2015. Kerr discovered that she really enjoyed the hosting gig, and the morning air time of The Broadcast didn’t hurt: “I got to wake up, be on TV and talk, and my day was done every day at 11 a.m.,” she says. “It was a great gig.”
KVIL program director Jay Michaels had worked with Kerr when she appeared at some events for his previous station, KDMX/102.9 FM. When he moved to KVIL in March 2014, he began looking for ways to skew the long-running adult-contemporary station toward a younger audience, and began adding in more upbeat Top 40 music.
He also overhauled just about the entire air staff except for Adam.
Michaels has a track record of bringing reality TV to radio (he recently hired Tanner Kloven, a Fort Worth-raised Amazing Race star, to do the midday slot). When he was at 102.9 FM, Khloe Kardashian was temporarily living in Dallas during husband Lamar Odom’s brief tenure as a Dallas Maverick. Michaels had Kardashian host the noon hour at 102.9.
At KVIL, he thought a similar idea would work with Kerr and brought her in to co-host the noontime Courtney Kerr’s Lunchtime Takeover with Adam, then the midday host. That was in June 2014; by July, it was announced she was leaving The Broadcast.
“The noon-to-1 o’clock hour just blew up,” Michaels says. “We could really see the difference, especially with the younger audience. KVIL was skewing past the 54 mark [in age demographics]. We saw the younger go up, 18- to 34-year-old women, like the station hadn’t had, starting to spike. And their chemistry was good.”
Michaels says he considered making the duo the station’s morning show, but he decided that their antics might be a bit much for the drive to work (they can sometimes be a bit much for the drive home). He decided to give them the 3-7 p.m. slot (a best-of runs 7-8 p.m.) in November 2014.
Since the addition of the show, KVIL has gone from No. 7 to No. 3 among 18- to 49-year-old women in afternoons, Michaels says. (The show does have male listeners as well; Kerr and Adam say they think that men listen in to try to find out some secrets about women.)
KVIL has seen so much turnover that none of the air personalities who were at the station when Adam arrived in 2005 are still there. She says that most of the program directors she has worked with have been great, but she really speaks up for Michaels, and this is when he’s not in the same room.
“He fights for his talent,” she says. “He’s not afraid of women on the radio. A lot of program directors I’ve run across think that a woman has to be either the morning-show laugh-track girl, or on a midday show.”
During her career, Adam had worked with other co-hosts, all male. But she says that she’s never had chemistry like she has with Kerr, and that the chemistry was immediate.
DFW.com: Why do you think you clicked?
Kerr: I think we enjoy the same things. We both love Housewives. We both love pop culture. We both love Botox. [Adam chuckles.] We’re a lot alike, but our personalities are very different. Like, I’m very laid-back, almost to a fault.
Adam: And I’m very Type A.
Kerr: I’ll stroll in at 2:58, like, ‘Heyyy …’ ”
Adam: 2:58 is early.
Kerr: I know our first break is at 3:06, so as long as I’m here by 3:06, it’s good. Leigh Ann overthinks everything and I’m like [la-de-da voice]: ‘It’ll be fine. The sky might be falling. We’ll catch it.’ ”
Uncorking more ‘Uncorked’
Michaels has goals beyond radio for Adam and Kerr, and some of that is already in motion. They recently began “co-hosting” the prime-time lineup on KTXA/Channel 21 (which, like KVIL, is under the CBS umbrella).
This essentially involves Adam and Kerr, in their own Uncorked fashion, telling viewers about what’s coming next on the repeat-heavy lineup, but Michaels would like to see it go further.
They’re already going pretty far on a podcast that they launched in January on the Play.it podcast network. This is really uncorked — a mix of extended celebrity interviews and girl talk that’s uncensored. Michaels say it’s pretty PG-13, but it can cross the line into R.
It’s a sign of where Adam and Kerr can really take things.
Adam: There are no limits. We will talk about anything.
Kerr: And its not so much that we don’t have a filter, but if we can talk about anything, why wouldn’t we talk about anything? So many people I know don’t think that women are capable of either, a) being funny, b) being quick-witted or necessarily having the same type of vocabulary or dialogue that sometimes men have. I think they’re surprised to find that women talk about sex as much as men do. Women talk about their relationships or their partners or sometimes peeing their pants.
Adam: I think we’re probably grosser when it comes to talking about stuff. I know from talking with my girlfriends that are also married — one of my best friends, all the stuff we talk about [on the show], I would talk about with her.
Kerr: And it’s not about being vile and it’s not about being gross. It’s not about making people squirm. It’s about being truthful, and these are real conversations. And if there’s a way to make an awkward situation funny, then why wouldn’t you? If you’re capable of doing that, that’s a talent.
Leigh Ann and Courtney Kerr Uncorked
- 3-8 p.m. weekdays
- KVIL/103.7 FM
Uncorked the Podcast: www1.play.it/audio (search for Uncorked)