Celebrating 28 Years & the Memories of Many Zany Characters
Originally started in the late 1980s by freelance writer J. David Miller, SportTalk took on a life of its own when Miller met a car salesman and sports lover named Gary Haskew. Haskew shot straight with Miller: “Your show needs something,” he said. “You need an Ed McMahon.” Miller invited Haskew to be a guest on the show and the rest is history.
In 1990, Gary and his brother, Jerre—known to loyal fans as Dr. Basketball and Music Man—created SportTalk, a dynamic and character-driven approach to sports radio. At the start of the show, Scott McMahen was the show’s engineer and producer. As a key part of SportTalk, “Dr. B.” noticed that McMahen had a gift for talk radio and invited him to be a third host, and—of course—gave him a nickname. From then on Scott was named “Earthquake,” which quickly became “Quake.”
In 2000, “Quake” and “Dr. B.” became the drivers for SportTalk and invited Joe Varner, now popularly known as Cowboy Joe to join the team. With the gift for gab and an engaging voice, nicknames quickly surfaced for Joe. On one show, “Cowboy” was used and from then on Joe Varner was “Cowboy Joe.”
On July 4th, 2016 Gary Haskew suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. The notion that he was one of the best to ever take to the airwaves is widely shared by industry professionals, but it is only part of the story. Beyond the mic, friends and fans attest that Gary had an incredible connection with his listeners and an extraordinary impact on our community.
In August of 2016, Dave Hooker joined “Quake” and “Cowboy Joe” as a co-host, bringing a rich knowledge of sports and persona that meshed well with the show’s existing on-air chemistry.
Now with over 7,000 shows, SportTalk has accrued a cast of hilarious, wacky, and entertaining regular callers who add amusement and eccentricity to the shows. Callers like Spike, Macho Man, Mr. Philly and a host of others have kept SportTalk fresh and entertaining every day from 4-7. While too many to share in one article, what follows are some of the zaniest personalities to ever join the team or call in.
(Above) photo by Med Dement
Bama Jean might live in Tennessee, but she lives for Alabama football. She was a regular caller on the show, and she once brought the Crimson Tide’s marching band through Chattanooga on their route to face the Vols at Neyland Stadium. Colonial Bread agreed to feed the band members, but the deserts they provided were orange MoonPies! Bama Jean couldn’t allow that, and so she promptly threw out every single treat before UT’s signature color could come near the Alabama band.
During a visit to one of SportTalk’s remote broadcasting events, “Twin,” became an instant celebrity. As he was enjoying the favors at the event, he was caught by another guest sampling a delicious dip. Unfortunately, instead of using a chip for his taste test, he used a shared spoon, that he then stuck back in the dip. The dip was thrown out, but “Twin” remained a lifelong caller and fan of the show. At the time of his death, he was buried in his SportTalk Hall of Fame jacket.
Only one caller has ever been temporarily banned from the SportTalk studio, and that’s “Dr. Lock.” His character ran a betting service and was often a guest picker for Bowl Games and March Madness brackets. When “Dr. Lock” came to the studio, he always demanded hot wings. During one visit, the hosts decided to play a prank and put the world’s most dangerous hot sauce all over his wings, but the fun turned cold when he took a huge bite and started cursing on air. Dan Brown, the show’s general manager, saw the commotion and said, “Let’s not have him back for a while…”
Few callers will be better remembered than “Contestant #4” during SportTalk’s turkey calling competition. National Champion Turkey Caller Buster Faidley said you can call a turkey anywhere, but it won’t cross a highway. “Dr. B” and “Quake” took it as a challenge. They said that a male turkey would cross for the right female turkey and they would offer $200 cash to the woman who can make the best turkey call on air. Significantly out performing all others, contestant #4 is declared the winner. There was no word on the turkey crossing.
“Spike” was one of SportTalk’s most theatrical and detail-oriented callers. In one memorable call, “Grandpa Spike” told the hosts he was stuck in the bathroom stall at a Golden Gallon and was going to drown. He had it choreographed so well that he’d turned on faucets to make it sound like the stall had flooded. He’d also created an entire family of characters: Grandpa Spike, Spike, and his son Tike. They were all members of the East Chattanooga Bikers Gang and owned a bikers bar. “Spike” was so convincing that some SportTalk listeners actually drove around East Chattanooga looking for the fictitious bar!
Tune into SportTalk on 102.3 from 3:00-7:00 p.m. every day. During football season, don’t miss the Red Zone from 8:00-11:00 p.m. every Friday night.