After nine years of waking up to Allan Fee on Q104, your groggy system may take time to process the new voice on the radio. In mid-July, Jeff Kurkjian joined morning-show veteran Glenn Anderson and Aly Tanner, who previously worked nights, to host The Jeff Show. The 22-year-old comes from a broadcast family — his dad is ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian — and has an ideal resume for a morning zoo host. We spoke to the Syracuse University grad who started an a cappella group, worked as the school mascot Otto the Orange and plays the ukulele.
Q. So, we have to ask: Who's your favorite baseball team?
A. I'm actually a Boston Red Sox fan. I try not to be too open about that. My grandfather grew up in Watertown, Massachusetts. When dad was out working, [my grandfather] would tell me all these fake stories about how he used to get a beer with Babe Ruth. It was all BS. He also told me he killed Hitler.
Q. What was it like being Otto the Orange?
A. It was a life-changing experience for me. Within two months, with a team of other oranges, it immediately became about the university. It became about something so much bigger than me. Being Otto — going to the [NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament] Final Four in my sophomore year, visiting kids in the hospital — it sounds crazy, but that's kind of how I feel about radio.
Q. Let's talk about that. You're the new guy on the dial. What are you hoping to bring to the morning show?
A. I am a small part of Clevelanders' everyday. I want to contribute to something that's so much bigger than me. ... I want people to wake up every morning and love it with me. What makes great radio — and this is the big secret — is you want people to care, not for your own sake, but for their sake. They want to see a little bit of themselves in every single host.
Q. What's your favorite song right now?
A. "Honey, I'm Good" by Andy Grammer. That was the last-ever solo I sang with my a capella group. It brings a smile to my face whenever I hear it. That's my jam right now.
Q. What have you liked most about the city so far?
A. The food. I love food so much. I went to Next Door in Tremont. That was really good. The West Third Street Deli is right around the corner from my place. It's simple, to-the-point, great food.
Q. Will we get to hear you play your ukulele on the air?
A. I've played the ukulele and sang, and callers guessed the song. That was too easy. So I recorded it on our computer and edited it so it would play in reverse, then played it. It's much harder that way.
Q. Your dad is in broadcasting too. What advice has he given you?
A. The most important thing is to be able to tell stories and have a life experience and convert it into a 30-second or 20-minute story. ... And always know when it's not your story to tell. ... Knowing when to pass the ball or take the shot yourself is what he taught me the most.