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Marty & Miller Reunite

They will tell you it’s their last go-around.

But anyone who’s listened to “Marty & Miller” through two tumultuous decades — on three different sports talk radio stations — knows better.

This is Marty Tirrell and Ken Miller we’re talking about. And when they return to the airwaves at 3p.m. Monday on The Champ (KBGG, 1700 AM), it’ll mark a new chapter, not an epilogue.

“I believe we can still do it,” Miller said. “The buzz that has been created since it’s been announced exceeded my expectations.

“People love to listen to Marty and I talk sports. We’re just excited to do our show again.”

The origins of “Marty & Miller” date to the mid-1990s.

Miller, a Canadian by birth and a contrarian by nature, arrived in central Iowa on Memorial Day weekend of 1989 after being hired as a race caller at Prairie Meadows.

Tirrell, a carnival barker from Greenfield, Mass., who always seems mired in legal entanglements, moved to Indianola six years later, intent on pioneering a new radio format.

While meeting with potential advertisers at Prairie Meadows, it was suggested Marty meet Miller.

“I can remember the exact booth on the fourth floor where we were sitting,” Tirrell recalled. “We started talking and I knew right away, ‘That’s the guy.’ Like spontaneous combustion.

“I didn’t agree with a thing that came out of his mouth.”

Tirrell and Miller have reunited more often than Fleetwood Mac, once doing a show from inside a barber shop.

After Tirrell was fired from KXNO (1460 AM) in 2009 — following a profanity-laced tirade that was inadvertently caught on a live microphone — Miller began working with a variety of different partners.

“Matt Perrault and I had really good chemistry,” Miller said. “(Jim) Brinson and I took a long time to develop that. Ironically, at the end, I think it was better than it had ever been.”

When Brinson left for Arkansas, Miller drew strong numbers as a solo host.

KXNO then paired him with longtime media personality Heather Burnside, which lasted two days.

Miller was already exploring the possibilities of rejoining Tirrell and says his departure from KXNO is not a reflection on Burnside.

Still …

“It was going to be a challenge for me to argue with a woman,” Miller said. “People think I hate women. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. I hate women’s sports, but I certainly don’t hate women.

“I can argue with Marty and at the end of the day feel we had good banter, raised our voices a little. I’m not sure I could do that with a woman. And if I can’t, I have no chance.”

Tirrell, meanwhile, maintained a presence in the market despite working on low-power stations.

He’d pop up on morning television programs, as the play-by-play voice for the Iowa Energy or covering high school football and basketball games.

His name would also show up on court documents pertaining to creditors, his home being foreclosed, a dispute over payments for tickets to sporting events and a suit Tirrell filed against a former employer.

“I was never jealous of any one of Kenny’s partners,” Tirrell said. “I thought they all stunk. I really did.

“What I was jealous of was the time slot, and not being able to work with him. I missed him, but I wasn’t jealous of the partner.”

The Champ gives “Marty & Miller” a strong signal (10,000 watts), while they provide an afternoon jolt.

They’ll also be simulcast on KXLQ (1490 AM) out of Indianola

According to Radio Online, The Champ ranked 17th among Des Moines radio stations last winter, with 0.6 percent of total listeners 12 and older.

Miller helped KXNO, which will launch its new morning and afternoon programs on Monday, hold steady at No. 12 with 2.3 percent (second best among AM stations and tops in the sports talk format).

WHO (1040 AM) sets the bar, with 7.2 percent of listeners last fall.

“It means a lot,” said Robert Rees, program director for The Champ, “getting the guys who started sports talk radio in the market.

“It not only keeps us relevant — I actually think it’s going to give us a huge bump putting both of them on.”

In order to survive as long as Tirrell and Miller, however, you have to evolve.

Younger audiences prefer live-streams. Older listeners with hectic schedules often take an a la carte approach, catching up with their favorite shows via podcast.

So even if Tirrell and Miller tell you this is their last stop on the dial, it doesn’t mean they’ll fade away anytime soon.

“The way that the industry is changing, with all the new technologies, there’s various opportunities and avenues to listen to us,” Miller said. “There just came a time where we wanted to be the ones who made those decisions.

“And here we are.”

Credit to the Des Moines Register who originally published this story

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