Beloved Athens radio program “Just Off the Radar” aired its last show in November, leaving creator and on-air personality JoE Silva to move on to newer and, according to him, better things.
Some who knew and loved the weekly “eclectic mixtape” hosted by Silva were in disbelief of its disappearance from local radio station WUGA 91.7 and 94.5 FM—it was also syndicated and aired statewide by Georgia Public Broadcasting—as it was a staple of the network for the past 15 years. Fortunately, the grieving period was brief, as a brand new show also hosted by Silva, “Athens 441,” soon emerged in the same day and time slot.
While some may consider this a simple re-branding, the new show introduces one key element that changes its nature: a co-host. “Athens 441” features Kimberly Sloan, a local musician who caught Silva’s attention on, of all places, Instagram. Sloan created her own “song of the day” series on the platform, and her taste so aligned with Silva’s that he decided to reach out.
“I noticed Kimberly on Instagram, and she kept posting good stuff about music, and I thought she had ridiculously good taste,” Silva says. “I just took a deep breath and said, ‘OK. One last try.’”
Every time Silva has thought about giving up his radio career, something has stopped him from doing so. The last time this happened, he says, was 15 years ago, when he began “Just Off the Radar.”
“When you’re a DJ for this amount of time, sharing music becomes something you just feel compelled to do,” Silva says. “Every time I almost quit, something happens that keeps me going, and I’m always glad I did.”
Part of Silva’s decision to end his former show was due to a lack of clarity largely caused by listeners confusing the name of the program. “Athens 441” references Highway 441, a road a myriad of musicians have traveled down to play the Classic City.
Silva says he is excited about the new show, not only due to the addition of Sloan as co-host, but also how the change has been received by the community so far. Silva says his goal is to create a fresh, well-planned program that delivers quality content while also re-establishing Athens’ presence in the regional and national scene.
“Athens 441” aired its first show on Nov. 30, featuring a live clip from The Posies’ show at the Georgia Theatre last June. Recent episodes have featured guest DJ Reggie Youngblood of Black Kids, an in-studio appearance by JD McPherson and an all-Sloan show in honor of her birthday.
Sloan, who has never hosted a radio show before, says it is both more exciting and simpler than she originally thought. Sloan says she has an interest in and knowledge of surf rock in particular, dating back to her earliest memories of her mother playing Buddy Holly in her kitchen. From there, her tastes grew, to where she more than holds her own paired with Silva, a music-radio lifer.
Sloan says Silva reaching out to her was something that was always meant to happen.
“It’s kismet, it’s fate, it’s whatever you want to call it,” she says. “It’s going to be amazing.”
Listeners can tune into “Athens 441” on Fridays at 9 p.m. on WUGA and Saturdays at 11 p.m. via GPB’s statewide broadcast.
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