Congratulations to one of Chattanooga radio’s few remaining “characters,” Dex of US-101. He retires today after a quarter-century on the city’s top-rated radio station.
I’ve known Dex since the 70s, when we worked together at WFLI. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was the waning days of Jet-FLI’s AM radio dominance. FM radio was slowly emerging. Within a few years, Dex, or Dexter as we knew him then, got into the record promotion business, and I switched over to the FM side of the dial. But for a brief period of time, we enjoyed the last remnants of WFLI’s glory days.
After spending a decade or so in the record biz, Dex got tired of living out of a suitcase and missing his kids’ ballgames and birthdays. He returned to Chattanooga working in various jobs, including a stint at the Choo Choo, managing the restaurant. (He was a major player in one of my favorite stories, involving President Jimmy Carter.)
In the early 90s, that radio bug bit him again (believe me, it’s a hard habit to break), and he joined some old pals like Jim Copeland and David Earl Hughes at US-101. He was just glad to get his foot in the door, so he was setting up remote broadcasts and doing all sorts of odd jobs. “Big ol hairy” David Earl was king of afternoon drive radio, and asked Dex to pitch in with traffic reports.
What happened next was radio magic. The two had instant chemistry. Each made the other laugh, and it wasn’t fake radio laughter, it was really funny, spontaneous stuff. Nothing scripted, never rehearsed. Just two guys who enjoyed each other’s company, and who knew their audience.
David Earl eventually was lured to Nashville for a job at WSM-FM, and Dex almost went along, but didn’t want to uproot his family, or spent a lot of time on I-24. Sadly, David Earl passed away shortly afterward, and Dex delivered a memorable, heartfelt eulogy at his funeral.
For the past several years, Dex and his beloved partner “Mo” (Melissa Turner Wagner) have kept the show at the top of the ratings, winning a roomful of national radio awards in the process.
Dex has gone through some difficult times personally, losing his wife Sheila suddenly in 2012, just before Christmas. His friend and fellow US-101 personality Ben “Bearman” Martin died in 2014, and Dex married Bearman’s widow Rosa last year, giving both a huge boost. A few months later, Dex suffered from an illness that affected his mobility, keeping him off the air for a few months. He has made a terrific recovery, but has decided that it’s time to take it easy, kick back and enjoy life, especially his grandchildren.
Dex never let his radio stardom go to his head. He’s just as comfortable talking to his old Rossville High classmates as he is talking to Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks, and Blake Shelton. In his early radio days, I guarantee you he never thought he would end up in the Country Radio Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame, not to mention the truckload of ACM and CMA awards he has collected.
He has never used an “announcer voice.” What you hear is what you get. Dex is a pure, natural personality who brings the party everywhere he goes. Chattanooga radio listeners sure have been lucky to have Billy Joe Poindexter spreading joy into our homes, offices and cars for all these decades. We won’t hear as much of him in the future, but we haven’t heard the last of him. Something tells me he’ll be making us smile at the ball fields, the restaurants, and wherever else he may cross our paths.
Enjoy retirement Dex! You “done” good!