You notice the cushy white swivel chairs as you walk in to the studio at the AVX headquarters in Homewood. There are four of them in the middle of the room with a pair of white abdomens between them.
The trio in the room is in a commercial break, a calm that separates insightful banter of this 2-hour sports talk show.
The scene looks like three guys hanging out and talking sports in somebody’s man cave, which is essentially what The Jay Barker Show is — a former college quarterback chatting with career sports reporter Lars Anderson and producer/co-host Kerry Adams.
“OK,” Lars says, sitting up in his chair. “Where do you want to go from here?”
The upcoming Alabama football game is an obvious springboard as Jay slides his headphones back in place. But the conversation can go anywhere from there.
The show launched near the end of August and is still in its infancy. It airs noon-2 p.m. weekdays on 10 stations around the Southeast, with Tuscaloosa’s WDGM Tide 102.9 FM serving as the flagship. You can hear it in the Homewood area on 94.9 FM.
The program generally originates from a specially created studio at the AVX headquarters on 18th Street, one that will be supplanted by a new studio AVX is building. Jared Lewis, president of AVX, says the partnership was a “natural fit.” “The state-of-the-art studio will highlight AVX’s audio-visual services by featuring video walls, security system, lighting control, motorized shading systems all from smart device automation,” he explains.
The show takes advantage of Jay’s time on the field, Kerry’s time as a producer of other radio shows and Lars’ time in the field as a reporter for Sports Illustrated and the Bleacher Report.
“If I do my prep, I feel like we’re always good,” Lars says after the final show of the week is done. “It’s like doing reporting but instead of calling people. I’m reading as much as I can and trying to get the most interesting stories.”
Lars’ aim is to get Jay’s reaction, to give listeners a view from inside the huddle. “I like to get your reaction, as a player,” he tells Jay, “someone who knows his stuff.”
The next day’s Alabama game is against Louisiana. Not the Bengal Tigers of LSU but the Ragin’ Cajuns of Lafayette. It’s a game the Crimson Tide is favored to win by more than 40 points.
Jay says during the show that Nick Saban preaches that no one — players, coaches, fans — should be content, that they must not fall into the trap of being complacent. Jay says the same thing about the show. “You’ve got to keep doing the things (to) get better every day,” he says. “You try to get better guests, better topics and just push each other so you can have a successful show.”
The threesome is carrying the show these days. That may change a bit in the near future, when the new studio AVX is building has been completed. Until then, the delay from the flagship station is too great for conversations with callers.
“Our thing is we want to have great guests, great topics, things people want to sit back and listen to,” Jay says. “There are a lot of people who love that back and forth with the callers. But there’s a really large audience that loves to hear us interview people and discuss our perspective.”
Jay was on the radio regularly in the Birmingham market from 2001 until February. That’s when the Opening Drive show he co-hosted with Al Del Greco, the former Auburn and NFL kicker, and Tony Kurre, was cancelled by WJOX-94.5 FM.
The former Crimson Tide signal-caller was off the air for six months while serving out the remainder of his contract. In the interim, he began weighing his option for his return.
It was a plan that was already forming in his mind. “Lars, Kerry and I started talking about two and a half, three years ago, saying we could do a show together,” Jay recalls.
Kerry remembers getting Lars as a guest on the Opening Drive, especially when the co-hosts were away. “That’s how Jay and Lars realized there was a good connection there,” he says.
Jay picks up the story there. “Lars would come in and we just hit it off very well,” he says. “We had a lot of chemistry. And at that time, it was more like could we do a Saturday type show or a Sunday night show or a weeknight show? A one-day-a-week thing.
“When everything happened with the other show, I began to talk to Lars and Kerry – because Kerry was with me as the producer over there — and said, ‘Why don’t we kind of begin to explore putting together show?’”
Nearly a decade before, Jay had talked with Paul Finebaum about teaming with him, creating a show that paired a journalist with a player. “It kind of gives the listener the angle from a writer and from a former player,” Jay recalls. “That’s kind of the genesis of it, and how it came about.”
Kerry has performed musically around town, playing guitar and singing. He admits that he’s not fond of being the star of the show, which makes his role as producer/co-host ideal. “I can kind of hide behind the mic and say things when I need to,” he says. “It fits my personality the best. If I was having to be (the one) talking all day every day, I don’t think I could do it.”
The show goes to Tuscaloosa at least once a week as Lars teaches at the University of Alabama. He says the grind of traveling across the country — 20 years for Sports Illustrated and three for Bleacher Report — had begun to wear on him.
It really hit home when he covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio. His wife was pregnant with twins and she was going through some hard times. “The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when I had family in town on Monday and (editors) told me I had to be in London on Tuesday afternoon,” Lars recalls. “Most people would jump at the chance to go to London really quick. But it just it made my skin crawl. It was literally right after that when Jay got serious about talking to me about doing this show. It just it felt right.”
Jay wanted to continue his broadcasting career but had passed on opportunities to travel for ESPN Radio. He wanted to remain a part of the lives of his children. The former quarterback, who would always write Romans 8:28 with his autograph, views his show as divine providence. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” the scripture reads.
Jay admits he was shocked and dumbfounded when he realized his Opening Drive show had been cancelled. His wife, entertainer Sara Evans, reminded him that God has a plan. “There’s a purpose behind this,” she told him.
As fate would have it, the first day Jay could go on the air was August 28, which coincided with his favorite Scripture – 8:28. “That’s pretty phenomenal,” he says. “That’s God saying, ‘I’ve got this covered.’”
Homewood Shout Outs
The Jay Barker Show is new to its home at Homewood’s AVX Headquarters, but the co-hosts are very familiar with the area in Vulcan’s shadow.
O’Henry’s: Jay’s frequent stop from WJOX days
bartaco: Where Jay’s kids would eat every weekend
Jackson’s Bar & Bistro: Meeting spot for early plans for The Jay Barker Show
Oak Hill Bar & Grill: Where Kerry used to play guitar & Lars met his wife on a trivia night
Shaia’s: Friends of Jay’s
Jinsei & Chicken Salad Chick: More friends of the show
Salem’s Diner: What the co-hosts and guest Anna Harwood discussed on the show when she was talking about her late father, former Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive.
The Trak Shack: Where Kerry bought his last pair of running shoes