Jim Kerr and Shelli Sonstein: Legendary Morning Hosts WAXQ (Q-104) FM, New York City (Hall of Fame Class of 2022)

Mornings in New York City would not be the same without the top-rated team of Jim Kerr and Shelli Sonstein on iHeart’s WAXQ, Q104.3. Starting 45 years ago when Shelli first walked into Jim’s studio, they have worked together to wake up the Big Apple ever since. Jim and Shelli have been on the air longer than most marriages and longer than many of their listeners have been alive! They have excelled in the most competitive radio market in the world, having now partnered on three iconic NYC radio stations, beginning on WPLJ, then moving to country radio station WYNY in 1989. The two have called Q104.3 home for 19 years.

So how did these two powerhouses of radio end up together?

Jim Kerr has entertained and informed New York radio listeners in the morning for almost half a century. After visiting WWJ in Detroit on a 2nd-grade field trip, Kerr decided he wanted to be a part of the exciting and magical world of broadcasting. His dream became a reality in 1967 at age 14, when he landed his first on-air position: working weekends at WYNZ in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  In January 1969, at 16, Kerr took a Sunday morning position at WHMI in Howell Michigan, leading to a summer full-time position as an advertising copywriter/weekend announcer. The fall of 1969 saw the teenage Kerr move into his first full-time on-air stint hosting an afternoon drive on WOIA in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After brief stops at WORJ (Orlando) and WAAM (Ann Arbor), the now 18-year-old Kerr joined the airstaff at the top 40 WKNR in Detroit. In January 1972, 19-year-old Kerr moved to Chicago as a morning show host on ABC-owned WDAI. A year later, ABC moved Kerr to its 50,000-watt AM powerhouse WLS, at the time the 2nd most listened to station in North America. In 1974, Kerr was transferred to New York City as a morning show host on ABC’s WPLJ, becoming the youngest person ever to host morning drive on a major NYC station. He would remain there for the next 15 years. Since 1974, Kerr has been the morning show host on six NYC stations: WPLJ, WPIX-FM, WYNY, WMXV, WQCD, and WAXQ. In January 2023, Kerr will celebrate his 21st year at WAXQ.

Kerr has hosted network music and entertainment specials for a number of media outlets including, ABC, CBS, Westwood One, and Premiere. For 5 years he was the regular substitute host on the Rush Limbaugh Show. He currently hosts the iHeartRadio Icons series, heard on iHeartRadio stations nationwide.

Long active in Charitable and Civic affairs, Kerr is a 35-year member of the Board of Directors of HeartShare Human Services of New York and has been cited by the Governors of New York and New Jersey for his role in raising millions of dollars for local and national charities. He also serves on the Board of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation. Since 2012 he has been elected Vice President of Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

When Jim arrived in New York at the age of 21, his goal was to last at least a year in NYC, so that for the rest of his life, he could brag to his friends that he had once worked in New York. The millions of listeners and thousands of advertisers who have shared the early morning hours with him for generations are glad that things didn’t go according to plan.

Not only did he last a year, but Kerr became the longest-running Morning Show Host in NYC radio history.

Shelli Sonstein began her radio career at the age of 18 on WMMR in Philadelphia (50 years ago this January). After working at two Philadelphia stations, Sonstein moved to Atlanta, as an afternoon anchor and UPI award-winning reporter.

Sonstein’s career also included a 10-year stint as an entertainment reporter with the CBS Radio Network. In addition, she developed and managed the first-morning prep service for the CBS Radio Network. For 15 years, Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” used that same prep service to help writers craft his iconic night nightly monologue. Shelli also worked as an anchor for the ABC radio network.

Shelli was called to come to NYC in August of 1977 to try out as the co-host of a morning show. She knew nothing of Jim Kerr, who was also unaware of this woman who suddenly walked into the studio to join him.

That day, a partnership was formed.

Today, she co-hosts “The Jim Kerr Rock and Roll Morning Show” on America’s most listened-to rock station, New York City’s Q104.3, their home for 19 years, where Shelli is also news director.

Shelli has also been reviewing movies on the “Q” for 19 years. In addition, she served on the board of the Asbury Park Music and Film Festival.

During the WPLJ days, Sonstein’s 7:20 a.m. dirty-joke-of-the-day became the most popular segment on their #1 rated morning show. As an author, she published the “Thoroughly Tasteful Dirty Joke Book” in 1984.

In addition to her co-hosting and news director roles, Shelli has hosted the Q104.3 issue-oriented weekly “Sonstein Sunday,” also released as the “Sonstein Sessions” podcast, which has won multiple Gracie Awards for best public affairs show, along with several New York State Broadcasters Association honors for Best Interview. They stand next to her Gracie award for best morning show co-host.

For more than a decade, Sonstein’s passion has been using her radio platform to highlight the 9/11 community and especially the first responders lost to 9/11 toxins since 2001. To mark the 20-year anniversary of 9/11, she created, produced, and hosted the podcast “9/11 Stories,” personal testimonials from that day, living on as a historical document for future generations. Rightfully so, “9/11 Stories” won the best podcast award from the NYSBA.

Her 9/11 advocacy and commitment to first responders led to Sonstein being sworn in by then Commissioner Daniel Nigro as an FDNY Honorary Battalion Chief. She also served on the Board of Directors of Friends of Firefighters, which provides free mental health therapy to NYC firefighters and their families.

Every year, Sonstein recruits Q104.3 listeners to join her on the annual stair climb up the 103 stories of the World Trade Center, and everyone else to donate, raising money for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. She is very proud of the dollars raised, as well as competitively placing high and improving her finish time year after year.

Although born in Philadelphia, Sonstein has been a Jersey girl most of her life. She has 3 children and 2 grandsons. When not working, you can usually find Shelli hill-hiking with her blind rescue dog, Fritz. She also enjoys working out, biking, kayaking, and gardening at the 1852 farmhouse she shares with her husband John.

Together Kerr and Sonstein have formed an unbeatable team. Their contributions and commitment to New York City continue to remain unsurpassed.

 

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