By Jamie Deliz
There, in the bustling lobby of 32 Avenue of the Americas—the home of iHeartMedia—a distinctive voice shouted, “She’s with me.”
In his “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” t-shirt that complemented his Brooklyn accent, Skeery Jones smiled at me and waved.
Twenty years in the radio business later, and he’s still that cool guy from Brooklyn. It became more apparent as we walked towards the elevator that would lead us up to Z100’s studios.
Following the celebration of 20 years of “Elvis Duran and The Morning Show,” Skeery, as humble as ever, apologized for running just a little late, since he was figuring out which clips to use for the show’s anniversary skit.
“We do everything,” Skeery said. “It’s not just radio.”
Past the glass doors and the framed photographs of artists hanging on the white walls, it’s as if we were walking through history.
We made a slight right and there was Mo’Bounce, sitting in his studio, getting ready to do his thing at 2 p.m.
From there, we finally made our way into the Morning Show studio, a studio that has been home to many artists and New Yorkers alike—a studio that holds so many memories.
In the center of the room was Elvis Duran’s flashy gold mic, a perfect representation of the host. “Of course,” Skeery said, followed with a chuckle.
It was completely empty and silent at this time—unusual when you think of the show and all the laughter it brings.
Looking at each mic at each chair, you begin to picture who sits where, and it’s as if a rush of nostalgia hits. It’s interesting to think that, in this moment, a piece of furniture or equipment can bring you back to your 11-year-old self on the way to school, sitting in the car while listening to Elvis, Danielle, Skeery, Froggy, Greg T “Fratboy,” Bethany, and Coaster Boy Josh, to name a few.
“We’re always getting food delivered here,” he said in response to my spotting the random loaf of bread on the table.
Now, if you’re wondering how Skeery Jones is off the mic, he’s still cool, still chill, and still the guy you know as one of the legendary, funny “phone-tappers.”
In true Skeery form, he started off goofing around. “Oh my God I’m so nervous!” he said, as I reached for my recorder.
Of course, that goofy side comes alive on air, but off air, his humble side was just as pleasant. He even admitted that he hated listening to his voice on air (he’s one of us).
“I feel like I haven’t worked more than 10 years,” he said as he straightened his back. “It’s flown by so much. It really has, it has flown by. We, the Morning Show, got together all these years ago, and, at the time, we didn’t think we’d make it past two years.”
Most radio shows last about three-to-five years—“that’s the shelf-life of a radio show.” The Morning Show has been around for 20 years, and the smile on his face illustrated just how happy those years working at Z100 have been.
“No one in their wildest dreams could’ve imagined we would be here 20 years later. It’s an honor, and it’s a testament to the fact that people love this stuff.”
This ‘stuff’ he’s referring to are the countless number of interviews featuring special guests, the down-to-earth conversations about everyday living—those ‘you-can’t-make-this-sh*t-up’ kind of topics—and, we can’t forget the humor. Nothing to brag about, right?
He laughed. “I don’t know what it is we offer half the time. You know, we are thoughtful, we’re fun, we’re upbeat, we entertain people, but we don’t—you know, there are far more people doing far more important things with their lives professionally, that it’s amazing that people will, like, actually listen all these years. So, thank you. That’s the first thing we want to say.”
Born in Brooklyn as Anthony Scire, his dream of being on radio started at just 8-years-old, when he would call up radio stations. “I’ve called Z100 when Z100 first started,” he said. “I would call in, try to get on the air, I would tape myself ‘being on the radio.’”
But it was at Brooklyn College when his “passion was cemented,” and that’s when he joined the college’s radio station. “What started as an after class club, hanging out with a bunch of people, bonding, making friends—what started out as that, turned into my career.”
And, of course, you can’t go into radio without having a unique radio name.
“When you say, ‘Hey, Anthony,’ seven guys turn around because it’s Brooklyn,” he explained. “All the Anthonys were called by their last names—same thing with all the Michaels and the Joes.”
To stick out, Skeery took his last name, Scire, and did some switching up, making it “spell like it sounds.”
“We all walked around calling each other by our last names. It was only natural that, when I got a job in radio, I would be called by my last name.”
“Jones,” however, is completely made up. And, telling by his slight cringing and head shaking, it wasn’t exactly his favorite nickname. “It’s not a cool name. I got it back in college, so I’m stuck with it now.”
Skeery owes it to Brooklyn College for keeping him on that path, though. “Without the college radio station and without majoring in communications, I would never be able to have done it.”
Growing up, his parents wanted him to become an accountant, but it just wasn’t in the cards for the radio personality. It took time for his parents to fully adjust to his career-making decision; they were initially upset that he was spending more money than what he was making, he recalled.
“And I didn’t listen to them, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Fortunately, today, he says that his parents are completely on board with radio.
“I followed my dreams, and now they are sorry,” he explained. “Last year my father apologized to me, after all these years, and said, ‘We were wrong about that.’ ‘We were wrong about trying to get you to, you know, get out of this career.’”
Now the executive producer of the Morning Show, it seems as though his dream has paid off in the end. But he didn’t start here. Squinting, pointing, and moving his finger back-and-forth, Skeery tried to visualize his early years and “what came first.” He started out as a phone producer, later became the associate-assistant producer, and finally, the executive producer. And of course, a lot comes with that title.
“More work,” he laughed. “More responsibilities—you know, the show is huge. It’s grown over the years.”
Z100 started in New York in 1996, and, today, is on air in over 80 cities in the country. “As the show grows, the network grows—the more people we need to help us out.”
With other media, social media, and other platforms, the team over at Z100 have creatively constructed new ways to grab audiences from all over. “We never used to produce video. Now, we produce video for everything we do.”
People are continuously writing articles for the website, keeping the online and mobile app running, and working “in front and behind the scenes.” Starting out with six or seven people, the team now has over 18 people.
However, there’s a fun element to the job as well. If you’ve been a listener for the past 15 years or so, then you should definitely know what a ‘phone-tap’ is (and maybe you’ve even secretly wished you would be phone-tapped at least once in your life).
“The phone-taps—we started them in the early-2000s,” Skeery said. “We thought, ‘people love that feature, let’s start making practical phone pranks every day.”
Listeners would submit ideas, Skeery explained, and the team would get in contact with them, going over scenarios, see what they wanted to do, and would use these accomplices in the scenarios because “that’s the best way to get people to believe.”
The key, though: “You gotta get them angry at first.” Some phone-taps would even go on for 45 minutes. Could you imagine?
But the success of the phone-taps outweighed the nervousness Skeery felt in the very beginning. And, after seeing tremendous feedback, the team knew that the phone-taps had to stay.
At his home studio, Skeery would cut the clips down to just four minutes for air-time, and that’s what we hear. In those four minutes, sometimes we die of laughter, tell whoever’s in the car to “shut up, so I can listen,” and imagine how our parents would react if we decided to prank them.
Sometimes, other great experiences come along.
“SHE was freaking out hearing our voices,” Skeery said in disbelief about Lady Gaga.
The pop star has been a friend of the show, making several appearances over the years. As a native New Yorker, the show felt like home for Gaga ever since she was younger. “She would have her mom record our shows on cassette tapes—which don’t even exist anymore—and her mom would sit there and record the show for her so she can listen to us when she came home.”
Grateful, it turns out, is just another way to describe Skeery.
“Music goes through cycles,” he explained.
Witnessing these different artists appear on the show and watching music change over the years is best explained through Skeery’s own words: “I welcome it because every day is a blank slate. That’s what keeps me from getting bored. I love having different genres of music out there that we play. We play the biggest hits from all formats. It keeps us focused, it keeps us relevant.”
After years of being on the Morning Show, Skeery chased another vision of his own, and that’s when “The Off-Air Show” podcast was given life.
“Oh my goodness, you know about that?!” He laughed.
Friends Greg T and Skeery, who were also former roommates, got together one day and thought about creating something entirely different from the show—something that would showcase their styles, but on newer and even more personal levels. “Let’s do something that’s a little bit more risqué, a little bit more edgy.” And that’s what “The Off-Air Show” is.
Bald Freak Ronnie, who Skeery has known his whole life—“went to Brooklyn College with, went to Edward R. Murrow with, and middle school, Mark Twain, with”—also joined the podcast. You know, just three guys talking about life.
And Skeery appreciates everything life has to offer.
A regular day for Skeery consists of waking up for the Morning Show, going home to relax, and then going out later that night with friends, grabbing a few drinks, and then going to bed at 11 p.m.—“Especially on school nights,” he laughed, referring to waking up and going to work.
But traveling, going to Atlantic City, and playing blackjack are just some of his many hobbies, too.
In life, like radio, no one knows what to expect. Opening up, Skeery gave some insight to building relationships. You would think that in an industry that prides itself on networking, the best part would be meeting all different kinds of people, but Skeery has found that it’s those close to you who you should keep around.
“I like getting away,” he said. “I’ve tried to make sure to spend more time with less people than less time with more people.”
That’s not the only advice he gave. In order to strive in this industry, you have to, number one, be a part of the college radio station—he stands by that to this day. “You can’t, you know, all of a sudden, just out of nowhere say, ‘Oh, yeah, I want to be in radio,’ but you didn’t take the time to spend some hours and some quality time trying to do radio?”
Number two, go ahead and take a bunch of the broadcasting courses the TV Radio department has to offer. And number three, take that internship. Take it. “There’s nothing like that personal connection and networking with professionals who can help you out. Those are the people that are going to take you from the classroom, out of that, and into a paying job at a commercial radio station.”
Relatable, down-to-earth, and a bona-fide lover of life, Skeery Jones, like all of us, was once that kid in college working on his goals, often facing some struggles along the way. However, there’s a reason why Z100 is one of the top radio shows in the country, and it’s because of the people, like him, running the show.
“You better love what you do for a living because otherwise, you’ll be a miserable person walking around every day. So find something that you’re passionate about, and then figure out how to get paid for it later. That’s pretty much what I did.”