In an inspired move, Atlanta Top 40 station 99.7 FM, Power 99, rebranded itself in October 1992 as 99X—with a lineup of Gen X-skewing grunge rock and attitude-laced talk. One of the most influential modern rock stations of the decade, 99X catapulted the careers of Atlanta-based acts like Shawn Mullins, Marvelous 3, and John Mayer; drove the rock charts; and even drew the older guard. Everyone from Paul McCartney to Warren Beatty angled to drop by the studio. In 1997, 99X even snagged David Bowie to play a breakfast concert at Smith’s Olde Bar.
The morning show went through a number of incarnations, but the most popular was The Morning X, with pop culture fan/jock Steve Barnes, station program director Leslie Fram, and wisecracking Jimmy Baron. Collectively named On-Air Personalities of the Year in 1996 by Billboard, the trio grabbed high ratings. But as grunge faded in favor of pop and rap, so did the audience for 99X; eventually it swapped signals with hits-driven Q100.
Today Fram, Billboard’s 1998 Program Director of the Year, works in Nashville as a senior vice president for CMT. Barnes owns Barnes Creative Studios, an Atlanta firm that creates drone videos for high-end clients. And since 2011, Baron has been a Realtor (he’s now with Keller Williams) and has sold homes for Barnes and even his former radio foe, Larry Wachs of The Regular Guys. He recalls his most surreal 99X moment: “I was on the golf course and my phone rang. It was a listener who wanted to get in touch with this kid songwriter we’d put on the air at 5:30 after he won a station contest. So I ended up giving John Mayer’s phone number to Elton John.”
This article originally appeared in our March 2015 issue.