No other radio host expresses candid remarks, personal anecdotes, and a passion for his community quite like Karson Tager. The Mix 104.1 morning radio personality is the friendly voice that makes traffic a little more bearable on your commute to work, along with co-host Kennedy Elsey. Unlike most talk show host duos, Karson and Kennedy are longtime friends, adding a unique and personal dynamic to the growing show. “You get into the studio and it’s you and your friend sharing stories,” Tager said fondly.
The Charlestown resident wakes up at 3:50 a.m. every morning, long before Zume’s has even brewed their first batch of coffee. “I’m usually at the station at 4:30, and the bulk of the morning is spend reading newspapers, national websites and magazines. We have a small meeting at 5:15 to hammer out last details and go on the air at 5:45,” Tager said of his morning routine.
But he doesn’t resent his early wake-up call. “Nobody wants to tune into a radio station and everybody’s grumpy. We have fun. You’ve got to be in a good mood and tune everything else out. For those four hours we get to sit in there and laugh and have a good time, and make fun of Kim Kardashian,” Tager said.
One of Tager’s favorite parts of the morning is a game they play on the air called “Can’t Beat Kennedy,” a trivia competition where a caller battles Kennedy in cultural knowledge. “It’s good interaction,” Tager, who loves speaking to listeners, said. “It’s such a weird word, fan,” he added. “I look at it like a radio family. They’re fantastic. The second I do something wrong, listeners are quick to point it out. They’re also quick to help out.”
Recently, a young, engaged couple whose wedding day is approaching lost their home, belongings and wedding day necessities in a fire. “We asked listeners to call in if they had anything they’d be able to donate, and over the course of two or three hours, we put together an entire wedding. For a young couple about to get married that’s a big deal. We appreciate the people who listen to the show,” Tager beamed.
The radio station isn’t the only place Tager feels the warmth of the Boston community. After living in Charlestown for three years, he has been embraced by the affable residents and rooted his family in the characteristic town. “I broke my leg in February and three neighbors volunteered to take me to the hospital, and help me get around. They’re always there. That’s my next door neighbor right there,” Tager said, waving over to a man seated at a nearby table at Tager’s locale, the Grasshopper Cafe.
“He’s the Ryan Seacrest of Charlestown,” the neighbor shouted. And aside from standing in front of a green screen with Guiliana Rancic, it’s not far from the truth. Tager also involves himself heavily in the community by mentoring at The Boys and Girls Club. “It’s evolved over time,” he said. “I started out as being there for the boy I mentor as a friend, and as he’s gotten older, I’ve become more of a big brother figure in his life for things he’s going through as a teenager.” Tager has three children of his own, including twin girls who are starting college together this Fall, and a 17-month old son whom Tager is eager to see when the work day ends.
“I’m usually done with my day by lunch. A lot of people come home at six or seven p.m., but I get to spend the best part of the day with my son…I’m very lucky with my children,” Tager said. And his family knows that if something happens, it will likely end up being told on the show. His wife Lana knows this more than anyone, having experienced Tager’s radio antics early on in his career.
“When I was hosting a show in Alabama, my wife came down to the station with her friends to vote for this contest, and the receptionist sent her back when I was on air. Normally I’d be upset, but she was so cute and she knocked on the window and I put her on the air. It turns out she was in a pageant and she sang this little song for the pageant that I made her recite on the radio. I kept playing the song every day, and eventually she called,” Tager reminisced.
He also worked at radio stations in towns in North Carolina and Tennessee before settling in Boston. “I’s an interesting dynamic because when you move, everyone has to move. It’s kind of like being in a band,” the longtime radio host said. But Tager sees himself as being the voice of 104.1 as long as people want to hear it. “I’ve traveled a lot and Boston is no doubt the best place. We just added a third person to the show, Salt. He’s great and we’re expecting good reviews. They want to grow the show, so we’re adding more people, more content, and we’re going to continue to learn how to get better at what we do. Every day we come up with innovative ways to have more fun. We do four hours every day with a staff of five people. It’s a lot of work, but every day we are making sure that what we’re doing is the best possible,” Tager said.
Although some other Boston stations have been around for decades, Tager hopes that listeners will appreciate the Karson and Kennedy show for its embodiment of their honest banter. The close friends share their lives with people, and say things off-the-cuff to each other, and to callers. But it’s their unparalleled rawness that sets Mix 104.1 apart from the competition.
Even when he’s speaking to globally recognized celebrities, Tager remains as cavalier as he does when gabbing with Kennedy. “There are so many intellectual people in the music industry. Some of them can be eccentric, but most of them are pretty easy to work with. One of the standout moments was having Steven Tyler in the studio. He’s done it all. He’s had this crazy life and he came into our studio and it was great. That band is something a lot of people can relate to, and having him in the studio was a surreal moment. People that will open up make it really easy,” divulged Tager.
But when an interview doesn’t go so swiftly, Tager just lets the custard filling fall out of the Boston cream donut. “Sometimes it gets so derailed you can’t do anything about it and you just have to laugh,” Tager admitted. “We make mistakes all the time and we learn from what we did…We’re always poking fun at ourselves, and we always will.”