Last Monday, the host of Drive Time on Joy FM, Kwame Sakyiamah aka Lexis Bill posted on his Instagram and Facebook that it was exactly a year since he took over the show. He wanted his listeners on those social media platforms to give him feedback of their assessment of his performance over the last 12 months.
Well, I took that invitation to his listeners as a cue for me to give my unsolicited, but very humble opinion on what I think his performance has been. I am notorious for not pulling any punches in such assessments and I am not in the mood to pull it in this instance as well.
Those old enough to appreciate it would recall that some 12 years or so ago, Bola Ray took over from one of the people considered as royalty on Accra radio at the time. Gabby Adjetey defined late afternoon show, he was like the doyen of Drive Time in Accra and his signature was stamped on the show on Joy FM in those days.
Gabby had been on the show for a long time and had distinguished himself in his vocal delivery (unique voice), music choice, sense of humour and the whole nine yards of how to keep people driving home tuned to your show the entire time.
He became the standard by which others doing late afternoon shows were measured. He was the SI Unit for hosting late afternoon shows, the young would say.
Consequently, it was always difficult when people stood in for him when he was away. I remember the late Komla Dumor standing in once and he "killed fire" brutally, if you can imagine The Dumor flopping at a radio show. Yeah, but he did.
It was even more difficult when such a person has to leave and a replacement is sought. Especially if that replacement was coming down the road from Top Radio. Bola Ray had been doing very well on the afternoon show on Top City Jam but there was doubt about him coming to Joy FM more so to take over The Gabster's show. That was a tall order!
Yet, we were all witnesses to what Bola Ray did in that decade that he was the host of Drive Time on Joy FM. The work he pushed into the show and the results that the show chalked while he ruled his empire from 3pm to 8pm was vivid. He was phenomenal and his success was manifest for all to see.
Bola Ray, like Gabby Adjetey before him, set his own standards and he became the late afternoon show host with whom others hosting similar shows were judged. What that meant was that anyone who took over from him would have to know how to tame a dragon to ride it.
Enter Lexis Bill. When the hints were dropped that Bola Ray would eventually leave the show, Lexis was introduced to serve as his co-presenter and, for certain, to parting colossus.
Indeed, over the period, Lexis was the one who sat in when Bola was away for one reason or another.
When the decision was made that the one to replace Bola Ray would be Lexis Bill, I had a call from a manager of the station who asked what my view was. I said I didn't know, but I felt Bola Ray's shoes would be too huge for Lexis Bill to fill, but that they should give him a little time to see how he would grow into the show.
The person told me that they were not just going to try him, they were very confident that he would come to his own and he would be a worthy replacement for their former host of the show. That seemed to be a vote of confidence from the management and every worker who would succeed needs that.
Now let's talk about the name he chose for the show, shall we? Way before and when he was hosting the morning show on Hitz FM, he used his nom de guerre Lexis Bill to present his shows, but forced the rest of the world to call him by his official name Kwame Sakyiamah when he took over the Late Night Show on Joy FM.
When he took over from Bola Ray, it was a whole new campaign to revert to the use of the moniker that defined his presence on urban radio from Kumasi to Accra.
I am still at a loss as to why that change of name from Lexis to Kwame. Was it to erase his past by cutting off any ties with Hitz FM? Was it just company policy to have it changed? But then again, why get the pseudonym reverted when he got the drive time show?
Enough of monikers already, let us talk about his performance over the period of his stewardship of Drive Time on Joy FM. For starters, I thought at the initial stages that Lexis was a bit overwhelmed with the job that had been entrusted to him.
Here, he was taking over from a colossal figure and his bosses, colleagues, the industry, listeners and most especially that famous tracker would be judging him. Could he do it?
You felt the tension and jitters in his presentation and the fact that on the one hand he did not want to toe the line that had been set by Bola Ray for over a decade and yet on the other hand, he could not decide which exact style to adopt to make his show different.
It seemed to me at the time that he had still not come out of the late night show mood. He was like a deer temporarily blinded by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle.
I think the word I am looking for is "jaded", yes Lexis Bill was jaded by his previous experience on the late night show and on the drive he thought it was another time to play slow songs and give relationship advice. I don't know who smacked him to get him out of that trance, but he did.
By my calculation, it took Lexis Bill about two months to warm himself into the show and it was then that he found a theme and rhythm that fit perfectly with his style and since then, it has only been a va-va-voom kind of ride on the drive for the former programmes manager at Radio Xtacy (formerly known as Kessewaa Radio) in Kumasi (yes, I had to rob that in).
I think Lexis Bill found out that he had to chart his own course, relax about it and hope that the audience would like it. Smart decision that was because since that time, over the last 10 months or so, he has been absolutely fantastic in his presentations, his choice of music, his interaction with the audience and everything else that the Lexis Bill brand on the drive comes with has been uber cool.
I wear a few different hats besides waking up in the night on Wednesdays to write this column so I don't get a call from Jeze... sorry I meant the Acting Editor.
One of the other hats I wear is to play the role of a media planner and from that perspective as well, I think Lexis Bill has distinguished himself perfectly. You are very sure that he is not only delivering the audience but also handling your LPMs very well.
Four out of every five people I have sampled to find out how they see Lexis Bill's performance as the host of what used to be Bola Ray's show over the last one year have given positive assessment of his time on the show. Most agree to the fact that they were totally surprised that he could take such a show, make it his own and deliver as good as he has.
Trust me, in all honestly, I did not think Lexis Bill would come round as quickly as he did on this show. I was sure he would eventually get it and handle Drive Time with his style and influence, however, the rate and time of his smooth flowing into the show knocked me out of my socks. Or as Ken Addy would say, "I was totally gobsmacked."
I am aware that there have been a few offers on the table for Lexis Bill to take and leave Joy FM and his Drive Time show. However, he seems to have found his calling and he wants to stick to it and ride it out.
Maybe he has not decided yet to leave, but would in the future. Be that as it may, listeners of Joy FM have him now and should be happy they do because he is the man to drive them home.
Officially, he has two signature tunes one which says Lexis Take Me Home by MzVee (I think...well it sounds like her) and the other one by Aloe Blacc, the chorus of which says:
“Well you can tell everybody Yeah you can tell everybody Go ahead and tell everybody I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man
“Yes I am, Yes I am, Yes I am I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man”
From what he has done so far since taking over the show, for deciding to chart his own course and to remain unique to his style, for his ability to hold his audience spellbound from the start of the show with music and interaction to the end, I have no doubt that Lexis Bill is capable of taking you home for a long time to come for indeed he is the man, he is the man and yes he is the man!
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