You can’t miss Chris Cantore. Partly because the former 91X morning radio star unfolds to a height of six-foot-four. Nor can you ignore the staying power behind a..three-decades-long local broadcasting/podcasting career.
Cantore is a casual-cool, endearing man-child. His age (52) is revealed only by scruffy facial hair dominated more by salt than pepper. Sartorially, he dresses like a college DJ. His work outfits include a slightly askew black baseball cap and a black t-shirt that reads “Giants of All Sizes,” an album title from British alt-rock band Elbow. It’s also a fitting title for this iconic Everyman.
Cantore is seated in an Olas Media recording office — his latest gig — filled with microphones and other modern tools of the podcasting trade. He’s more than just a vertical presence. He’s a business partner, on-air talent, and a behind-the-scenes producer. His familiar, surfer dude voice of authority has splashed our ears for a generation. Check out his Instagram page, and you’ll find a bevy of selfies with celebs he’s interviewed: Sting. Paul Rudd. Cheech & Chong. Renee Zellweger. Christina Applegate. Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters. Adam Clayton Jr. and The Edge from U2.
Celebrity, however, is not why Cantore is a quintessential voice of San Diego. His longevity stems from an ability to blend into our oceanside community and spread plainspoken infotainment to surfers, skaters, craft beer brewers, visionary entrepreneurs — and basically, every demographic.
Born in Los Angeles, Cantore attended San Diego State University. After graduating with a screenwriting degree, the logical next step was a return to LaLa Land, but he stubbornly refused to leave San Diego. Cantore was accepted to law school at Cal Western, but that wasn’t a fit. Neither was grinding it out with a mortgage company. To alleviate the boredom of refinancing loans, Cantore entertained himself at work by doing prank phone calls and blasting music by local bands like Creedle and Drive Like Jehu.
He started sending job applications to every media outlet in town. Only KFMB replied. They were relaunching radio station Star 100.7 and needed somebody to answer phones. He got the job. For extra money he also took a janitorial position. “I made more money picking up garbage and cleaning toilets than I did working in radio then,” Cantore says.
After a few stops and starts, he made it on the air, rising from being the third wheel on one show to the top dog as an irreverent alternative radio morning DJ on 91X. He reigned for 11 years (1997-2008).
Radio can be an itinerant landscape. The Great Recession cost Cantore his 91X job. Luckily, he was a popular — if unorthodox — broadcaster, and he’d learned a lot about the technical side of the industry. NBC 7 San Diego hired him to create their “SoundDiego” digital platform. And during the Doug Manchester ownership years, The San Diego Union-Tribune brought in Cantore as its director of digital media. He created Yew Media, another podcasting company. Along the way, Cantore went back and forth to radio jobs at KPRI and KFMB.
In the past, Cantore has openly discussed the darker chapters of his life — how financial straits caused him to lose his house; the wrenching period of time his wife was diagnosed with and fought breast cancer (happily, she beat it). But rather than rehash those life moments, Cantore is focused on turning the page. The Olas Media work started at the beginning of 2022. He’s optimistic about the podcast company’s business model.
I ask Cantore for the secret behind his longevity in local media. “I’ve always put the community and listeners first,” he says. “I’ve always known what it was that moved the community, and my philosophy was to talk about it rather than hide it. Alcohol bans. Cannabis laws. Or, Tony Hawk doing the first 900 [skateboarding trick]. Whatever it was.”
Podcaster/comedian Meryl Klemow, who co-hosted a KFMB show with Cantore, sings his praises. “He’s a very good broadcaster,” says Klemow, who first met Cantore when he was with 91X and she was the marketing manager at the Belly Up Tavern. “I learned a lot working with him on the air, and he never treated me like a stereotypical ‘woman’ co-host. He gave me punchlines, and he laughed at himself all the time.” She says he can be silly, but also vulnerable. “He’s definitely mischievous, a likeable troublemaker — kind of like a Bart Simpson,” Klemow says. “He’s also spontaneous, and goes off-script so well with anybody.”
Consequently, we’re all still listening. olasmedia.com