Torg & Elliott stronger than ever as QFM96 celebrates 40 years.

Erica Thompson
From left: Jerry Elliott, Kristie Kemper and Scott Torgerson

In July 2016, radio personality Scott “Torg” Torgerson decided to leave classic-rock station QFM96 after only three years on the “Torg & Elliott” morning show.

“They were nice enough to give me a farewell show [and] we got drunk on the air,” said Torgerson of the Friday broadcast. But he was back in the studio by the following Wednesday.

“I just got an offer to go to a different city,” Torgerson explained. “It was really a life-changer. I could have paid for all my kids' college [tuitions] within a short span of time.”

But the station owners worked out a deal that kept Torgerson in Columbus, which is where he preferred to stay anyway.

“Some people in our business said it was a stunt, and that pissed me off because I'm so honest on the air,” said Torgerson, who told the listeners about the situation when he returned.

“I'm glad it worked out,” he said.

That means Torgerson and co-hosts Jerry Elliott and Kristie Kemper were able to continue a successful partnership at the station, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The milestone will be honored with a bash featuring an Express Live performance by Alice Cooper on Tuesday, May 16.

“People always talk about ‘back in the heyday,'” Elliott said. “Well, a lot of the music was fresher then because it was new music at the time. But … what we have going right now is as good a morning show as we've had since I've been here.”

After spending time as a standup comedian, Detroit native Elliott joined QFM96 in 1990 and partnered with beloved radio jock Daddy Wags for the “Wags & Elliott” morning show for over 20 years. Torgerson replaced Wags in 2013 following his predecessor's retirement.

“We had zero knowledge of one another,” Elliott said of his early relationship with Torgerson. “I had never heard him on the air once.”

St. Paul, Minnesota native Torgerson enjoyed a long radio career prior to QFM96, with gigs in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Miami, and a stint in sports talk radio in Columbus. Though Torgerson had a rough entree to QFM96 — he was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease that delayed his start — he and Elliott discovered they complemented each other.

“He's got a lot of weird stories from his everyday life,” Elliott said of Torgerson. “He gives me a lot to work with.”

“I don't try to out-funny Jerry because he's hilarious,” Torgerson said. “There's no ego in anything that we do.”

A popular part of the show is the “hot five” segment of trending news stories. Torgerson and Elliott also throw out topics for listeners to respond to on air.

“A lot of mornings it's the callers that are funny, and many times our listeners carry the show,” Elliott said.

There are also celebrity guests, including everyone from former U.S. Navy SEAL Rob O'Neill — who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden — to “Saved by the Bell” alum Dustin Diamond.

“The only thing you know about him is the jail time, the anger [and] the ‘Celebrity Fit Club,'” Torgerson said of Diamond. “But then when we had him on, the guy was so funny and nice.”

“A lot of times we're on the fence whether or not to even take an interview, and then they turn out great,” Elliott said. “And then sometimes you're so looking forward to somebody and then they're not great. So you never know. We accept pretty much all the people that reach out to us.”

Whether they are on air or performing their live “Uncensored” show at a local venue, Torgerson and Elliott attract an audience of passionate listeners who sometimes display their devotion in strange ways.

“One time a guy brought in roadkill chili,” Elliott said. “I know that was just the name of it, but I don't know what was in it. … It might've been roadkill.”

“I had a guy one time say, ‘Hey, I got something for you in my trunk,'” Torgerson said. “And he opened his trunk and it was full of AK-47s and knives — like the big ‘Rambo' knives.”

The die-hard listener support has allowed “Torg & Elliott” to thrive in a competitive market.

“A city this size [has] either great talent on their way passing through up to a top-ten market or talent that's been top-ten that's coming back down at the end of their career,” Elliott said. “It's a real healthy industry in the city of Columbus right now.”

Elliott, 56, hopes to retire by QFM96's 50th anniversary.

“I don't think people realize what a huge accomplishment it is to be doing radio as long as he has at the same station,” said Torgerson, 44, who hopes to keep going “as long as possible.”

“When our mics are on, I don't think there's anyone more entertaining, who has better content [or] will make you laugh in the morning [more] than us,” Torgerson continued. “I really, truly believe that.”

QFM96 40th Birthday Bash with Alice Cooper

Express Live

7 p.m. Tuesday, May 16

405 Neil Ave., Arena District