Long-Time Local TV & Radio Personality Tony Vanetti Talks Life On & Off the Air
Writer: Sarah Morris
Photographer: Patricia Longmire
Tony Vanetti, a lifetime Louisvillian and popular TV and Radio personality, has been making his way through the local airwaves for the last 30 years.
“Anytime you can make meaningful change from your radio show, sit down and really talk to people, meet people and pick their brain live on the air is awesome,” Vanetti says.
Vanetti grew up in the St. Matthews area, attending St. Albert the Great, Westport Middle School and graduating from Trinity High School in 1987.
Shortly after graduating, he began working his way into radio.
“I never thought about getting involved in TV and radio,” Vanetti says. “But I did take that personality test everyone takes their senior year, and when it said radio and television, I thought, ‘Really? Radio and Television!'”
Vanetti was discovered at age 20 while “yuckin’ it up” at a local bar on Bardstown road by a guy from WQMF. He was then invited to the station the next day where Vanetti wrote some jokes and did a couple of character voices. Vanetti was drawn to what he’d seen and eventually got his start at WQMF after continuing to show up and hang around the station for the next couple of months, fetching coffee or driving the van.
At age 23, Vanetti became the youngest Afternoon Drive disc jockey in Louisville history. For the next 12 years, he spent time in classic rock radio at WQMF and before moving to 100.5 The Fox.
“I got to meet all of the rock stars,” Vanetti says.
From Green Day to Aerosmith, to Robert Plant, to Kid Rock, Vanetti made his name in local radio.
Vanetti grew out of the rock genre after having kids and set out to take his next career step into sports radio working for 790 KRD, Card Radio.
“I got to cover the teams I grew up watching and loving, University of Louisville basketball and football,” Vanetti says. “It was great. Being able to sit courtside at Freedom Hall and the Yum Center, it was an amazing opportunity for me.”
After spending another 12 years in sports radio, Vanetti knew it was time to move on.
Going from “Rock Jock” to “Sports Guy”, Vanetti has reinvented himself yet again and taken a dive into a new venture. Tony is now host of The Tony & Dwight show with partner Dwight Witten and is getting the opportunity to do something he finds more meaningful. Vanetti’s long-time listeners and fans have followed his journey, stayed along for the ride, and have grown with him into his new role in news radio.
His new show, The Tony & Dwight Show, airs on NewsRadio 840 WHAS from 6 to 8 pm. It’s a fun, upbeat show focusing on entertainment and is as Vanetti describes, “News first, fun second”.
For the past five years, Vanetti has also been a significant part of WHAS’s Great Day Live, as a field reporter and filling in as host, becoming a Louisville media staple, especially among the St. Matthews community.
Tony loves bouncing back and forth between his roles in TV and radio but is particularly fond of the opportunities the long-form radio show affords him when it comes to making a meaningful difference in people’s lives. He specifically thinks back on hosting Mulligans Living Kidney Donors. “They’re an organization that finds people kidneys. We have had them on the air four times and have been able to find kidney donors for two people,” Vanetti says.
Vanetti finds the impact of his new role particularly rewarding, fulfilling and has fully embraced this new step in his career.
A typical day for him begins at 5 am, starting with a hot breakfast with his wife of 20 years and their two children. After dropping his kids off at school, Vanetti makes his way to a live shoot or to host WHAS Great Day Live.
He then spends time in the studio at iHeart sifting through potential stories to cover during his radio show.
“I sit and try to choose which stories are the most interesting to you,” he says. “Out of 50 stories a day, a good show host will choose six or seven that work for his or her audience.”
On top of all that, he still finds time to meet up with his personal clients. Being so deeply committed to the local community, Vanetti spends time helping local family-owned businesses by writing and producing commercials for them.
After meeting with his clients, Vanetti meets up with partner Dwight Witten to go over stories, book guests and then they go live from 6 to 8 pm.
After a long day, he heads back home just in time to help with homework.
Vanetti is also heavily involved in several local charities such as WHAS’s Crusade for Children, Blessings in a Backpack, and The Healing Place. However, outside of work and volunteering, Vanetti devotes all of his free time to his wife, his kids and getting involved in his local community.
“Our life is the kids, our life is the schools, our life is here in St. Matthews,” Vanetti says.
Vanetti has spent his entire life in the St. Matthews area, now raising his children in the Holy Trinity Parish neighborhood, and he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“It’s a place where you can park your car on the weekends and walk to Plehn’s Bakery or walk to Target,” he says.
Vanetti enjoys most the close-knit community and convenience of being able to walk just about anywhere — to the bars at night, to shop or to a restaurant for lunch. He prides St. Matthews on having a primary focus on the high schools in the area and the camaraderie of St. Matthews residents.
“People call me Mr. St. Matthews, and one day I will run for Mayor,” he says.
Vanetti recently turned 50 this past February and when asked what other bucket list accomplishments he has he says, ”I’m doing it.”