By Andrew Alexander, DIG Sports Editor
Sitting in a cramped studio off Government Street in the Guaranty building, producer James Haralson is busy orchestrating several elements of After Further Review, a daily afternoon sports talk radio show hosted by Matt Moscona on 104.5/104.9 ESPN.
From recording said show as a podcast, to cutting promos with Moscona during commercial breaks and fielding calls from fervent Baton Rouge sports fans, Haralson seemingly is always multitasking, hands whizzing across the soundboard and multiple keyboards.
On this day, Haralson is not wearing a undershirt, flaunting the part of him that’s made him one of the most lovable personas on Baton Rouge’s airwaves: Jimmy Chest Hair.
“The nickname Jimmy Chest Hair started when I showed up to work without an undershirt on and Matt Moscona started making fun of my chest hair,” Haralson said. “It became an on-going bit on the air.”
An anonymous user in Guaranty’s social media app “The Huddle” called Haralson “Jimmy Chest Hair” and the name stuck.
“It isn’t so much that James’ chest hair is voluminous, it’s just that he’s willing to expose it,” Moscona explained.
In fact the very first thing Haralson told his now-fiancée when he met her was about the entire on-air persona.
“She’s not grossed out by it,” Haralson said. “She thinks it’s kind of amusing that so many people ask about my chest hair. It’s so bizarre the amount of the grown men that have asked to see my chest hair.”
Haralson (@jamesharalson) wears many hats for Guaranty Media, serving as Assistant Program Director for 104.5/104.9 ESPN, producer for sports talks shows After Further Review and Morning Drive with Culotta and The Prince and hosting Hair Nation with Jimmy Chest Hair on Eagle 98.1 FM.
As the producer of two popular daily sports talk radio shows, regular listeners are likely familiar with Haralson and his accompanying Jimmy Chest Hair persona.
“Jimmy Chest Hair is more popular than James Haralson, and I accepted that a long time ago,” Haralson said.
Haralson begins prepping for Culotta and The Prince around 5:00 a.m. every morning.
“A lot of your prep for a morning show usually occurs the day before or the night before,” Haralson said.
After a mid-day break, Haralson returns to produce After Further Review from 3-6 p.m. He finishes up the day as the host of Hair Nation with Jimmy Chest Hair, a nightly show featuring classic and hair metal rock.
“It’s usually a different kind of vibe,” Haralson said. “It’s much more laid back and much more music based. I’ll usually incorporate a lot of sports and a lot of entertainment.”
As a former weatherman for LSU’s Tiger TV, Haralson never envisioned he would be known for his furry chest, but he has to clear the air on the actual amount of hair on his body.
“I’m not as hairy as people think I am,” Haralson said. “Everyone thinks I’m some Chewbacca, got hair coming out of my ears. I blame Matt Moscona for that because Matt Moscona paints this picture that I’m some sort of Wookie, some sort of Sasquatch living in a cave.”
Haralson’s first job at Guaranty was essentially baby-sitting the station and making sure nothing went off air, but Jimmy Chest Hair made the most of his opportunities getting to produce the then Bill Profita Show on Talk 107.3 FM and then cut his teeth working with Culotta and former LSU football star T-Bob Hebert on Off the Bench, a former evening sports talk show on 104.5/104.9.
Although he’s worked his way up the ranks of Guaranty and now has a wildly popular alter ego, Haralson does not consider himself a high-ranking local celebrity.
“If we’re ranking things by levels, I’d probably call myself a D-List celebrity or maybe an E-List celebrity,” Haralson said. “I’m the guy down the depth chart that you get to show up to your event when eight other people have turned you down.”
“Jimmy Chest Hair is more popular than James Haralson, and I accepted that a long time ago.”
– James Haralson
– James Haralson
To the listeners, Haralson might be Jimmy Chest Hair, goofy producer who loves the band U2 and zombie movies, but the behind the scenes, Haralson’s co-workers are quick to tell you that JCH is one of the hardest working people in Baton Rouge radio.
“His attention to detail separates himself from most others,” Guaranty Media Vice President Gordy Rush said. “James has a passion for producing ‘compelling content.’”
Desire, pride and passion are used to describe Haralson’s work ethic in his many roles around Guaranty.
“His greatest strength in producing Culotta and The Prince is anticipation,” Culotta said. “He has great anticipation with sound clips, bites, etc. It’s great security as a host.”
“James cares,” Moscona said. “He wants the product to sound sharp and professional and the best it possibly can. He will go above and beyond to make sure his elements of the show sound clean. He is a whiz at production. So many of the elements you hear are his own creativity that he puts together in editing software.”
Haralson spends part of his daily time behind the glass fielding calls from Baton Rouge sports talk fans, eager to add their two-cents to the airwaves with Moscona, Ponamsky or Culotta, and occasionally a prank call gets through.
“You can usually tell a prank call because they don’t really give a detailed reason for why they called,” Haralson explained.
Haralson recalled a Fat Albert impersonator who frequently used to troll the station by belting out, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” on the airwaves.
“A lot of people think that I don’t screen calls because some yahoo gets on,” Haralson said. “What they don’t realize is I screen a lot of calls, day in and day out. There’s a lot of people who don’t make it to the air, and I think we’re better as a city for not listening to these calls.”
Haralson said the best part of working in radio is forming a personal feel with the listeners.
“When I compare radio to television, radio is much more intimate,” Haralson said.
One day an older listener of After Further Review called the show during a busy segment. Though Haralson was busy, the caller was a regular, so he took a few seconds to hear the man out. The caller told him that he had recently lost his wife to cancer, and listening to After Further Review, with the classic rock bumpers in and out of breaks and the goofy banter between Haralson and Moscona was keeping him going through his recent personal tragedy.
“That one really hit home for me, and it’s the one that I remember the most out of all of the calls I’ve screened,” Haralson said. “[Radio] is fun, it’s a fun atmosphere, but there are people who legitimately look forward to this show and they really depend on listening to this. It’s more than just producing for me, it’s more than just sports radio. This can impact people’s lives.”