An embattled former big-city DJ hopes to begin his road to redemption in Greenwood.
But his hiring has sparked a controversy, including a bomb threat emailed to the owners of country radio station 92.7 KIX.
David Mueller, who lost his job in Denver and later a lawsuit over his alleged groping of country music sensation Taylor Swift, returned to radio this week as a morning-show co-host on the Greenwood station that launched last year.
“I am very grateful to have an opportunity,” Mueller said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with the Commonwealth.
The 56-year-old DJ was fired from Denver radio station KYGO in 2013 after he allegedly slipped his hand under Swift’s dress and grabbed her bare backside while posing for a photo with her backstage after a concert.
Mueller, who continues to maintain his innocence, unsuccessfully sued Swift, claiming the allegation cost him his job and damaged his reputation and career.
Last August, a Denver jury ruled in Swift’s favor in a countersuit and awarded her a symbolic $1 in damages.
Mueller’s hiring comes as the #MeToo movement draws attention to sexual assault and harassment. The decision to put him on the air in Greenwood has produced some flak for the station’s owner, Delta Radio, a Las Vegas-headquartered company that operates nine radio stations in the Delta.
“He is a very good on-air talent,” said Larry Fuss, CEO and president of Delta Radio, in explaining his hiring of Mueller. “It’s extremely difficult to get people to come to the Mississippi Delta to work. I felt like he needed a break or a second chance.”
In a separate interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Fuss acknowledged that the decision to hire Mueller was “maybe a tiny bit” about the publicity the controversy would spark. Fuss told other media outlets that he also believed Mueller’s side of the story.
Delta Radio has received complaints from Taylor Swift fan groups from as far away as Sweden and Saudi Arabia.
An email sent Tuesday to a Delta Radio employee included the subject line, “You are all going to die,” and a one-sentence message, “Enjoy the bomb.”
A thread on Facebook has been launched asking fans to pressure the radio station to fire Mueller.
Mueller is hosting a morning show with Greenwood’s Jonbob Wise. Wise is best-known as the keyboardist in the band Gunboat.
On the Delta Radio website, Mueller’s photo initially appeared with the DJ name of Stonewall Jackson. By today, the “Stonewall” was dropped and just the name “Jackson” remained, a pseudonym Mueller said he has used since 2002.
Stonewall Jackson was a Confederate general during the Civil War, and Fuss said it is a Southern tradition for DJs in the South to go by former Confederate generals’ names. Wise said the name also referenced a famous country singer and guitarist from the 1950s and 1960s.
Wise, who does not have any prior experience working in radio, and Mueller said they are getting to know one another and the downtown Greenwood studio.
Wise said he “couldn’t be more excited about the morning show,” which is going by the name “Jackson & Jonbob.”
“We plan on doing a lot of good for the community,” he said.
For Mueller, who gets emotional when he talks about his troubles of the past four years, the road to Greenwood has been a long and difficult one.
“I never wanted to leave radio from the moment I was out on the street with no job and no income,” he said. “I immediately was sending my package around.”
The DJ had also worked in such major markets as Los Angeles, Kansas City, Missouri, and Columbus, Ohio, but had difficulty finding a big-city station willing to give him a chance while the controversy with Swift was pending.
“What it came down to is people said that they would be willing to hire me, but if I was going to file a lawsuit, then that would make it tricky,” he said. “No one said those exact words, but that is kind of how I understood it, and I said, ‘Well, I gotta clear my name.’”
He acted as an independent consultant for radio shows while looking for a new host position.
Getting back on the air, regardless of location, was always his goal, he said.
It came this week with some anxiety.
“I wasn’t really nervous, but I have never felt that way before,” he said. “I guess a little bit overwhelmed because I know how to do a morning show. I can do it in my sleep. I can do it in any market in the country. You could put me in any studio, and I could do a morning show.”
Mueller’s experience in country music is somewhat limited. The Denver station from which he was fired had a country format, and he also did a tryout for a country music station in Nashville. His speciality, though, is Top 40, he said.
Mueller was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, with his two sisters. After graduating high school, he moved to San Diego, California, where he worked for a phone company before enrolling at the University of California San Diego. While there, he found radio.
“My first job I was answering the phone for the night show. I got paid $5 an hour, and I loved it,” he said. “I told all of my friends and my family, ‘I know what I am going to do for the rest of my life,’ and they thought I was nuts, but I knew.”
After being promoted to the station’s morning-show slot, Mueller worked in several different markets through Clear Channel Communications, now iHeart Radio.
Mueller said that police were never involved in the alleged groping of Swift, and that initially her accusation was not publicized.
“Taylor Swift’s people didn’t want anyone to know” that they wanted Mueller fired, he said. “So I think they were just assuming that I would keep it on the down low, but I had to try and get a job.”
When Mueller learned that Fuss wanted to get in touch with him about working for Delta Radio, they got connected and met in August. He drove down to Mississippi in December.
“I came to Greenwood and looked around, saw where the station was going to be, and I really liked it,” he said. “I knew it right then.”
He said he plans to use his platform at the station to help the community, focusing on ways to improve the area such as reopening a movie theater.
“That is what radio shows can do. They have a lot of power to get the people in the community focused on something,” he said. “You talk about it at all the time and make a big deal about it.”
Mueller said there is a significant difference between working in radio in major metropolitan areas and small cities.
“I am learning that small-market radio is like I don’t need to be so wound up, ... ,” he said. “It would be like from going to the minor leagues to the major leagues and back down. The competition is intense when you are in a big market.”
Mueller said he sees his future in Greenwood and is excited to start working with the community.
“When you like what you do and you like the people that you are working for, I can’t complain.”
•Contact Lauren Randall at 581-7239 or email@example.com.