1. Life & Culture

Bubba the Love Sponge's producer quits show

Brent Hatley, the producer who has served as right hand to Tampa shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem for 13 years, has resigned from the show, citing a desire to move on to greater challenges.

Hatley, 41, stressed that his departure wasn't the result of acrimony between he and Clem, a local star with a reputation as a difficult boss. Instead, the longtime producer said he wanted to try for a few higher-profile jobs, which he couldn't negotiate while still working for Clem.

"I'm not mad and I'm not upset with Bubba," said Hatley, who declined to reveal what new jobs he was pursuing. "He's a friend. I just want to do what's right for me."

Clem told listeners of the decision on Wednesday morning, saying he was surprised when Hatley told him Monday about his plans. He asked his longtime producer to think about his decision for a day, and said Hatley sent an email Tuesday confirming the resignation.

Shannon Burke, a host on Clem's online radio service Radio IO, was announced as Hatley's on-air replacement. Clem said he'd get a one-week tryout starting Monday.

Burke, who developed an image as a tough-talking, motorcycle riding host in Orlando, was arrested there in 2009 for an incident in which he shot his wife's dog and the bullet grazed his wife's head. He served more than six months in jail and was fired by Clear Channel Radio, working at a few AM stations in Orlando before joining Clem's Radio IO. (Perhaps predicting the carping some might indulge, Clem aired a parody song about Burke's shooting incident by the end of Wednesday's show.)

"(Hatley) feels he needs to branch out ... I kinda got (blindsided) by it," Clem said on air Wednesday. "But he's got an open door to always come back. There's not a low road to be taken here." Clem's show is produced independently for broadcast on Cox Radio-owned WHPT-FM (The Bone 102.5) and syndication.

Hatley has been Clem's top producer through the biggest controversies of the shock jock's career, including his trial (and acquittal) on animal cruelty charges for the 2001 slaughter of a live boar on air; his record $750,000 indecency fine in 2004 from federal authorities; his firing by Clear Channel and move to satellite radio; his return to terrestrial radio in 2008; and the five-year lawsuit filed by rival Todd "MJ" Schnitt.

Now, with the Schnitt lawsuit resolved — a jury ruled in Clem's favor and a mediated settlement ended any future claims — Hatley said the time is right for him to move on.

"He who has the most nerve wins," he added, laughing. "I'm 41 and I feel like I need to hit a home run on my own."