Fast, free and always off script

It’s a bit past 3 on a Saturday afternoon, and Country Chuck is comparing himself to household cleaning supplies and perspiration-absorbing skin care products.

“I’m the guy who’s done for radio what Swiffer has done for dust,” he says, his needle-sharp tongue adding a little edge to the airwaves. “I’ve done for radio what Gold Bond medicated powder has done for sweat.”

And with that, Country Chuck cues up a couple of chestnuts from old school country crooners such as Mark Anderson and Tommy Overstreet, boozy ballads strewn with cheating women and empty beer bottles.

It’s been a few months since songs like these, introduced by a personality akin to a bullwhip, have been heard on local radio.

There was a time when it seemed like both may have been gone for good.

But Country Chuck, aka Charles Berberian, has returned.

“I’m back on the air now,” he says during his show three weeks into a new stint from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturdays on KLAV-AM (1230). “When I was out of work, I was working as a door-to-door vasectomy salesman.”

For dyed-in-the-wool Las Vegas country fans, Berberian’s weekly call-in request show, which debuted in 1999, is required listening.

His show is built around a playfully combative rapport with listeners, a mix of winking exasperation and genuine affection.

What’s endeared him to audiences over the years is the same thing that raises the hackles of some modern-day radio station music directors: Country Chuck likes to talk, as he readily acknowledges during a chat at The Orleans on a recent Thursday.

“When I got into this thing, we talked after every song,” he says, his Philadelphia Eagles wristwatch underscoring his East Coast roots. “You had to use your brain to think of something to say. Now, they’ve got liner cards, ‘Read this here,’ ‘Do the weather here.’ ”

Berberian’s the kind of guy who gets right to the point.

“Sometimes, I’m rather abrupt,” he says.

But this is what sets him apart from so many contemporary radio personalities: in an era of corporate playlists and canned on-air dialog, Berberian doesn’t stick to any script.

Nor has he ever.

Since coming to Vegas in 1975 to spin adult contemporary tunes on KROK, Berbarian has worked at KRAM, KWNR and, most recently, KCYE, with which he parted last year.

Now, he’s doing his own thing, serving as his own boss, buying time on KLAV and recruiting sponsors. He signed a two-month contract and will be on-air until Aug. 23. Then he’ll decide whether to continue with the show.

If he goes, there won’t be another like him.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

Find more on Las Vegas’ music scene at bestoflasvegas.com.