By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Shannon Gunz was preparing to enter ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2006 when she told her father, “I want to be famous.”
To achieve that, she needed to have the best internship. She gambled and applied at the then-singularly monikered Sirius for her required internship—and won. She hasn’t left since.
Gunz has become one of the most popular on-air personalities at SiriusXM, helming Ozzy’s Boneyard from 3 to 9 a.m. Monday to Friday; Turbo from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday; and Octane from 3 to 9 p.m. weekends.
Fans recognize her on the street and at shows—when there were concerts—making her one of the faces of SiriusXM.
“I’m so lucky to be able to do what I do and getting to play the music that I grew up listening to,” she says.
Gunz was born Shannon Turner in Prescott and grew up in Chino Valley. Her mom’s side of the family has a long history in Arizona, while her father—Lon Turner of Chino Valley’s Turner Pump—moved to the Grand Canyon State in the mid-1970s.
Gunz spent her childhood listening to music and working on trucks and motorcycles with Lon in their garage. She attended Mesa Community College for a couple years before transferring to ASU.
“I was actually on the verge of getting into the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and they required me to have an internship,” she says. “That’s when I looked at my dad and I said, ‘I want a big internship.’
“Originally, the plan was for me to get my internship at Sirius and return to Arizona. But then I decided, after being there, this was the company I wanted to work for forever and I didn’t want to leave. I switched schools (to Seton Hall) and stayed in New York.”
She interned for radio personalities Covino and Rich, who subsequently hired her because she stood out, she says she believes.
“After spending time as their intern, there was an element of me being different with those two,” she says. “They were from New York and New Jersey and I was from Arizona, where I was dirt biking and riding horses as a kid. I went to rodeos. I worked on Harleys and trucks with my dad.
“I remember when Covino or Rich were buying a new car and said, ‘Why would you want a stick shift?’ I said I don’t want to downshift when I’m going up the hill with a trailer.’”
Back then, her rural traits appealed to the satellite radio demographic, which was those who lived in the rural United States and those on long road trips, she says.
Gunz says she enjoys that her job allows her to go to concerts, but most important to her are SiriusXM listeners.
“SiriusXM has some of the coolest fans and listeners ever,” she says. “So many SiriusXM listeners are on ShipRocked, which is basically a concert on a boat. My fiance is in a band, and I go on tour with him. I can walk through the crowd and people recognize me from online. They don’t know me as the lead singer’s wife. They know me and they love me. They listen. Getting to hear that what I do gets people through their day is awesome. Getting to help bands promote their music and saving lives through music is great. It literally does save lives.”
Gunz’s fiance is Mudvayne and Hellyeah’s Chad Gray, who lived in San Tan Valley for more than 10 years. The couple lives in Las Vegas, within a few hours’ drive from the Colorado River, which she calls her “happy place.” It’s important to her, too, to be within three hours from her parents’ house.
The couple was slated to marry April 4, but, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they changed it to October 31. At the wedding, they’ll imbibe on their wine—Gray Gunz Cabernet Sauvignon, created by Desert Rock Winery in the Scottsdale Airpark.
“We decided—no matter where the pandemic is at that point—we want everybody to be safe,” she says. “We don’t want to postpone the wedding again, though. We’re going to get married at our place on October 31, but we may postpone the party.
“My favorite place in the world is the Colorado River and the lakes that are on it between Arizona, Nevada and California. My grandfather’s ashes are in the river. That’s my happy place. We’re getting married on the river.”
She adores Arizona just as much as she did when she lived here.
“Arizona is such a beautiful place,” says Gunz, who picked up a 1993 Chevy Blazer on her last visit. “You can be up north, up in the high desert by the Grand Canyon, where all the junipers are, where the elevation is higher.
“You can go down to the Phoenix desert. It’s just incredible. People say to me, ‘You’re from Arizona? It’s hot there.’ Not everywhere. Arizona is very much like California when it comes to being so many different elevations and stuff to do. Sedona is stunning. Camp Verde and the Verde Valley is beautiful. I grew up going to Skull Valley and riding my horse on my grandma’s ranch. It’s amazing.”
She has had plenty of pinch-me moments during her career, but one in particular stands out. Gunz was working in the Sirius studios, which rented space from a recording studio. Next door, Steven Tyler and Aerosmith were recording their last album.
“It was Sunday night and it was late, and someone was knocking on the door,” Gunz says. “It was Steven Tyler. He was trying to get up in my studio. He chatted with me and asked me if I wanted to listen to the album.”
She agreed and, after a studio tour, he sat her in the producer’s chair—right in front of the speakers—and played the album.
“As someone who listened to Aerosmith growing up and later in high school, they were still cool. They weren’t considered an old band. It was incredible,” she recalls.
“Months later, I was in New York City visiting and he was in New York promoting the album. He was in the middle of the interview and he walked out to say hi to me. My dog had passed away during that time and he remembered my dog and came out to talk to me about that. To have Steven Tyler come and talk to me on his own was super cool. That, my fans and the music make my career worthwhile.”
Shannon Gunz, Ozzy’s Boneyard from 3 to 9 a.m. Monday to Friday, Turbo from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Octane from 3 to 9 p.m. weekends.