“I couldn’t even spell D-J, now I-R one!” (Old radio joke)
I always wanted to be a D.J.! As a kid, way before my voice actually changed, I would practice imitating the Disc Jockeys of the day at WJSO, the popular Johnson City Tennessee Top-40 station. I would play my 45’s on my little Hi-Fi record player, introduce them, announce the weather, and record it all on my little reel-to-reel tape recorder. Of course it didn’t help that I grew up within the shadow of the radio tower of WJSO. I use to hang out at the station a lot and got to know all the guys: Wayne Sparks, Al LeFevere, the late Steve Castle and Gary Nelson. The program director, Don Dale came in one day and told me that they were either going to run me off or put me to work. They put me to work… running the “God-Squad,” Sunday morning religious programs! That led to working Saturdays & Sundays, then eventually weekday afternoons. Yes, 7 days a week….and I was “part-time!” This was the early 70’s…I was a Junior in High School!
People often ask how I came up with my radio name. When I started at WJSO, they had “jock shouts” and jingles for all the announcer’s names. Wayne, Al, Don, Steve & Gary all had one. I wanted one too! As it turns out, the jingle package they had containing all these guy’s “shouts” had a few extra. The only two left that had not already been used were Bob Gordon and Bobby Holiday. I actually kicked around the Bobby Holiday name a while. I thought it was cool…and a great bogus radio name before settling on Bob Gordon. Weird that both were derivatives of my own “real” name. Anyway, the name stuck for all these years. In retrospect, I wish I had used my real name….it would have made my late father proud.
After leaving WJSO, I interviewed with the late Bill Cramer, then the bearded, long-haired program director at WQUT. He offered me a part-time job. Of course back then, QUT was the “Hippy, Laid-Back, AOR, College Radio, Play-anything-off-the-album-EXCEPT-THE-HIT station.” I was scared to death! All I had done was Top-40. That very same day, “Daddy-O-Don” Gibson called and offered me a job at WETB….the other Johnson City Top-40 station…..saved from the Hippies and evil FM!
From there I went to work for WKIN…the popular Top-40 station in Kingsport. After only a few months working part-time, Bill Hagy called and offered me a full-time job at WFHG, the popular Top-40 station in Bristol. (See a trend developing here?) I took the job at WFHG, but Bill made me use the air-name “Rocky King!” I hated it. It’s the only time in my radio career that I did not use the name Bob Gordon. I was only there a few months doing the 7-midnight shift when my old program director Reggie Jordan called and offered me a full-time day job back at WKIN. I stayed there this time for sixteen years, and helped put WZXY-FM on the air in 1981.
I was fortunate to work for all 3 of the Tri-Cities top AM stations in their heyday. Depending on which of the 3 cities you lived in: Johnson City, Kingsport or Bristol; WJSO, WKIN & WFHG were the stations of choice back in the day. Then came the time period when AM radio started its decline, and higher fidelity FM radio became more popular.
In 1991, I left the Tri-Cities for the only time in my life to work again for Reggie Jordan, then GM at the legendary KISS in San Antonio Texas. Reggie hired me as program director of KISS-AM, but I ending up acquiring responsibilities for KISS-FM too, as after a few months, there was a major house cleaning and Reggie left. They kept me, but there I was-this Tennessee boy stuck all the way in Texas… without a friend in the world for support. It was a guy named Ken Maness to the rescue! Ken was the General Manager and my (and Reggie’s) boss at WKIN when he left to run Bahakel Broadcasting’s stations in Chattanooga in the 70’s
Anyway, back in Texas, I knew the writing was on the wall….and was looking to somehow get back to Tennessee. By that time, Ken Maness was the GM at WQUT and WJCW in Gray. I called him to ask about a company in Chattanooga that I was applying with. Ken asked me if I really wanted to come back to Tennessee, and he told me what he had up his sleeve. WQUT and WJCW, a part of Bloomington Broadcasting at the time, was to be one of the first companies in the country to do a radio “LMA” (a local marketing agreement.) They were going to run WZXY & WKIN, my old stations in Kingsport! They moved both stations to the studios in Gray, and changed the call letters WZXY to WKOS. We always joked that it stood for “Ken’s Oldies Station!” I was programming “Oldies” at KISS, and Ken asked me if I would like to come work for his “new Oldies station,”…..I jumped at the chance! Thank you Ken Maness for bringing me back to good ol’ Tennessee! (I will add here that Ken has forgotten more about computers than I’ll ever know!)
The FCC eventually dropped the rule on how many stations a company could own in a single market. This did away with the LMA’s. Deregulation brought on the mega-companies. Bloomington actually bought those two stations outright, along with WGOC. We later changed WGOC to WXSM, call letters I came up with for…the “Xtreme Sports Monster!” Then, sadly, WKIN totally disappeared and became WGOC. Other stations changed formats….(you really need a score card!) Citadel Broadcasting bought Bloomington, along with a butt-load of other stations. In 2008, after being there 17 years… during this country’s worse recession and economic times since the great depression…..Citadel laid me off, and I was out of the radio business for the first time since High School. As the industry had gotten more computerized, so did I to keep up. Thank God I got into computers….it’s paying the bills….but I always wanted to be a D.J.!