Dedicated to my former radio co-workers now broadcasting on that “Great Transmitter in the Sky!” Steve Castle (Greene)-WJSO, Rick Darby (Deward Dear)-WKIN, Gary Meadows-WFHG, Bill Cramer-WQUT, Red Kirk-WJSO & WKIN, Dave Murray-WKIN/WZXY, Bobby Rivers-WZXY/WKIN, Dave Church-WQUT/WKOS/WJCW/WXSM/WGOC, Dave Barnett-WQUT, Art Countiss-WQUT/WKOS/WJCW/WKIN, Bud Kelsey-WETB, Bobbie Kabool & Ed Bryant-WQUT/WKOS/WJCW/WXSM/WGOC, Dia Bahakel-WKIN,Charlie Stuchell-WFHG & WKIN, Wayne Sparks-WJSO, Wayne Grills-WKIN/WZXY, Wayne Sizemore-WQUT/WKOS/WJCW/WGOC, Mike Reineri-WTFM/WRZK/WVEK/WKPT, Mike Padgett-WTFM/WKPT, Alan Giles-WGAT AM/FM, Bill Boyd-Holston Valley Broadcasting, Roger Epperson-WTFM/WRZK/WVEK/WKPT, Larry Harris-WQUT/WKOS/WJCW/WXSM/WGOC, Gary Potter-WETB, Leesa Wilcher-WTFM/WRZK/WVEK, Randy Ross-WQUT/WKOS and Jeff Payne-WZXY & WQUT.
Jeffrey Alan Payne March 2, 2021
I was saddened but not surprised by the passing of Jeff Payne today. Jeff worked with me at WZXY in the 80’s and we were together briefly at WQUT in the 90’s. Jeff was a wildly talented radio guy, both on the air and in promotions. He had moved to Canada after leaving the Tri-Cities and returned when he got ill. Jeff’s issues were more or less self inflicted. I can remember the old days of having to pour him into bed after a night out. Several of us close friends tried to help him out in later years but his path was pretty much set. RIP old friend!
Randy Ross January 30, 2021
I was vey sad to learn of Randy’s passing this week. Randy was FM Sales Manager for WQUT & WKOS in the late 90’s. He was a big Georgia Bulldogs fan. In the two years he worked with us Tennessee & Georgia split their games, each winning once. When the Vols beat the Dogs we decorated his office with plenty of Big Orange! Randy was a great guy and sales manager. He was General Manager of a station group in Knoxville when he passed.
Leesa Wilcher October 16 2020
Leesa was FM Sales Manager for WTFM, WRZK & WVEK for a brief time in the mid 2010’s. She came from TV sales but acclimated to radio very well. In her short time with us she did a fantastic job lifting up our sales team. Our programming/sales relationship was outstanding. Leesa even invited my wife & I to the Kingsport Chamber dinner in 2015. We were the only “non-sales” people at our table! Leesa returned to her first love of TV sales in Richmond VA when she got sick. She bravely battled the cancer till the end!
Gary Potter October 8, 2020
I just saw on Facebook that Gary Potter had passed away. He & I worked together at WETB in the early 70’s. Gary was a kind soul and a great guy. He helped train me and show me the ropes early in my radio career. I remember playing tackle football with Gary. Those who know him also know that you couldn’t bring him down once he got up a head of steam! Gary went on to teach broadcasting to countless generations of unsuspecting students! I’ll miss him.
Larry Harris February 18, 2019
Larry “Go Go” Harris worked at WETB in the 70’s. I was working the same afternoon shift across town on WJSO. Larry came to WJSO the same day I went to WETB as we swapped stations and shifts so we never actually worked together then. I would run into Larry at Sullivan South football games in the press box when I did play by play for Dobyns Bennett. He was their PA announcer. I would also run into Larry when he sang with the group “The Reflections.” I had the privilege of introducing them several times .Larry worked in Real Estate out of radio but came back to the Citadel stations in Gray to work in sales. He was still there when I left but had recently retired. I ran into him at Dave Hogan’s retirement party. Larry passed away yesterday at the age of 70. He was a great guy!
Roger Epperson May 28, 2018
We lost Roger today, Memorial Day, to heart failure. He had been in a Nashville hospital fighting for over a month. Roger worked in the News department at Holston Valley Broadcasting as our afternoon anchor. Roger also worked for me at WZXY in the 80’s. Roger was one of the most Happy-Go-Lucky guys I’ve ever known. He was the same age as me. It’s the first time someone I currently worked with has passed. RIP Rog.
Bill Boyd April 23, 2018
Bill Boyd passed away last week. Bill was the owner and Chairman of the Board of Glenwood & Holston Valley Broadcasting Co. When I was hired in December of 2012, Bill called me personally to welcome me aboard. I was very surprised, and impressed. Bill lived in California and would come to town for board meetings and company dinners. He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. Along with his wife Nancy, we would go out to dinner and they both were very easy to talk to and socialize with. (They both often gave me their margaritas to finish!) Although I only met him a few times, a great broadcaster and human being has left us. He will be missed. We had all just signed a large birthday card for him as he would have been 85 on April 30th.
Alan Giles December 23, 2017
I have mentioned Alan in another blog. I worked with him at WGAT AM/FM doing Gate City High School football & basketball broadcasts. He was a partner with Bill Meade & myself in the moblie Disco business. I also did some computer work for him at his office at the Weber City Cemetery. Alan passed away on this date from cancer. God speed old friend.
Mike Padgett October 24, 2017
I lost a good friend, former co-worker and wonderful human being today. I met Mike Padgett in the mid 70’s. We were direct competitors as he was on the air at WKPT the same time I was on WKIN. We got to be good friends and use to hang out together. Fast forward several decades and I got the chance to work with Mike at Holston Valley broadcasting. Mike had moved on to sales, but his first love and talent was being on the air. He would jump at the chance to fill in on our Saturday night request show on WTFM when I asked him. Before we changed WKPT to ESPN he used to do a live Oldies show. He did it without extra pay just because he loved it so much. I worked with his wife Angela at WQUT. Mike was very close to me in age. The same disease took him that took my mother-pancreatic cancer..such a cruel disease. This one really hurts. Keep that great transmitter in the sky humming Nature Boy!
Wayne Grills May 29, 2015
I first knew Wayne when he worked at Stereo Village in the old Kingsport Mall. Bill Meade, Alan Giles and I purchased our sound system from him that we did “Disco” dances with in the 80’s. The first system included 4 large Advent speakers. We promptly blew the woofers in them the first night. Wayne fixed them and we promptly blew them again on the second gig. Wayne suggested that we might want to get something a bit more robust, so we traded the Advents in on 2 very large coffee table sized Klipsch La Scala horn speakers. We never had problems again except for carrying them! Wayne came to work in sales with us at WKIN/WZXY in the 80’s. He later left to sell for WKPT radio. Bahakel hired him back to be the General Manager at KIN/ZXY. Wayne was local, and did a great job. It was the end of our “Manager of the Month” problem as we went through many “out of town” managers through the years. Wayne was great to work for and made working for Bahakel tolerable. I had hurt my back and was laid up out of work for a month. Wayne checked on me every day! He was the last manager for the stations under that ownership. I left there in 91 to work in Texas. Shortly after that is when Bloomington Broadcasting leased the stations and moved the studios to Gray. Under the old “LMA” rules, you had to keep a local office open, with a manager so Wayne worked there all by himself during that time period. Eventually Bloomington bought the stations outright and Wayne was out of the broadcast business.I remember Wayne as being jolly all the time. I don’t think I ever saw him angry. I used to get a kick out of him drinking coffee that had sat on the burner all day! He married Stephanie, sister of our receptionist Gretchen. We kept in touch when I got back from San Antonio. He did a little computer day-trading when the Internet came along. I sold him an old lawn mower and he sold me an old air compressor. He was always tinkering on old cars (Triumph Spitfires) or stereo equipment. He was a whiz at fixing this stuff. He actually re-coned the woofers on my 30+ year old Advent 1A speakers (that I purchased from him at Stereo Village as well) and I still have them hooked up to this day. Sadly, I had lost touch with Wayne over the last few years and was extremely sad to learn of his passing this week at the age of 76. I will miss you old friend…you were one of the good ones.
Dave Barnett February 27, 2011
I worked with Dave in the pre-Citadel era at Tri-Cities Radio Group. Dave worked several air shifts at WQUT, the last as part of the “Morning Zoo,” with Steve Mann before the “John Boy & Billy” days. Dave was a great jock and even better production wizard. My fondest memory of Dave was from the early 90’s.The team at TCRG went to one of those rope course management seminars. One of the exercises was for everyone to form a circle and, one at a time, each person would stand in the middle with their eyes closed and “fall” into the circle. The others would catch them. I suppose this was to show “trust” in your fellow co-workers. Since Dave was the “joker” of the bunch, when it was his time to stand in the middle, we let him actually fall to the ground! We got the last laugh on Dave that day! Dave passed away from cancer last week at the much too young age of 48. We’ll miss you!
Dave Murray October 21, 2009
Dave Murray replaced Ken Maness as general manager of WKIN when Ken left to run Bahakel Broadcasting’s stations in Chattanooga. I was very sad to see Ken leave, but Dave turned out to be a super great guy. He was one of us! He stood up for us poor announcers with the company many times. I mention poor, as most radio jocks will tell you that they all have moonlighted on a second job to make ends meet. I was no exception. Back then, I had a night job as the DJ of the old Nite Life Club in Colonial Heights. I mentioned that Bill Meade & I had a mobile Disco system that we used to make some extra coin. At one point, Dave bought the system from us (paid off the loan actually,) and let us use it for free….turning it into the “WKIN Music Factory.” We used to store the equipment in Dave’s garage. I’m sure we woke him and Martha up many a night as we arrived at his house to store the equipment in the wee hours of the morning! Under Dave’s watch, WKIN began broadcasting at night for the first time. (No more “sunset sign-offs!”) And WZXY-FM was put on the air. Bahakel bought the station from Herman Long (the old WGAT-FM) and it went on the air on October 31st, 1981 at exactly 1:05PM. Well it was supposed to go on the air at 1:05PM (coinciding with the station’s logo, Y-105.) We all worked for weeks installing equipment….running wires….way up into the night trying to get ready for the big event. On the day the station was to go live, we were nowhere near ready. The event was to include local dignitaries including Kingsport’s Mayor and Cy N. Bahakel himself! When Mr. Bahakel’s plane was scheduled to land, Dave was high up on the tower, finishing the installation of the studio to transmitter link. He sent someone else to the airport to pick up Cy. We barely made the 1:05PM sign-on, as Dave uttered the first words ever broadcast on the station. To this day, the rumor remains that the reason Dave left the stations was because he did not pick up Mr. Bahakel personally at the airport! After he left, it seems we went though “managers-of-the-month” for several years. Dave went on to build and put on the air several area radio stations. His first, he built and sold in his house in Colonial Heights! Dave was refereeing a soccer game in Kingsport when he tragically passed away from a heart attack. Ironically, my former boss at Northrop Grumman IT in Big Stone Gap, Vic Palmer was refereeing the game with Dave, and was the first one to get to him. I miss Dave very much.
Steve Castle May 31, 2015
Steve’s real last name was Green. Steve was instrumental in my getting a job at WJSO. I started out on Sunday mornings running the religious programs and that meant that he and the other full time guys wouldn’t have to work it! Steve was a real ladies man. He actually hit on my girlfriend at the time when I brought her by the studio! Steve went on to sell real estate after radio.
Ric’s real name was Deward Dear. Apparently he was of Native American descent. At least that’s what the company said in their EEO report! Ric did mornings on WKIN in the 70’s. He was quite a character. Bill Meade and I were always playing pranks on him, like running the commercial and music tapes halfway through and stopping so that everything he played the next morning would be messed up! He got us back though. He once called me the poster child for VD on the air! Ric was also the station engineer and was great at coming up with home-made electronics to make life easier for the jocks.
Gary was the afternoon guy on WFHG when I worked there doing 7 till midnight. He had a great radio voice. Between his and my shift, he would have to read the daily obituaries. He always ran everyone out of the control room so he wouldn’t ‘break up’ on the air. He had this very solemn delivery with the obits. We would still occasionally ‘get him’ through the windows in the studio and crack him up. There was always a moment of “dead air” when he had to kill the mike to compose himself! It was making a morbid subject tolerable. I remember him once asking me if I had finished school. I told him I hadn’t made it all the way through college yet. He said “no, I mean High School.” I said yes I made it through High School. He said he did not, as he thought it was “neat to make money instead.”
I used to listen to Bill when he did nights on WJCW when they were still Rock. I loved his “Ard the Wonder Toad” character and visited him at remotes he did at the “Stone Toad,” a local watering hole. My first personal dealings with him was in the 70’s at a radio commercial awards banquet (The ADDY’s.) He and I took turns winning the majority of the awards that night and we would “high 5” each other as we went up. I mentioned elsewhere here that he had offered me a job at WQUT in the 70’s. Bill Cramer was the one who put QUT on the map. Bill had come back to work part time at QUT toward the end of his life. He still had that famous “Cramer” voice! We planted a tree in front of the studios in Gray in his honor.
The very first words I ever spoke live on the radio on WJSO, other than introducing preachers on Sunday mornings, were “Now let’s go out to Sherwood Chevrolet, broadcasting live—here’s Red Kirk.” Red of course was the spokesperson for several car dealerships over the years. I even bought a car from him when he worked at Don Hill Pontiac. I remember seeing him playing his guitar and singing on the old Kathryn Willis Show on channel 11. Red came to work mornings at WKIN when we played country music. He of course knew the format up and down and had several hits of his own. He was a very genuine and talented guy.
Dia was, above all else, owner Cy N. Bahakel’s sister! She was officially the Assistant Manger under Ken Maness at WKIN. She was in sales, but did a daily 15 minute live show called “Today with Dia.” It was a show about “This, that and everything, from here, there and everywhere” as her intro recorded by Wayne Bernard (aka Charlie Chase) stated. Dia could be hard for some folks to get along with, but she and I got along great. I guess my biggest complaint was that she wrote her own commercials for her clients and I was always trying to read 45 seconds worth of copy in 30!
I first met Charlie at WFHG. He was the news director. He held the same job at WKIN for a while before going back to Bristol. My biggest memory of Charlie was going to his apartment one night. He had a bed and couch and the rest of his place was full of equipment…scanners and HAM radios that he used to monitor what was going on in the area and speak with folks from across the world.
Art was the news director at WJCW and WQUT for many years. He had also done TV news. Art was the consummate professional and went into politics toward the end of his life.
Wayne was the morning guy on WJSO when I got into radio. I used to get up on Saturday mornings and hang out with him at the station during his show. He was also into sales and did a lot of station remotes, including many with the above mentioned Red Kirk at Sherwood Chevrolet. He had this wacky sense of humor. Wayne worked at WQUT in sales before I got there. He was on disability for a number of years.
Ed was probably the most “colorful” guy I ever worked with. His official capacity was Business Manager at WJCW & WQUT, and the other stations when they came along. He was a top notch engineer and knew where all the bodies were buried, so to speak! Even though he worked for WJCW & WQUT, he was also the engineer at WJSO when I started there. Ed could certainly turn a colorful phrase, especially when you broke something! When the old Radio Electric business closed, he bought every single one of their tubes and stored them in an out building at the station. He had a big time collection of electronics and parts and could fix pretty much anything.
Bobbie was the long time Sales Manager for WJCW. She knew her stuff and pretty much every business owner in the area. Bobbie arranged for Bill Meade and I to travel to Anchorage Alaska to cover Science High basketball. That was certainly one of the highlights of my life. Bobbie was a real sweetheart!
Bobby Rivers (aka LA) did mornings on WZXY and he & I did Dobyns Bennett Football broadcasts for a while on WKIN. Dave Church was in sales at the stations in Gray. Bud Kelsey was the General Manager of WETB when I worked there. Wayne Sizemore started in sales, moved to News, then engineering at Citadel/Cumulus. Mike Reineri and Leesa Wilcher were FM sales manager briefly at Holston Valley Broadcasting.