On every profile at a public site, when they ask for some information about myself, I always write: "I was born. I'm still alive. The plan is working...so far." But what is my story? Really? It could be one of adventure and intrigue, science and discovery, or one of complete and utter boredom. Well, my life has been many things, but boreing it ain't.
I was born in Conway, SC, like a lot of people my age and from my area, but I had the good fortune to grow up in Tabor City. Now some of you are already questioning that statement, but I'll tell you truely, it was a good place to grow up. We had a good school. We had a lake. There was lots of good hunting and fishing. But most importantly, we had good people. There were a few who might not have been so good, but overall, good people. Friendships were forged. Some have lasted all our lives, and others ended when we walked across that stage to get our diplomas. We were like buckshot fired from a shotgun. We went together, but the pattern widned, and we went everywhere. Some have found their way back, some have not, and some never left. That's the way of the world.
I'm not sure when I first thought about getting into radio, but I'm fairly certain a lot had to do with Wister Jackson and Eddie Prince (the blonde-haired one, not the Eddie who looked like Elvis.) Eddie lived just up the street from me. He had, if memory serves me correctly, a Chevy Impala convertable. What makes this so important was he would let me ride with him sometimes on Sunday afternoons when it seemed like everybody in town was "Cuttin' Coleman's". It was a loop around town that you made over and over and over and...you get the picture. It went from Coleman's Drive-in past the high school, turn right at the stop sign, down East 5th Street, left on South Main Street, down to the Red & White, through the parking lot, and repete until you were dizzy. If you wanted a snort, you turned off Main and went down the Green Sea road to the bootleggers. I never did of course, but I heard tell of folks who did. People would come from Loris, Green Sea, Floyds, and even Whiteville to cut Tater town on a Friday and Saturday night and on Sunday afternoon, after church and dinner you understand.
Eddie had a music player in his car. I guess it was the fore-runner of 8 track/cassette/CD players. It held 45 rpm records. (For those of you who don't know what a 45 rpm record is, I suggest Google.) The record went into this player, and as they played, they dropped to the bottom. When thay had all played, and I don't remember how many it held, you reached under and pushed them back up, and they started again. I thought this was the neatest thing since toliet paper. In the back of my mind I think a seed was planted that if I could get a job playing records, I'd never set foot in another frigging tobbaco field as long as I lived. I do remember it was around 1968 because the big record of the day was Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey". It was a "tear-jerker" about a man's wife dieing. It sold a gazzillon copies and it was one of the biggest songs of the year. I remember on Sunday when he took me, his cousins Linda and Sherry, and Sherry's boyfriend Richard, (and I think Julia was along but I might be wrong 'cause she was only about 5 or 6) on several rounds of town. He must have been forced to take us. Linda I could understand because she was older, but me, Sherry, and Richard were way younger. (And I'm pretty certain quite bratty.) Almost every car we passed had "Honey" playing from either a player like Eddie's or the radio. Then I met Wister, who did the sports announcing at WTAB during basketball season...I think. Anyway, he asked me to go along to keeps stats for him because the regular person couldn't make it. I must have done a good job because I helped him out till the end of the season and got to go live on the air once in a while.
It was now 1969. That was a big year. In 1969 we set foot on the moon, the Manson murders happened, the Woodstock music festivel, and I got laid. But I digress. Wister had told me I could drop by anytime to watch what he was doing. I thought it was great. The idea that I could sit on my ass, play music, AND get paid for it was, in the venacular of the day, far out! I got hold of a book I needed to study for the exam, yes in those days you had to pass an exam to get your license.(Radio Telephone Third Class Operator Permit. 1st and 2nd class for those who wanted to be engineers. I'm looking at my old licenses right now.) Now you go to work for a station and you a crappy xeroxed copy of a "Temp" permit. Which means anybody can do it now, but then, you had to work for it. I took the test on December 1st, 1969 in Wilmington, NC. I aced it. Got all the answers right. I got it just in time to get some work at Christmas that year so the regular DJ's could be off with their families. From that point on, I made a major pain of myself trying to work all I could. I did races, church programs, sports, news, weather, anything to get "on-air" time. I worked with Troy Mac, the "Sharecropper", Loyld Gore, Benny Prince, and the late, but great, Jerry Jenrette. Jerry taught me several things about working in radio. One was being able to laugh at yourself. Have fun on the air and don't take yourself so serious. The other thing was, my voice was never going to be as low as his was. He had what I've always thought was the perfect voice for the radio. I told him that once, and he laughed and said: "And we both have the perfect face for radio." I've met people that have looked me in the eye and told me I couldn't be me because I sounded different on the radio. Lot's and lot's of practic to drop the accent a bit.
1970 was another big year. A friend of the family that worked for The Allman Brothers Band got me a job with them. I worked more for him than I did for the Brothers, but I got to hang out with Greg, Duane, Dickey, and the others. I even got to go to their famous last concert at The Fillmore East in March, 1970. They are one of the most awesome bands to ever tour. And the people that would slip on stage to jam with them is even more awesome. I got to stand backstage with Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana, Elvin Bishop, and the list could go on. I even got to share a doob...nevermind, I just remembered that wasn't me. It was someone I thought was me. But when I got back home, right back to the station.
1971. I was released on parole, or as some might call it, graduation. I went to work at the station full time that summer and for the next 4 years I'd like to think I rocked the Tater town down to the roots. I did the play-by-play for the Red Devils in football season but I didn't do the basketball games. Those Friday nights were date nights. As were any day with a "y" in it. I worked for some concert promoters I met while working with the Brothers, and got to see a bunch of big names for free. It was fun times. But I was beginning to get a bit tired of it all. Every day, you had to sit in front of that mike and try to come up with something new, so the listeners wouldn't get bored and find a new station. People have told me I made it sound so easy, and sometimes it was. Stuff would just come to me and I would be off on a roll. But by 1974, it was getting harder to make it look "easy". I guess that's why I started going to the bootleggers more and more. Going to the beach and getting so fucked up I couldn't remember driving home. And when you come home through the swamps and curvy roads we had to drive to cut time off the trip, that's not a good thing. By the end of 1974, I was ready for a change. I took most of 1975 off to clear my head and get free of the booze. In December of 1975 I got an offer to go to work at a new station in Whiteville. I took it because I realized I was never going to be happy until I was back behind a mike.
I went to work at WOOZ in Whiteville in 1976. It was fun again. It was a brand new station and were going up against the station that had been there for years. We kicked their arse. For the first 2 years we were on the air we ruled. Then something wonderful happened. In January of 1978, at the beach,(where else) I met a beautiful lady. We clicked and in June, 1978, almost six months to the day, we were married. It was really good times. We were married for 8 great years. Well, I thought they were great, but that's my story. Her story would different. But a wise man said there are 3 sides to every story...yours, mine, and the cold hard truth. But I know, deep down inside where the light never shines, it was my fault. She was a sweetheart and I could have done better, but I didn't and lost a wonderful thing out of my life. I wish her nothing but happiness, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. That's life in all it's ugly glory.
After the divorce, I still DJ'ed, but now it was in night clubs. I was a member of a band, toured with some bands, wrote and published some songs, poetry, and a few short stories. Now I do photography. I've had some pictures in some magazines, sold a few to National Geographic, which were never published, and just have all the fun I can. But way back inside, I know if the chance ever came along, I just might take another go at the radio business. So, there you have it. A condensed version of me. I think old Jimmy Buffet summed it up best in these lyrics: "Some of it's magic...Some of it's tragic...But I've had a good life all the way."