I Always wanted to be a DJ! 10/19/2009 By Bob Honeycutt
“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 (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 35
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.!
The End......and The Beginning!
My Best Radio Stories! 10/21/2009 By Bob Honeycutt
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 and Bobbie Kabool & Ed Bryant-WQUT/WKOS/WJCW/WXSM/WGOC.
In the early 70’s, Johnson City was in the middle of its second (or maybe third?) Liquor by the Drink
referendum campaign. The populace had voted it down at least twice before. During this fierce
campaign, I was working my regular Sunday morning shift at WJSO, running the usual fare of live and
recorded religious programs. This one Sunday, one of the “live” preachers spent his entire program
extolling on the evils of alcohol, and how the city should vote against the referendum. Well, about the
time the preacher left the studio, my brother Bill stormed in. He had a liquor store at the time, and after
realizing that he missed the preacher (I don’t know what he would have actually said to him,) he told me
to get my boss on the phone. I did, and my brother proceeded to demand 30 minutes of political airtime
charged to him at religious rates! (A difference of hundreds of dollars at the time.) I don’t know if he ever
got it, but Johnson City finally voted in liquor by the drink and became Restaurant City.
I’m not sure of the Janitor’s real name at WFHG, but we all called him “Ace.” Ace was Polish, and did not
speak a word of English. He cleaned the building at night while I was on the air, and we always feuded
on the level of my music in the studio, and him running the vacuum cleaner at the wrong times! We
would have world class shouting matches, him cussing me (I guess) in Polish and me ranting in English.
At the end of my shift at midnight, Ace would always be waiting for me next to my car. He couldn’t
actually ask me...but I drove him home after work the entire time I worked there.
Elvis & the Hound Dog Puppies
I can’t remember if it was the first or second time Elvis Presley came to Freedom Hall in the mid 70’s.
Both were some of the last concerts he did. Both times he came to Johnson City, they sold out of tickets
quickly and scheduled a second show the next night. At WKIN, Bill Meade and I came up with the idea of
acquiring some “mutt” dogs from the local animal shelter. Everyone was giving away Elvis tickets, but to
win from us, you had to agree to take and adopt one of the “Hound Dog” puppies. We had the dogs
corralled in the area of the station where the preachers came to do their live broadcasts on Sunday
mornings. It was also just off our main broadcast studio. Needless to say, we had a lot of barking and
howling on the air and the preachers noticed some strange smells in the air that Sunday...It was a blast!
The Humane Society was thrilled. People got to see Elvis and got a free dog to boot!
Big-K was a department store located where Big Lots is now in Kingsport. In the 70’s, we did live
broadcasts....pretty much every week there on WKIN....it was our biggest account! (Another Ken Maness
deal/closed on the golf course!) They would often call and want to “buy ALL our unsold commercial time.”
We would jokingly announce the time as “15 Big-K’s after 3 O’Clock!
Anyway, one year they thought it would be fun to construct a large plywood Halloween pumpkin on the
roof of the store and have us broadcast from it! We were up there for a straight week. Reggie Jordan, Bill
Meade, George “John-Boy” Carter, Oscar Harris and myself....looking through the jagged smile of this
big-ass Jack-o-lantern. There were always at least 2-3 guys in the pumpkin at a time. The premise
was....a great eye-catching gimmick where we would throw candy down to the kids...etc. The reality was
the coldest, rain-mixed-with-everything imaginable-most miserable weather we could possibly have. We
sat there, day after day....freezing to death, trying to talk on the radio through chattering teeth! I don’t
know who actually brought the “anti-freeze,” but toward the end of the pumpkin fiasco, we could all care
less about the cold, the pumpkin, the kids, Ken Maness or his golf course! I don’t think there are tapes or
pictures surviving the event (thank God,) but I’ve been told it was some of the funniest, best radio ever
broadcast in the Tri-Cities!
Which reminds me of some classic broadcast mistakes & Bloopers
Oscar Harris, broadcasting live from a beauty salon, meant to say, “Shampoo and Blow-dry for 5
bucks.” What came out was “Shampoo & ****- JOB, 5 bucks. They were lining up at the door!
Chip Kessler doing football play-by-play was trying to describe the “45 yard punt” that just took
place. Substitute a “C” for the “P” in the word punt, and yes a tape of that still exists!
Not to leave myself out of the embarrassment; during a football broadcast with Bill Meade, a
fight broke out between some team members. I was trying to say, “A fracas has broken out on
the field.” What came out was a “F**KUS!” Bill looked at me in horror and covers with, “yes Bob,
a fracas has indeed broken out on the field!”
For the first 20 years or so of Kingsport’s Funfest celebration, I remember being on stage, introducing
bands. In the early years, the “stage” was nothing more than a flatbed trailer. I introduced Knoxville’s
Con Hunley as the featured act on one of those first concerts. They’ve come a long way, and I met some
great artists over the years since the festival’s beginning in 1980.
One of the more memorable performers was Willie Nelson. One of the most “down home” superstars I
have ever met, Willie put on a great concert. Too good in fact. At the time (and probably even now)
Kingsport had a 10PM noise curfew ordinance. Willie was still going strong at 10:30 when a city official
came up to me and said I needed to get him to stop. My reaction? Like I was going to go tell Willie
Nelson to shut up, shut down and wrap up his show! When Willie plays, he plays till he wants to quit…he
played three hours that night, till about 11PM!
Another year, the stations sponsored Bachman Turner Overdrive. Randy Bachman was not with them,
but Robbie Bachman was. Steve Mann was with me on stage, representing WQUT, as I represented
WKOS. At the end of all these shows, the MC’s would go up afterward and thank everyone for coming,
and thank the sponsors. Well, at the end of the BTO show, Steve & I headed to the front microphones. I
reached out to shake Robbie Bachman’s hand…and tell him it was a good show. He grabbed my arm,
hard….got in my ear and said “get the #*!% off my stage!” I was so taken aback that all I could say was
“what?” and he repeated his demand. I guess he did not appreciate sharing “his stage” with lowly local
radio guys. I kind of moved toward the back of the stage, when just then Steve, (who knew nothing about
what had transpired) did a quick end-around, made it to the microphone, and thanked the crowd and
sponsors! Thanks for backing me up buddy, and “back to you Steve!”
Have you ever seen Don Raines?
Many of my former co-workers have become close friends over the years. When Ken Maness was
elevated to the position of President of Bloomington Broadcasting, sales manager Don Raines was
promoted to general manager. I was wary of this move, as I had complete trust in Ken, but I gave Don
the benefit of the doubt. As it turned out, Don Raines did more to support me there than anyone ever did.
I owe him a debt of gratitude as he bestowed more responsibility and trust in me than anyone I ever
Back before “corporate broadcasting” took over, when we were just Tri-Cities Radio Group, we used to
take all the managers and department heads on annual company retreats. This started under Ken, and
continued with Don…until such things were discontinued by the current corporation. Most of the yearly
retreats took place at beautiful Lake Lure North Carolina. (This is where the late Patrick Swayze filmed
“Dirty Dancing” and Daniel Day Lewis filmed "Last of the Mohicans.") The retreats were successful in
getting us away from the normal business environment, and gave us the chance to brainstorm plans for
the up-coming year.
At the end of each day, we would “retreat” to the local bar. I don’t know who came up with the concept of
Karaoke, but it must mean “bad singing” in some language. At these gatherings, (and subsequent yearly
Christmas parties,) everyone thought they were great singers! One of our favorites was Creedence
Clearwater Revival’s “Have you ever seen the rain?” We would substitute the words and sing “Have you
ever seen Don Raines?” (Sing it in your head…but keep in mind it must be really lousy…..it’s Karaoke!)
Most of the time, we would “see” and “hear” Don Raines attempting to sing Jimmy Buffet, as he is the
world’s biggest Parrot Head! Don is semi-retired now, (from radio, not singing) but is and always will be a
How cool is it to have “The World’s Fastest Half Mile” NASCAR race track right here in Bristol? Before
Bruton Smith and 160,000 seats, I remember going to Sunday races in the 70’s. It was Bill Meade & I,
his late father Art, a couple of coolers and a bucket of chicken. We bought tickets at the gate (when was
the last time you could do that?) We pretty much had the whole bleacher row to ourselves. Cale
Yarborough seemed to win every race back then.
Fast-forward to the 80’s, with a few more thousand seats, but still before the luxury suites. In fact the
only “suites” back then were the ones for the sponsors. I remember one race that WQUT program
director John Patrick & I attended. We talked our way into “The Budweiser Suite,” provided by our
buddies at Holston Distributing Co. (Radio people always know how to find the “perks.”) Our main
purpose that night was rooting against Dale Earnhardt, (he was never one of our “favorites”) and trying to
find a full keg after the one we were hovering over was exhausted. After several such “searches,” we
realized that we had company with us on our trek for liquid refreshment. It was (former Tennessee)
Senator Jim Sasser! He stayed right with us….keg for keg. We had some great conversations that night,
and I must say that for a politician, he was pretty cool. Anyway, of course Earnhardt won the race. We
drove home that night (on the back roads, for obvious reasons) in John’s open top Spitfire. John ended
up with a terminal case of the hiccups, and we drove the entire route home behind some really
obnoxious Dale Earnhardt fans.
I actually survived the “Disco era” in the late 70’s & early 80’s. I did the polyester leisure suits, The
Hustle, The Bump and lived through the “Saturday Night Fever” years. Bill Meade & I had a mobile
sound & light system, and cashed in on the craze. We had some great gigs, including some memorable
Christmas parties at the old Ramada Inn in Kingsport. I’m pretty sure we actually invented the “YMCA”
audience participation dance! Or at least we ripped it off pretty early.
One party I booked was for the National Association of the Deaf, out of Knoxville. We were going to play
music for a bunch of deaf people? Seemed strange to both of us until the party started. We made sure
our lights were more synchronized, and the base turned up more than usual, and they danced the night
away….mostly to the vibrations from the speakers. It was a wonderful and uplifting experience, but Bill
had the quote of the night. At one point, one of the attendees tripped over one of our cables. After
making sure they were OK, Bill uttered to me, “What are they, blind?”
My first experience doing sports play-by-play was in the 70’s as color commentator with Bill Meade
broadcasting Gate City football & basketball games on WGAT-FM. Man did we do some driving along
the back roads to such Southwest Virginia towns as Tazewell , Lebanon , Appalachia, Bluefield ,
Richlands & Grundy. I remember seeing a lot of Cadillacs...covered in coal dust! I will say that it
prepared me well for the job I did earlier this year for Northrop Grumman/VITA, based out of the DMME
building in Big Stone Gap. I had to visit some of these SW VA towns supporting state agency computer
Anyway, I really enjoyed doing those game broadcasts. Both coach Vickers of the basketball team and
Harry Fry with football always produced great teams…and we got to be a part of some great games. One
trip we really did enjoy was going to Blacksburg when Gate City made it to the state basketball
championship tournament that year. They played at Virginia Tech, and we were impressed. Current
WGAT-AM station owner Alan Giles was with us on this trip. (Alan was an original partner with Bill & I in
the mobile Disco business.) Our broadcast location was in the press box high up in the rafters of Cassell
Coliseum. We finally got all our equipment set up when we realized we hadn’t hung the station banner.
There really wasn’t a good place to hang the banner, but I thought I’d give it a whirl and climb out on the
catwalk, precariously over our already high perch. I’ve never been good with heights, but I was
determined to hang that sucker! At one point Bill & Alan had to grab me, and if it weren’t for them, I
would have been a greasy spot on the floor of the Hokie House!
Bill Meade & I went on to do Dobyns Bennett football & basketball games together on WKIN. Bill wound
up in Bristol doing Tennessee High games and I ended up doing play-by-play of the Dobyns Bennett
games (eventually taken over by John Patrick.) We all then found ourselves together again at the
stations in Gray. Later, WJCW sent Bill & I to Anchorage with Science Hill's basketball team to cover the
high school version of the Great Alaskan Shootout. Bill still does, in my opinion, the best daily sports
show and the best play-by-play game announcing of anyone in this area.
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.
At one time, I had a real aversion to country music. When WJCW went from Rock to Country, (late 60’s
or early 70’s I think,) I had a fit! No more Cramer Outrage or Ard the Wonder Toad. (You had to be
there!) Well, I pretty much had the same reaction when the powers that be announced that WKIN was
going Country in the 80’s. I went into it kicking and screaming. As time passed, I really started to get into
it….and now I have a great appreciation for the genre. I had the chance to meet some great Country
artists. I mentioned Willie Nelson. I got to meet Roy Acuff & Porter Wagner back stage at the Grand Ole
Opry. I saw Charlie Pride at Billy-Bob’s in Ft. Worth Texas , and shot the breeze with the group Alabama
several times over the years as they would always hold a media press conference before their concerts.
I mentioned that I survived the bad fashion statement known as Disco. Well I was certainly into the
country duds! My collection of leisure suits was replaced with western shirts, about 10 pair of cowboy
boots, some big time belt buckles and yes, I had a few cowboy hats! As you may be able to tell, I lean
more toward “Classic Country” music as opposed to the “New Country” out now. Hey, I’m an Oldie but
Goodie myself. I feel the same way about Classic Rock and Oldies versus new rock. I love good old
“crying in your beer” country songs. “God is Great, Beer is Good, and people are crazy”……”Beer for my
Horses”……OK so a few of the new guys and songs are OK.
I spent a lot of time during that era at local country bars and haunts. We used to sponsor all the shows at
the “Split Rail” club, which was located briefly where the Olde West Dinner Theatre used to be. I also
used to frequent the “Hitchin’ Post” in Bristol. If you’re going to play the music on the radio for a living,
you have to research the lifestyle, right? Country artists love to party, as exemplified by the many times
we were invited on board tour buses after the shows.
My favorite story from back then pertains to Sue Powell. Sue used to sing with Dave Rowland as half the
“sugar” in “Dave and Sugar.” Sue performed one night at the Split Rail Club. As it turns out, the current
rendition of “Dave & Sugar” was performing that same night up the road at the Hitchin’ Post. When I
informed Sue of this, she asked if I could take her there after her show to see him. Sure I thought, Sue
Powell in my car! I called ahead and informed Scotty, the manager of the Hitchin’ Post of the situation.
Well after the show my buddy Dave Stapleton and I waited at the back stage door for Sue Powell….she
was going with us! Out she came…with her husband (DAD GUM!) That’s OK, it’s all good. We took the
back road from Blountville to Bristol, and wouldn’t you know it, about halfway there…nature
called…..loudly….to my buddy Dave & I! It was about 2 in the morning, and nothing was open……so we
did what any good ol’ redneck country boys would do in that situation; we stopped on the side of the
road! When we got there, they ushered us straight to the stage….and Sue Powell and Dave Rowland
had a wonderful reunion.
But to this day, my buddy Dave’s main claim to fame is that he peed in front of Sue Powell!
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
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!