HUNTINGTON — If you walked into the Kindred Capital Building last Tuesday, chances are you may not have recognized some of the 50 people gathered.
But that all changed the minute they grabbed a microphone and opened their mouths.
While they may have gained a little gray, many of the golden-voiced DJs were well represented as Kindred Communications hosted the third annual Radio Legends Reunion, a Tuesday, May 7 luncheon at the Kindred Capital Building in downtown Huntington.
Nearly 50 legendary DJs as well as owners, announcers, sales people and staff from throughout the Tri-State attended, including radio veterans such as Jack O'Shea, Mike Todd, Ric Robinson, Steve Hayes, Ernie G. Anderson, and attending for the first time, Vince Markun, an Asheville, N.C., resident who happened to be in Alabama before the event and drove 16 hours to attend.
The event was emceed by Kindred founder Mike Kirtner, who said the event was his most stressful of the year because he wants to make sure everything is right for his fellow DJs. Kirtner said the event would not be possible without Kindred DJ and employee Jason Toy, who flew back in from a NASCAR race in Delaware overnight to record the event, and former DJ Jerry Crabtree who closed the event by reading a list of "Gone But Not Forgotten DJs and radio engineers, owners, sales people and announcers who have passed.
Before passing the microphone around the room for folks to talk about their time in the business, Kirtner said he is grateful to see so many people in attendance.
"As we have all gotten older, we have all discovered that our health is our wealth. It is just so good to see some of the guys here who have had some health issues this year," Kirtner said.
The attendees had a wide range of experience with some lifelong radio disc jockeys to others who spent just a few years in the business but were still impacted by their work in radio.
Some of the Tri-State's best known names, such as Steve Hayes, where there. Hayes spent "four tours of duty at WKEE" starting in 1972 and then worked in markets in Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida., as well as Houston, Cincinnati and Louisville.
Hayes, now program director at WNXT, The Mix 99.3-FM in Portsmouth, Ohio, said that save for one "three-month vacation" he has been on the radio since he started in 1972.
Jive Talkin' J.J., Joel Thompson "Jackson" said he did a 20-year run working at stations such as WAMX, WTCR, and WKLC among others.
"I did every job you could do in radio - and I did that too," Jackson said getting laughs.
Bob Moore, who joked that he is "a Bob spelled backwards," said he came back to the area to do radio and never left.
"I came back to the Kanawha Valley to see the sites and then I became one," said Moore getting a big laugh. He worked at WCHS and WTIP among other stations.
Ernie G. Anderson, who is still a DJ in Ashland at Kool Hits, 105.7-FM, said he is celebrating 53 years in the business and has never in that time been off the air in a calendar year.
Anderson started out as a junior at Man High School working for WLOG in Logan and got bit by the bug. During the 1980s his WKEE Top 10 at 10 had a 90 percent share of the teen listening audience.
Anderson, who also is well known for his years hosting the high school quiz bowl show, High-Q, said his goal is to be like Johnny Gilbert, who at age 94 is still the announcer for "Jeopardy."
"I have had a great run and I see no end in sight as long as my voice holds out look at Johnny Gilbert still going strong at 94 announcing for Alex Trebek," Anderson said. "It truly has been a blast."
One of the oldest DJs in the room was Jack Comer, known as Jack O' Shea, who turns 84 in June.
O'Shea, who DJs every other Friday night in Barboursville, said it was great to gather with so many former disc jockeys who share the common experiences of the drama and magic of working radio.
O'Shea, who got big laughs when he told the audience he spent "117 years at WKEE," said after the luncheon that it was really nice to gather up to talk about the business.
"I remember when I was at WKEE, we never really got together with each other. We may have known the names of our adversaries but we rarely met them and never talked to them or talked about it, so this is nice to get together," O'Shea said.
O'Shea, known to generations of pool-goers for his "time to turn so you won't burn" phrase since WKEE was played at all the pools, said he has always loved the business.
"I was telling Rick Robinson that some people get up in the morning and dread going to work and can't wait to come home. I never ever in radio woke up and said I didn't want to go to work," O'Shea said. "When I went into that control room I was like a 10-year-old at Camden Park."
While there have been many changes in the business, Kirtner said we need not fear the future if we keep radio something that is local and that connects with its listeners.
"One thing that you all talk about a lot is where radio is now. Radio is fine and future radio is fine... I hear people saying that radio is in trouble and I bring up the transistor radio and I go was it about this size? Kirtner said holding up his smart phone. "And it is in fact is that you have been listening to the radio station off the app all day. That is what Jason has been playing and that is where this is headed. Transmitters just like television are going to go where television has gone into cable and the satellite business. Yes the competition increases, but there is a magic word, local and if we do local we will be just fine."
If you missed the Radio Legends Reunion you can still listen to it, go online at https://www.facebook.com/bigbuck1015 and click onto the Sound Cloud link for the WV Radio Broadcasters Reunion 2019.