Memories abound of years on radio: ‘I like what I do’

Published 12:05 am Saturday, April 27, 2024

SALISBURY — Sixty years and counting.

For Buddy Poole, he has 60 years worth of memories of his time in radio, and more are being made every day on The Memories Channel 101.7 FM, 1280 AM, where he continues to connect with the community on both sides of the microphone.

Poole can be heard from 6-9 a.m., plus he serves as general manager of the station and does sales.

Being involved in multiple capacities at the station, he said, “is kind of old fashioned, it’s the way I started and been doing it.” 

A Salisbury native, Poole graduated in 1964 from South Rowan High School, and during his junior year in high school he walked into WSCT, on Old Wilkesboro Road at that time, and asked general manager Harry Welch Sr. for a job.

He was told that to be a radio announcer, he also had to sell advertising. Poole was willing to try and said it was probably at the end of his first 10 days, he had sold $800, a big feat considering commercials were $1.50 to $2 a spot, plus he got a 20 percent commission, more money than he had ever made.

When he first started, he said radio was king as there were very few television channels. People would cruise up and down the streets and listen to the radio and stop at phone booths to call in. Those were fun times he said when people called in to dedicate songs.

He entered the United States Army during the Vietnam period and worked on the radio in Nuremberg, Germany. It wasn’t unusual for people to call and ask if he was the “same Buddy Poole that used to work at WSCT.” That’s how he became friends with Joe Dean, also from Salisbury. 

“He called and asked me that, and we got together every weekend after that,” Poole said, and that friendship continued. Poole was announcing Catawba football and asked Dean to be his spotter for the games. Poole did Catawba sports for 22 years.

He has announced other local sports including Legion baseball and South Rowan football games with help from Gary Blabon, now president of the hospital, and Poole’s son Lance.

“We really had a lot of fun, and those were wonderful days.”

In 1969-70, Poole worked in Durham at WTIK, which he said was the biggest market he ever worked for and the first country station in North Carolina.

This is where he really got into country music. The artists would come to the station to promote their shows and he interviewed them, “and I got to be friends with many of them,” he said.

Country stars such as Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Minnie Pearl, George Jones and the Oak Ridge Boys are just a few of those he has interviewed with photos of many others hanging on his office walls. 

But one of his favorites, he said, was when he met songwriter Stuart Hamblen, who has about 300 songs to his credit including gospel songs, “It Is No Secret What God Can Do” and “This Old House.”

Poole said he had been playing his songs but didn’t know anything about him.

They met in Durham in 1972 while he was in the office and Hamblen, who lived in California, stopped by on his way to Greensboro for a concert. The two talked with Hamblen sharing multiple stories.

Poole said Hamblen shared one about his being a converted, recovering alcoholic and a week later he walked into KLAC radio station to do his show, which included songs and stories, and the general manager told him he had sold his program for a year. Hamblen asks to whom and is told Schlitz Beer. His reply was he couldn’t do show as he was a recovering alcoholic and was converted and he was fired.

He stood in food lines to feed his family, he said, and a couple months later their home was about to be foreclosed. 

His neighbor, John Wayne, was having a party one night and Hamblen and his wife Susie attended. Wayne made a comment to Hamblen about the problems he was facing and his response was “it is no secret what God can do.” Later that evening as the couple was preparing to leave, Wayne told him he should write a song about that statement.

Hamblen said he hurried home, sat down at the piano and about the time the chimes started to ring at midnight wrote, “the chimes of time sing out the news, another day is through” and in 17 minutes had completed the song.

Months later, he received a letter telling him to come and sign over his home. Before he left, he looked his mailbox and in it was a letter from Columbia Records.

He owed $22,800 on his mortgage, Hamblen told Poole and the check from Columbia Records was for $22,800.

“That’s a true story,” Poole said. “That was one of the most memorable people I ever met.”

There were also good memories for Poole in the sports world sharing how he interviewed coaches and players in Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh.

He was about 22 when Lou Boda, who was on ABC radio, the network that carried their news and his sportscast.

Boda tells Poole he needs interviews of coaches and players, and for each cut they use, he would be paid $25.

“In 1970, that was a lot of money, especially to me,” he said.

The NCAA tournament was being held in Raleigh and was once again asked to go and get as many interviews with coaches with the same payment deal. But Boda first told him to “say something that will tick them off and they’ll give you a better interview. Ask them a question that irritates them.”

He followed that advice with one Princeton coach but doesn’t remember the name, and it worked.

He proceeded to get interviews with St. John’s Lou Carnesecca, Chapel Hill’s Dean Smith and Davidson’s Lefty Driesell.

Poole was excited he was able to get four interviews and made $100 because they used each one, which made him feel like a king.

His interviews have extended to political figures as well including governors, senators and congressmen. 

He left Durham in 1979 and took a job as general manager at station WPCM in Burlington.

“Those were fun years. My daughter was born there. I loved living in Burlington,” he said. 

It was June 30, 2002, when Poole bought the local radio station and started calling it Memories 1280.

He sold the station to Bill Graham in 2015 with the agreement that Poole would stay on for five years or he wouldn’t buy it.

“I think I’m on my eighth now,” he said with a laugh. “But he’s a great guy and thanks to him, we’ve kept radio alive here.”

About 2016, Poole said they added the FM and now they have an app, called Salisbury radio, which is starting to catch on. And it still has a lot of hometown flair, getting lots of phone calls and doing old-fashioned things like their birthday calendar and obituaries.

And he is very appreciative to the people and all those who have supported the station through the years.

“I would like to give them a big hug if I could,” he said, “the listener is our best asset. The interaction with the people is one of the real joys that I get out of what I do.”

Another facet of Poole’s career has been hosting trips since 1972. One place, New York, has a special memory for him. He shared that he lost his first wife and later when attending a friend’s wedding, he met Diane Harrington, who he proposed to during a baseball game on one of their trips. He said he bought the scoreboard in the seventh inning and with the camera on them, he got down on one knee and upon standing, they received a standing ovation. “She’s a wonderful lady. She’s a real godsend to me.”

Poole’s career has taken him many places and he’s met many people, and when asked if retirement is on the horizon, he shared a story of a time in Durham when he and his late wife were listening to the radio and she told him the announcer sounded old, he should quit and would remind him when he started to sound old.

So what he says is, “when I start sounding old, that’s when I’m going to quit. It might be tomorrow. I don’t know.” 

Poole said his 60 years have gone by fast.

“We all have a season, and I’ve had a pretty good season to be on the radio for 60 years, he said. “I like what I do.”

During these years he’s done many things, running the whole gamut of the station.

“I can probably do anything but engineering, and,” he said with a laugh, “I’m not climbing the tower.”