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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Alan's story reposted from MySpace 12/1/2010
Legally blind man pursues dream of country radio

 

AlanMcCallradioboyalan
Alan McCall
Dec 1, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. --  Alan McCall of Tallahassee has had almost lifelong loves of two interests - country music and radio.

     Now 52, McCall has been legally blind since birth from cataracts. Several childhood surgeries improved his sight somewhat, but it remains 20/400 to the present day. He was supposed to end up at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind - but he never spent a single day there.

     This boy has really surprised us," remarked the late Dr. Harold Ward, one of the surgeons. "He has a fierce determination that I can't quite explain."   

     At age 12, he won a prize (an Elvis Presley 45-rpm record called "When You Talk in Your Sleep") from the then-country WMEN radio station. He was fascinated with the station's control room, which he was able to observe while picking up the prize (which he still has, incidentally.)

     His love of country music grew, and McCall remembers listening almost exclusively to country radio while he was in high school. At the time, he often listened to small town AM country stations during family vacations.

     He began collecting country music in 1971, and has never stopped.

     "My wife, Marianne, could have her own sewing and craft room if there weren't so many records and CDs stored in our house," he laughs.

      McCall studied journalism and English and worked for Tallahassee Community College's student newspaper, The Talon, from 1977 to 1979. He    finally broke into the radio business during the fall of 1979, after relentlessly applying for jobs, sometimes multiple times. It took him six attempts before being hired at WTAL in Tallahassee, working overnights at first, and later evenings and long Sunday shifts.

       He went on to attend Florida State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in communications in 1984.

       He also landed another radio job, at Christian-formatted WCVC-AM. He began as a weekend announcer, but later worked stints there in programming, sales and promotions, and one as a local station manager. Interestingly enough, WCVC was the once-country WMEN mentioned earlier.

        That job ended in 2004, and McCall found himself "on the beach" -  radio jargon for "out of work."

        He spent the next several years devoted primarily to his family - homeschooling two young step-grandsons, Benjamin and Daniel, now ages six and seven. Their mother stopped working in August to be a stay at home mom, and take over homeschooling.

        That's when McCall found himself feeling lost.

        "Suddenly, I felt as if I had no real purpose in like," he says. "I began taking a course in grant writing, and am planning to do that kind of work on a part-time basis. But I had two other passions - radio and country music."

        This fall, he began the transition of turning what once was a hobby - his Internet station on Live365.com - into something more. He tweaked the format, which had been a hybrid of country and oldies, into a solid country station. The music includes a healthy dose of classic country, although it also now includes the current Top 30 country singles.

         His station, now branded as "WJJD - Big D Country," is attempting what few webcasters have - live and local Internet radio. Big D Country is targeted specifically to Tallahassee and the North Florida and South Georgia area. McCall hosts a weekday morning show complete with traffic, weather, community calendar events, and other elements you might expect to hear on an over-the-air station.

         All of Big D Country's programming is done by McCall. He is constantly on the look for country music.

         "I have a lot of music, but invariably I'll get a request for something we don't have," he says. He would still like to buy the TM Century Traditional Country library, but says it's a bit too expensive for the station to afford right now. The station is owned by Delta Star Radio of Florida, Inc., which McCall founded in 2001. His wife and   parents are the other directors of the corporation, which is a registered Florida non-profit, but is not a 501(c)3.

         Delta Star Radio has recently purchased an office trailer, so Marianne McCall may get her craft and sewing room after all. The company has also purchased some updated equipment, including a new control board and CD burner for production.

         "I absolutely love the full service country format," McCall says. "I'm putting a lot of thought and time into developing it."

         Big D Country streams through Live365, and recently has had its stream syndicated by Radio Terra, offering the station's broadcast to a worldwide audience.

         He also hopes to one day be able to visit Nashville - the only place he says he hasn't seen but would really like to.

         "I'm not too keen on traveling," says McCall. "I'm a homebody for the most part."

         While he hopes the station can ultimately provide an income, he realizes it will be a difficult and slow path.

          McCall's income now is Social Security, which he earned after working for 24 years. Marianne McCall works for Leon County Schools, but has had her hours cut and benefits slashed.

         "We're having a hard time making it," she sighs. "Our roof leaks despite numerous attempts of repairing it and now the kitchen floor is starting to cave in, in places."

          She really would like to be able to work along with her husband with the Internet radio station, she says. But for now, "we have to eat," so she continues working with the schools. She has been looking for better paying positions recently.

          McCall does feel the strain and is preparing a media kit to aid with sales. They will offer low-cost packages to area businesses, and time availabilities for churches on Sunday.

          Despite their current situation, McCall is hopeful that pursuing the country radio station will ultimately pay off for them.

        "If we can just pay our bills and get out of debt, I'll consider this venture successful," he says.



                                          #    #    #

        The station's website is http://www.bigdcountry.com. Alan McCall can be contacted at alanmccal@hotmail.com.
       

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AlanMcCallradioboyalan
Alan McCall
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10:17 pm est          Comments



    This morning on the air I mentioned something that I would like to talk about a little more on the blog. I mentioned that I feel there is an element missing from much of today's radio.

     That missing element is "relationships."

      Several years ago, while I was working in terrestrial radio, the station went through several semi-format-flips, meaning they kept some programming but changed some others. One thing they changed was a mid-morning "gospel" show. It went from being hosted by a live DJ to being a sweep of music with no talk.

     Listeners described it as "cold and sterile."

     Before long I was back on the air in that time slot and managed to build a core audience around the local program.

      I often see Internet radio described as a "jukebox." That is, it is a computer program playing through a playlist. I'm really working to make sure Big D Country becomes much more than that.

      If I could pull it off, the hours I really would prefer to be on the air is not really morning drive. It would be more like 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

      It appears that middays are often our most listened-to daypart on Big D Country. More and more, however, it is a daypart that terrestrial radio is automating or voice-tracking.

      One of our local country stations is so voice-tracked it sounds "sterile." The voicetracks are very generic, almost never mention Tallahassee, or even the station's call letters, for that matter...and I've also watched this station slide down the Arbitron ratings. It has less than half the audience shares it once did.

       My station has been "Big D Country" for less than a month. Yet it is seeing quite decent audience gains, and the numbers are improving.

       Right now I am hosting the morning show on weekdays from 7 to 10 a.m. It has attracted a few regular listeners, but still needs to grow, of course.

       Whether or not Internet radio can become successful as a "local" medium remains to be seen, but I am working really hard to make it happen.

        I'm on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to do my best to connect with you - our listener. Radio is not just someone sitting at a control board playing music. It's about maintaining a one-on-one relationship with you. I want to know what songs you like, what songs you wish we'd never play again,  what information you want us to provide..that kind of thing. Or just say "hi!"

        Radio, including Internet radio, is not glamorous. We struggle to survive financially, the hours are long, it gets lonely, and it is pretty monotonous doing the behind-the-scenes things that keep something going on the air 24/7/365.

         We're the station...that listens to you! 
2:50 pm est          Comments


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