Good Morning Columbia.

By Abigail Thielke

You may have read Et Cetera in the April 2015 issue of CMM spotlighting a fond memory of interviews past. Here, you will find an extension of that column, in it’s original entirety straight from 1990s. We invited the current stars from the top eight radio stations for a casual forum. After asking their listeners to send us probing questions, we were loaded with great ammunition … which made for a hilarious day. We well remember their quick wit, comedic timing and poignant zingers, and the fun they had ribbing each other about blips and bloopers made on air, and of course, the good natured arguments about the best ratings.

As a special treat, we are posting the entire forum script. After reading their entertaining answers, we think you will agree that Columbia had a special line up of radio hosts. While we are glad that Jonathon Rush, Captain Telegram and Brent Johnson are still on the airwaves, we miss the days of so many local personalities on our radio stations.


So, let’s get started…

The morning DJ stars of the Midlands arrived at the old Vista Central Station … catered all those years ago by the ever popular Lillian’s.

The people responsible for waking up the city and for setting the tone for the entire community to start another day had finally gathered under one roof. In preparation for the event, the stars of the top-rated eight radio stations requested that their listeners send in probing, serious and crazy questions. How can Jonathon Rush get away with some of those more risqué comments on air? What is the number of radio stations where Woody Windham has worked?



What is Columbia’s best pick-up line?

Sammy Owens: Are those real?

Brent Johnson: Hello, my name is John Wrisley.

Ken Martin: I’m Gene McKay.

Dave Wright: Show me the way to your place.

John Wrisley: I’ve got a copy of a String of Pearls.

In agreement, the DJs said: It’s NOT, Hello, I’m a morning radio star!


What do listeners tell you when they first meet you in person?

Jim Mason: I thought you were older and fatter.

Dave Wright: You really are that old.

Bill Benton: I went to school with your son.

Curtis Wilson: You don’t look like you sound.

Captain Telegram: You are worse looking than you sound.

Woody Windham: No wonder you’re on the radio and not on TV.

Zack Daniels: You sound a lot taller.


Do you have instructions on what to do if aliens land in the Midlands and or another emergency?

Leo Windham: Call John Wrisley.

Brent Johnson: Seriously, we have a little book with an envelope inside with instructions.

Jonathon Rush: Yeah, and the instructions say to call John Wrisley and tell him to kiss his a- goodbye. Are these guys EVER serious?


What is the longest song you have ever played?

Sammy Owens: Holiday by Madonna.

Curtis Wilson: Thriller by Michael Jackson.

Zack Daniels: Can You See by Marshall Tucker Band.

Ken Martin: Hey Jude by The Beatles.

Jim Mason: Never Even Call Me By My Name by David Allan Coe.

Dave Dixon: Elton John songs.

John Wrisley: Sing, Sing, Sing by Benny Goodman.

Dave Wright: One of those old songs by Gene Krupa.

Bill Benton: El Paso by Marty Robbins (1950s)

Leo Windham: Inna Gadda Di Vida (In the Garden of Eden) by Iron Butterfly.

Woody Windham: American Pie by Don McClean.

Brent Johnson: Do You Feel Like We Do by Peter Frampton.

Kathy Scott: Rapper’s Delight by Sugarhill Gang. Great song!

Jonathan Rush: The One by Elton John.


What do you do when nature calls you away from the microphone while you’re on air?

Curtis Wilson: That brings us back to the question about the longest song you play!

Dave Wright: I always called these the ‘head’ songs – when I could use the head!

Jim Mason: That’s the best part about having a partner.


How did you get into broadcasting?

Dave Dixon: I couldn’t get a real job…!

Bill Benton: My grandmother told me when I was 8 that I should go on the radio. My uncle suggested it when I was 10 – and I started with television production in high school.

Brent Johnson: A lot of us are aspiring musicians – and this is as close as we can be.

Leo Wyndham: My brother, Woody, gave me a job because I was going to Carolina, and I needed the money.

Dave Wright: I won a junior DJ contest at 14. A little radio station in Charlotte hired me immediately – and I have been on the air ever since.

Jonathon Rush: I first realized I wanted a career in radio one blistering day riding the tractor is Saluda County – and listening to Gene McKay, Dave Wright and Bill Benton cutting up and having a good time. These guys were and are a real inspiration for me.

Ken Martin: I have to agree. And I must say it is a real pleasure being here today with them in our presence. They have made it to where we all want to be.

(With these sentiments shared, a round of applause broke out).



Who has worked on the most radio stations?

That would be me, Woody Wyndham said, shifting the mood from one of sentiment to laughter.


Who has the best reason to leave a job?

That would be me, Woody said, bringing an even louder outburst of laughter.


Who gets in the most trouble with the boss?

That would be me, Woody said.

That would be Woody, they all responded in perfect chorus, hitting the tables and laughing at the thought.


Who do you listen to when you are not broadcasting?

Bill Benton: I listen to nighttime a.m. radio.


What are your passions outside of work?

Golf, many said.

John Wrisley: Grandchildren.

Sammy Owens: Housesitting for Kathy Scott’s dog, Lucky.

Kathy Scott: Her name is LUCY, Sammy!

Curtis Wilson: Football.

Bill Benton: Hunting, hiking, and travelling.

Jim Mason: My wife, Brenda.


What to you think Columbia’s best kept secret is?

Gene McKay: B106.


What do you think is the most positive factor for the Midlands?

Brent Johnson: Riverbanks Zoo. After a recent trip to the Atlanta Zoo, I find Riverbanks to be much better.

Gene McKay: I find DJ’s with nothing better to talk about than zoos really suck.

Brent: Well Gene, they say that tact is the first thing to go!


Who is the most interesting entertainer you have met or interviewed?

Ken Martin and Zack Daniels: Garth Brooks by far.

Curtis Wilson: Walter Payton (Football Hall of Fame, Chicago Bears).

Dave Wright: Andy Griffith. It was during the mid-‘50s right after his record, Football, which sold millions, and his hit movie, No Time for Sergeants. He was famous, yet so normal.

Leo Wyndham: ‘PeeWee Herman. It was the day before he got caught doing his thing.

John Wrisley: I would have to say Jane Russell. Miss Russell was a most delightful person.

Bill Benton: Michelle Lee is absolutely the nicest person I’ve ever met. And Tom Selleck. A really nice fellow.

Jim Mason: Tim Conway. He was so quick that he turned it around like he was interviewing me.

Kathy Scott: Definitely Richard Simmons. He jumped up on the stool while we were on the air and tried to pull his shorts down. I’ve never seen Jonathon so flustered!


If you could ask one question of a dead person, who would it be and what would you say?

John Wrisley: Mr. Thomas Jefferson, You have had a chance to survey what we have done with the republic you and the other founders laid out for us. What was our mistake and how would you correct it?’

Bill Benton: General Custer, ‘Why did you attack the Sioux village that had 15,000 Indians with only 265 men to fight?’

Dave Dixon: Elvis, ‘Can I have a Cadillac, too?’

Sammy Owens: John F. Kennedy, ‘So how did you like the parade up to that point?’

At this point, the outdoor forum was interrupted by a flashing fire truck screaming out from the Columbia Fire Department headquarters across the street. The Kicks 96 crew lost no time in ribbing Sam Crews, the magazine lawyer on hand for the entertainment. Sit down, Sam, Ken Martin called out above the deafening sirens, It’s a fire truck – not an ambulance. But throw them your card anyway!


What do you advise your listeners to do when they are stalled in traffic listening to the radio?

Pee Wee Herman… Never mind, we won’t print it.


What is the most embarrassing situation you’ve ever been in with a call-in listener?

Dave Dixon: When I was at WNOK, I gave away tickets for a sold-out Journey concert. I didn’t have time to tape the winner’s response, so I just put her on the air live. When I asked her what her favorite radio station was, she said another station. It was a bad moment.


Do you sing along as the music plays?

Woody Wyndham: We do, but not on mike if we want to keep our listeners!

Bill Benton: Sure. Not every time, though.

Jim Mason: Oh, yeah. But Dave cuts me off.


Who gets up the earliest for work?

Brent Johnson: I get up at 3:15.

Kathy Scott: Well I get up at 3 a.m.

Sammy Owens: That’s because she has to do her hair.


What newspapers and journals do you use in preparing for your morning show?

John Wrisley: I use the Wall Street Journal a great deal.

Others responded: The wire services, The State, USA Today and of course, Columbia Metropolitan.


Who could pack the house at Williams/Brice Stadium?

Captain Telegram: Garth Brooks, easily.

Kathy Scott: The Village People.

Brent Johnson: Pink Floyd.

Woody Wyndham: The Stones.

Dave Dixon: Elvis.


Who is the best local band?

Dave Wright: The Carolina Jazz Society Band.

Hootie, several said.

The Wyndham Bros.: Isabel’s Gift.



What would be the perfect night out in Columbia?

Vista Station! – where else?


What is the most requested song you have ever played?

Gene McKay: When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New by Jimmy Rosselli.

Bill Benton: Baby, Let’s Play House by Elvis.

Dave Wright: Yes, Indeed by Peggy Lee (1957).

Curtis Wilson: I’ll Always Love You by Whitney Houston.

Woody Wyndham: Under the Boardwalk by The Drifters.

Leo Wyndham: Joy to the World by Three Dog Night.

Dave Dixon: Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot.

Jim Mason: Swinging by John Anderson.

Sammy Owens: The Electric Slide. But the majority of those requests came from Kathy Scott.

Jonathon Rush: With a station like WNOK, that changes every day.

Brent Johnson: Have I Told You Lately That I love You by Rod Stewart.

John Wrisley: Blue Bird of Happiness by Jan Peerce (1947).

Zack Daniels: Chattahoochee by Alan Jackson.

Ken Martin: Don’t Take the Girl by Tim McGraw.


Who do you think will buy Brantley Manor?

Captain Telegram: Madonna.

Jim Mason: Michael Jackson.

Dave Dixon: No Jim, Elvis!

Jonathon Rush: Benchmark.

Editor’s note from 1994: With the completion of buying WVOC, Benchmark Communications will own four stations in the Midlands market.


Does your boss listen to your show and criticize?

In unison, Oh yeah! Followed by multiple groans.

Dave Wright: Well, if the boss calls, get his name.

Kathy Scott: Our general manager is wonderful. She’s great about letting us do our own thing.

Leo Wyndham: Frank Baker listens every morning and rarely criticizes. I’m not sucking up – that’s the truth.


What happens when your boss gets mad about things you say on air?

Woody Wyndham: Oh, they just fire me.

Ken Martin: No. That’s when the station gets bought out by Benchmark.

Brent Johnson: You receive THE MEMO.

Dave Dixon: They don’t get mad at us because we’re considered the Walt Disney of radio!

Jonathon Rush: Actually, it’s a lifelong dream to have your own show on your own radio station. Every DJ aspires to own a radio station – and these guys here (Bill Benton, Gene McKay, Dave Wright) have done it in an age when local radio stations are all owned by huge corporations.


What is the best job in Columbia?

The consensus: Being on morning radio.


For the last question, do you have anything you would like to ask each other?

John Wrisley: I just want to know who I work for now.

All: Benchmark!



(L-R) Front: Leo and Woody Windham; 2nd row: Gene McKay, Bill Benton, Dave Wright, John Wrisley; 3rd row: Curtis Wilson, Brent Johnson, Capt. Telegram, Zack Daniels, Ken Martin, Dave Dixon, Jim Mason; 4th row, Sammy Owens, Kathy Scott, Jonathon Rush



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