For most Americans, it was the day Buddy Holly’s plane crashed on February 3, 1959, as referenced in the Don McLean hit “American Pie.” For me, it was June 15, 2011. That was the day Red Jones retired as the morning disc jockey at WKNG in Tallapoosa.
Jones, the Georgia Hall of Fame broadcaster, turned off his microphone after 63 years in the business. During these years he entertained audiences in major markets from Houston to Atlanta and his voice was heard throughout the world during his stint hosting the “Stickbuddy Jamboree” and “Western Swingtime” for the Armed Forces Network in Germany during the 1950s. For the last 28 years, his voice has boomed across the west Georgia airwaves.
“When I was offered the opportunity to create my own morning show at WKNG, I was given the freedom to select my own music from my personal library unlike most radio stations today that dictate a pre-selected list,” said Jones. “In today’s world of radio, that’s a rare gig for the DJ to have total creative control.”
That’s why I miss Red Jones on the radio. He would spin the records of a Bob Wills western swing song mixed with a Merle Haggard classic along with the new sounds of the Zac Brown Band. His smooth delivery of great story telling between the songs and news entertained audiences for six decades. We have his parents to thank for that.
“In 1939, my parents took me to the World’s Fair in New York City which was a long way from my hometown of Weslaco, Texas,” said Jones. “It was there while being in the audience of some live NBC game shows and later touring the NBC studios that I knew I wanted to be in radio.”
When he turned 16 years old, Jones turned his dream into reality as he worked for a radio station in his hometown.
“I had a Texas drawl and a bit of a speech problem when I began my career,” said Jones. “After I graduated from high school, I informed my manager at the radio station that I planned to pursue a permanent career in broadcasting by continuing my education at the University of Texas in Austin.”
That’s when Jones received his first round of unsolicited advice.
“My station manager looked at me and said ‘You ain’t cut out for this business. You don’t have it and should get into something else,’” said Jones. “Years later I encountered him again while working at KILT in Houston and just smiled when I reintroduced myself as the operations manager for one of the largest stations in the country. I’ll never forget the look on his face.”
Although Jones’ voice is no longer heard daily on the airwaves, he will come out of retirement again to broadcast a live remote on B92.1 and KISS 102.7 for the remaining Saturday mornings in February as the Golden K Kiwanis hosts its 19th annual Pancake Breakfast. It’s been called Carrollton’s “social event of the year” as it serves to raise money to benefit youth projects and organizations in the community. The $6 breakfast buffet will be held at the Little Hawaiian restaurant from 7:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Once again, the man who was elected to the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame in 2008 alongside former Atlanta Braves announcers Pete Van Wieren, Skip Carey and Ernie Johnson will grace the microphone. Red Jones has spent a lifetime interviewing famous people from Hank Williams Sr. to Dolly Parton.
But for the next three Saturdays he plans to do what he does best. He also plans to eat a pancake.
Garrett is a Carrollton resident and businessman. You can read more of his columns at joegarrett1.wordpress.com or contact him at email@example.com.