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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.