In 1954 while attending North Texas State College in Denton, Texas as a vocal major, I walked downtown to visit a friend of mine who worked for a little 250 watt radio station. KDNT was the station, and Charles Beard was the friend. I visited with Charlie while he emceed his show. He was informed after awhile that his relief DJ had not shown, and they were calling the evening DJ to come in early. Charlie then asked me, why I didn't audition for this guy's job, as he would be fired if he did show up.
I had never been in radio in my life. I had studied speech at Arlington State College and done some acting, but not radio. Charlie assured me that at the level KDNT represented, I would have no problem. So, I did audition for Harwell Shepard (the owner) and was hired on the spot. The salary? Forty dollars a week. This, on top of my G.I. Bill money of one hundred ten dollars a month! I stayed and watched Charlie run the board until his relief showed up, and was told to stay and work with this DJ. In due course, this young freckle-faced kid with a burr haircut and mottled teeth showed up to do his show. His name was Willie Nelson. Very nice, very pleasant and very helpful. He was right off the farm and I think he may have worked one little station prior this this one. We hit it off.
In a short period of time, I learned the ropes and was rather liking my new adventure.
After about eight or nine months, Willie got a job in Fort Worth with another 250 watt AM Station called KCNC. But this one was 720 on the dial. Crackers!
After about three months there, he called me and said they were looking for an announcer, and to come on down. I borrowed a friend's car and drove down. This was a real station compared to KDNT, which had been built in a burned-out building. When the copywriter came into the control room at KDNT, her walking would knock the tone arm off your records. It was pretty bad. KCNC, though, was a transient place I was to learn. Willie Nelson had found a home. He was allowed to play his guitar and sing his songs during his show. The switchboard would light up at these times. He and I would go out to the country music places on the Jacksburrow Highway to see the bands or groups and his eyes would glaze over. This is where he wanted to be. You know the rest!
I lasted nine months at KCNC. In that time I was fired three times! I went to one station in Fort Worth (KXOL) to seek employment. I took one look and walked back out. Just like KCNC. I decided that there was no reason not to try the top rather than the bottom of the ladder. So, I got into my first ever automobile, a 1948 Plymouth Coupe (for which I paid $250.00) and drove directly to WBAP-TV-AM-FM and walked in the front lobby. I didn't know a soul. The little lady who was the receptionist was most helpful and asked if I knew anyone there. She then named some of the talent, none of whom I knew, until she mentioned a fellow who was a booth announcer. His name was Mel Dacus. He was an operatic baritone who had also taught voice at Arlington State College. He had taught my brother Morgan. I was taken back to this tiny little room where Mel was working. In between station breaks, etc., we talked and I told him my story. He couldn't have been nicer. He asked me to let him introduce me to the General Manager of WBAP. I believe his name was Alan Cranston. We went up to his rather large offices. I saw this short fat, older man sitting behind this enormous desk. Mel introduced me and I shook his hand. We all chatted for a little bit and he then said, "We have a need for a classical announcer in the FM Section. Would you be interested?" Well, I couldn't believe this. I had been in this strange, huge, first class station for about two hours and was being offered a job doing what I loved best, classical and jazz music! I worked for an organist named William Barclay. It was a great experience, and it lasted nine or ten months until The FM section became a victim of politics, and I was out. Barclay was out and a local bandleader was in.
So, what to do. I was now in debt for a seven hundred fifty dollar '53 Ford Victoria and deeply involved with the future Mrs. Woodward! WBAP-TV was a closed shop. I tried WFAA-TV in Dallas. Nada! I didn't want any more radio. So, I sent out some resumes. The closest to my Lady and my home was KRBC-TV-AM in Abilene, Texas. I have mentioned in a guestbook that it was, and deservedly so, "The Outhouse of The Industry!" But, it was a job (at $80.00 a week) and it was in television. I will say this, though. I learned an awful lot in the nine months that I lasted there (also being fired three times in that time.) One did everything there.