Radio Bloopers Pt. 3- Stand By Your Man--A Tammy Wynette Catastrophe!
Radio remotes were a common thing during my years in commercial radio. One a particular Sunday in the mid 1980's, I was working at a country radio station in Sussex County, New Jersey. Tammy Wynette was scheduled to appear at the Sussex Vo Tech that afternoon and our station was covering the event. There were two shows scheduled that day, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. I was on the air from 2 - 7pm. Our Program Director Johnny Fox was covering the Tammy Wynette concert and we were scheduled to break in for his reports twice per hour.
As I was doing my show, Johnny called me and said that the show was not selling well and Tammy's producer wanted her to go live on the air to try to lure listeners to the afternoon concert. Now live interviews were a big "no no" at our station but Johnny assured me that he would interview Tammy and handle everything at our first break. It was about 2:55pm, my song ended and I opened the mike and introduced Johnny at the Sussex Vo tech. I didn't hear Johnny but I heard Tammy saying "hi Jim" Oh my God, she was talking to me and I wasn't prepared. I had no idea how to handle this. I said "hi Tammy but had no idea what to say to her! (I was a newer announcer at the time and this was my first country formatted station so I was unfamiliar with her or her music!) This meaningless chatter went on and on with no sign of Johnny bailing me out! It was clear that I was flustered and had no idea what to say to her. I felt my heart beat our of my chest. I had to end this mess so I wished her good luck with the concert and hit the sounder for UPI News. The news started but I forgot to turn down the remote channel on the console. Tammy was still talking over UPI News! This was a radio catastrophe! I was so flustered and embarrassed that I didn't know how I would continue with my show!
To make matters worse, my colleague Bobby who was on the air at our AM side across the room came running over and said to me. "Irish John" is coming and his van looked like it was on two wheels while pulling down the driveway." Now Irish was a stickler for following protocol and I knew that I was in big trouble. I began to shake as he entered the building. I turned around and there he was in the studio doorway with sort of a smirk on his face. I said "so you heard it?" He said in an unusually calm voice "yep I did and it was so awful I almost drove the van off the road! He came over and plopped a coke down near me and said "you'll need this." I said "am I fired?" he said "oh no" I knew exactly how you were feeling during that very uncomfortable moment. He said that I had no control of the situation and that he would deal with Johnny on Monday. We still didn't know what happened to Johnny but later found out Tammy's producers distracted him as he was about to go on the air so they let Tammy start the conversation and unfortunately it was with me!
Irish John and I had a good relationship and he said to me "that is why I don't want you guys and ladies to do spontaneous interviews."
We weren't interviewing experts and didn't know how to get around uncomfortable situations. All interviews required research and must be taped. I felt some relief and learned a very valuable lesson as a result of a very unusual, stressful situation!