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Posted By: Bob Mathers on: 08/09/2009 12:55:12 EDT
Subject: Dothan Memories

Message Detail:
One year ago, the legendary Jack Gale offered me the chance to lease a 'silent' AM and build an FM CP in the city of Dothan. This very unique market (#190) is 17 miles west of Georgia, 10 miles north of Florida, and pretty much the most unconventional radio market I have ever experienced.

We started by leasing both stations. We bought the FM last November. Last Friday, we sold the FM to a solid broadcast group who is likely to assume the AM lease as well. We received twice as much for the FM as we bought it for...but in the end we took an overall loss. Even so, we'll dig out of it and keep on going.

So much is written on this site about radio about the way it used to be, and the way many wish it could still be. We had a rare chance to run WEEL like a 'throwback' station. It was fun.

You know, the Lord does at times give a person the desires of his or her heart. I always wanted to own a station, program oldies, and give something to the community. We had the opportunity. Many in Dothan told us they loved what we gave them. That makes it worthwhile.

I knew going in it was likely to be an uphill battle. The opportunity came up all of a sudden and I went in with meager capital. The enormous challenges with technical issues pretty much took what dollars we had. The business plan we put together actually came together nicely, but we didn't foresee the economy going in the tank. We also didn't understand the nuances of Southern culture. Namely, if you're a Yankee or an outsider, they want to get to know you. Re: no buys y'all on your station we they do.

Just to relate a couple of instances how incredible this thing came to be.

First, we did 'live' continuous broadcasts (no 3 cellphone cut-ins an hour) on the street and in stores. We would broadcast once a month on a street corner in downtown Dothan and draw 300-500 people for cruise-ins. We aired weekly sock hops charging admission and folks from Dothan came and learned how to do 'The Madison' from Hairspray! Baltimoreans can relate to how surreal that must be to see the dance done in of all places, lower Alabama.

We also streamed the broadcasts, meaning when the mic was open and the classic cars came rumbling by, listeners around the world could hear the engines gunning in stereo.

We interviewed local stars like Bobby Goldsboro, aired special themed weekends, and gave away a trip for two to Memphis with our 'We Love Elvis' contest. the end...we were finally breaking even financially...with ongoing support from clients like Harley-Davidson, Coldwell Banker, Rheem Heating and Cooling, and Piggly Wiggly Supermarkets.

All on a licensed 16 watt FM translator and a daytime AM'er.

Unfortunately by the time the town embraced us, we simply ran out of money. But we proved we could do it. And yes I would do it again...but with a bit more capital to bring to the table.

We all know radio is going through a rough time...but if the mindset changes and operators return to local full-service community...the fun and the revenues can also return.

Meanwhile, we continue the sound of Dothan (with a few tweaks) on-line at as I make my way back to Seattle and the patient wife who's waiting there.

Bob Mathers
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