Chuck Williams has been in radio for 19 years. Does that sound like a long time to you? Well it flies by and before you know it, you’re facing 2010 and the technology around you has changed, your job is something to protect and the music you love is now closer to “classic” than contemporary. Or perhaps that’s just my experience?
Like every other industry, the radio industry has downsized and many people wear many hats. That’s the life of the modern radio DJ, so Chuck, Program Manager at 95 Rock, is well versed in production and promotions as well as keeping his finger on the pulse of the local music scene. And what a music scene! I caught up with him one dreary afternoon in December for a Q & A session and he instantly brightened my day!
So are you an Augusta native or a transplant?
I hail from Boston, Massachusetts and came to Augusta because of work. The radio was a mid-life career change – my old job went away and I always wanted to try radio, so…
How many years in radio?
19 in radio and 11 at 95 Rock – we actually put 95 Rock on the air in September of ’98.
How many formats have you worked with and which is your favorite?
Classic rock, pop – a little bit but not much because pop sucks. I am totally rock and I can’t see myself doing anything else, it’s the perfect format for me. It goes back to Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Jimi Hendrix right through to the nineties stuff, I love that stuff. That was my time, that’s what I cut my radio teeth on.
Have things changed since you started working in radio? If so, what?
We still party, but you have to be careful. There has to be a distinction between your behaviors with listeners and when you’re in public just because everyone’s become so much more litigious and will sue you at the drop of a hat, you have to tone it down. You are representing a corporate body. You can’t fall back on the things you’ve always done so it forces you to become more creative. For instance, for Christmas we ran a tacky light competition and had listeners submit pictures of the tackiest lights to our website.
Also, you have to do more with fewer people. I’ve lost two full-timers in the last year and a half. The budget was just gone and that means you have to do that much more. The more you have to do and the more difficult it is for them to get rid of you!
We still hang, still go out and to stay current, I go down town. We hang at the Playground, Sky City, Soul Bar and Tribeca.
For those just moving into the area, describe the music scene in Augusta
It really is pretty vibrant; there are really a lot of bands here. I don’t feel they get the kind of support they should from the population. I can’t explain it. People in the South would rather see a cover band than support fresh, original talent. I feel there are a lot of places for people to go see music. There are places for people under 21 who can’t get into bars or clubs, like Sector 7G downtown. And Sky City, it does a lot. It’s there if you want it, it’s not hard to find. It’s a very diverse scene and runs the gamut from bluegrass to hardcore metal and pretty much anything you want, you just need to look for it. Look at the message boards online, the Soul Bar’s website provides a great one and will give you a better idea as to what’s going on than anything else.
Which famous people/bands have you met?
This business has been good to me! The big ones would have to be the Stones, Aerosmith, and U2. I met the Edge, Adam Clayton and their manager Paul McGuinness. I’ve also met Nickelback, Disturbed and Shinedown on several occasions. Getting to meet musicians and bands is definitely a perk of the job!
What is the weirdest thing anyone’s ever said or done on the radio?
I was working downtown at the Lamar Building a few years ago. Well, I came out of the building one night and there was this hot blonde sitting on a car with beers in her hand waiting for me, which was pretty cool. So that sort of evolved into a short term relationship and after a short period of time I realized that she was stark raving mad and I was done with it. Not too long after, she moved back to West Virginia and I started getting messages from her telling me to stop sending her signals over the airwaves. She said “I know you’re playing songs for me up here over the radio, stop doing that!” That has to qualify as one of the weirdest experiences ever.
What is your favorite music related moment?
About a year or two ago, we had a huge poster of James Hetfield of Metallica on the wall. Well, Zakk Wylde came into the studio – and we had never met him before, didn’t know him at all – and he walks right in, straight up to the poster and rips it off the wall and said, “I will not work under these conditions!” We started laughing as he proceeds to rail against Metallica – all because of that documentary y’know, Some Kind of Monster. That was a true rock & roll day – he was drinking beer all day; we weren’t getting any! It was a great day, we had a great time! He was telling Ozzy stories, and of course he has his own band – the Black Label Society – it was a fantastic day. We just gave the whole show up to him that afternoon.
What is your favorite community event?
Our annual canned food drive, we do it every year, and I call it Canapolooza. It was our tenth year. Canapolooza was just something I dreamed up at one of our promotions meetings. It helps out the Golden Harvest Food Bank, it’s one of their biggest drives and I’m really proud of that. It looks a bit like a demented circus out there, we usually get a great response and if we don’t get a good response we start playing the sympathy card, “Come on, come out and bring some food, we’re freezing out here!”
Is there a message you would like to send to our service members?
Of course; how can we ever repay all of those guys for what they do for us? We get to sit in here and have fun, and it’s all well and good, but it’s the men and women in uniform that allow us to do this. We owe them everything.