Clarksville, TN – Today, I paid my final respects to the one man who had the most influence on me and my career. To the man who took a chance on me, who believed in me, who showed me what it was like to be great.
Today I said farewell to Charlie Malone.When I waltzed into the Madison Street studios of WJZM radio in 1973, little did I know that my life was about to change forever.
Little did I know that one day I would own this radio station.
And little did I know that I would love and respect a man as much as I did Charlie Malone.
Charlie was the owner and General Manager of WJZM along with John Bailey when I got hired. John Bailey was a quiet, unassuming and very conservative engineer who kept all the moving parts, “moving.” Charlie was the engine that drove the bus.
WJZM has never been as successful as when they owned it.
After quickly getting fired for something I said on the air, (go figure), I attended an Austin Peay Governor’s Club meeting to hear basketball coach Lake Kelly. Charlie Malone was at the same meeting.
Afterwards, Charlie pulled me aside and asked if I wanted to return to WJZM, and be a part of his sales staff. He was planning on adding a third salesman and wanted me to come back. Since I was unemployed and about to get married, I quickly accepted.
Thus began an experience that I would look back on and treasure for the rest of my life.
With his leadership, I quickly built an accounts list that consistently grew and I became one of the top salesmen at the station. Although, I could never tell if Charlie thought I was doing a good job or not as he was always pushing me for “more.”
Charlie wasn’t famous for handing out “atta-boys,” but, Charlie Malone, in my opinion, was the greatest salesman I ever knew, so it was very hard to impress him.
When the staff would gather for the morning sales meeting, Charlie would burst through the studio doors after his morning tennis match with Judge Beach, and we would all snap to attention and be ready to face the day.
Charlie Malone was feared and respected by his competition. He battled the late Jack Mayer at WDXN, and the Yellow Pages, not to mention the Leaf Chronicle for local advertising dollars. The newspaper was getting the lion’s share of advertisers in Clarksville, so when Charlie snagged one that WASN’T spending money in the paper, the newspaper was not happy.
“How can you not advertise in the newspaper?” they would wonder.
“How can you waste your money on radio?” they would ask.
In 1994, I purchased Wjzm and lo and behold, Charlie Malone was still there.
As I was getting to know the current staff, and discussing where we were headed, Charlie walked into my office and asked, “So, what are you going to do with me?”
I will always remember that moment, because no matter how good or bad, or how smart or stupid you think I am, I wasn’t stupid enough to suggest that Charlie go anywhere but where he had been over all these glorious years. As it turned out, it was the best decision I ever made.
I could never imagine Charlie Malone not coming to WJZM every morning. I could never imagine being the man who would even suggest that he leave. I knew in my heart that when Charlie felt it was his time to go, he would make that decision.
It was a sad day when he did.
My relationship with Charlie was different when I owned WJZM. We became closer. He shared his emotions more than when he did when he was in charge. We talked about family. We talked about Charlsie, and Tommy.
And oh how he loved his grand kids!
When I needed help with a client, the master would sweep down and make the sale. When I needed hip replacement, he told me where to go and to which doctor.
When I said something on the air he didn’t agree with, he told me. When I did something good, he told me. He was like a second father to me.
As his battle with Parkinsons’ was coming to an end, I visited Charlie several times. My wife and I went to see him when he was in the hospital, and my wife fed him his lunch, and if you knew Charlie, you know how difficult that was for him. But we loved him and he loved us.
My last visit with Charlie was an emotional one as we sat in his apartment and remembered the “old days.” We talked about the good times and we talked about the bad.
I hugged him and kissed his forehead and told him I loved him and I would see him soon.
I’m just thankful he loved me too.
Rest in peace Charlie. I will never forget you.